via CAAI News Media
Agence France-Presse | 02/17/2010
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen warned on Wednesday that thousands of families are living at risk from millions of landmines still scattered across the kingdom.
Around 670 square kilometres (258 square miles) still needs to be cleared of explosives left over from a long-running civil war, Hun Sen said during a ceremony to hand over demining equipment from the Japanese government.
"This is the legacy of civil war," Hun Sen said. "Thousands of families are directly and indirectly exposed to the constant threat posed by these hazardous war remnants."
The murderous Khmer Rouge regime was toppled in 1979 but civil unrest continued until 1998, and left impoverished Cambodia one of the world's most heavily mined countries along with Afghanistan and Angola.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance remain buried around villages and farmland, despite the destruction of 2.7 million explosive objects across 200 square miles over the past 17 years, the prime minister said.
But the number of related casualties has dropped to 200 victims per year in 2008-2009, down from 800 annually in the period 2005-6, according to the Cambodian Red Cross.
At Wednesday's ceremony, the Japanese government donated 588 mine detectors and 44 deep-search detectors, along with spare parts and a mobile repair unit for mine clearance machines.