A TEAM of Cambodian deminers participating in a peacekeeping mission in Sudan has prepared a new report detailing its contributions thus far, which include clearing nearly 1,500 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the conflict-ridden country.
The 52 deminers from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Platoon 405 arrived in Sudan last June but did not complete their training and begin demining operations until November, said Taing Bunkry, the team’s commander. The new report, which covers work completed between November 5 of last year and March 17, states that the team has cleared 14 antitank mines, 116 antipersonnel mines and 1,478 pieces of UXO, said Taing Bunkry, who shared the contents of the report in an interview by phone from Sudan.
He said the team was currently “on standby” during the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to begin on April 11.
“We are all fine in Sudan,” he said. “We are now on standby in the military camp due to the fact that Sudan is preparing its national election,” he said. “If the situation after the election is all right, we will continue de-mining in May.”
The military camp, he added, is located in Malakal, some 316 kilometres from Maban county, where much of the de-mining activity has taken place.
Cambodia has sent some 468 peacekeepers to Sudan on four missions since 2006. During the first three missions, Cambodian deminers cleared 2,449 antipersonnel mines, 172 antitank mines and 35,785 explosive remnants of war (ERW), according to a June 2009 report published by the government’s Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and ERW Clearance.
The report states that Cambodian teams have cleared more than 57 million square metres of land in the country.
Taing Bunkry said the most difficult challenge facing the team was the temperature, which he said reached as high as 52 degrees Celsius this week. He said the team is often forced to take 10-minute breaks after 30 minutes of demining as a result of the heat.
He added that although the area that the team is demining is heavily populated, many residents know where mines have been laid and thus are able to successfully avoid them.
“I see only animals suffer from the mines,” he said.
The group is set to return to Cambodia from its one-year tour on June 10.
Cambodia has previously participated in peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic, a fact Prime Minister Hun Sen touted in a statement dated April 4 and released Tuesday, citing the Kingdom’s participation as “evidence of the solidarity and peace of Cambodia with other nations all over the world”.