Wednesday, 24 March 2010

CAMBODIA: On the road

via CAAI News Media
23 Mar 2010 
Source: MAG (Mines Advisory Group)

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

In most countries, a road is just something you walk or drive on - not something most people spend a lot of time thinking about. But in Cambodia that is not always the case.

Take Ou Rumchek Krom village in Battambang province. Until recently, the people who lived here were too afraid to use most of the road that runs through the village. They would only follow a narrow section of it.

Previous | Next A boy sells petrol in front of the road cleared by MAG.
Nicolas Axelrod / MAG

"It was just a small path and I was afraid to walk on it," recalls Leng Phally.

"We knew the land was mined, but we had no choice," adds her husband, Mao Rith.

The couple were right. Seventeen mines and 41 items of unexploded ordnance were found when MAG cleared the road in 2007, with support from the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID) and World Vision Cambodia.

The deputy village chief, Vanh Nhoeurn, says the villagers are happy that they have a safe, paved road for them to transport their crops to market.

"The villagers are very grateful to MAG," he says. "People can sell their crops more easily now."

Mao Rith says that people feel very differently about the road these days. "Today, I feel confident that it is safe to walk on," he says.

MAG also cleared the land immediately alongside the road, and several houses have now sprung up. The landowners were previously too afraid to build anything.

However, deputy village chief Vanh Nhoeurn says that community members still do not dare to use uncleared land.

"[This village] was a former battlefield, so we can't guarantee that the land is safe. It is surely contaminated, because there have been accidents when people were working or trying to clear the land on their own," he says.

"I talked to former members of the Khmer Rouge and they told me they had brought a truck of assorted mines to lay in this area."

He hopes that MAG can return to the village to clear more land.

For more information on MAG's programme in Cambodia go to

[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]

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