The many Cambodians dying daily from unexploded ordnance is one reason why the country faces development problems, says a Buddhist monk.
Religious and civic leaders must fight for a universal adherence to the UN Mine Ban Treaty, which came into force in 1999, says Venerable Vy Sovechea.
Leaders must also work toward supporting landmine survivors and the clearing of unexploded ordnance, said the monk at a July 23 gathering in Samlot, a district in western Cambodia heavily affected by landmines due to past civil war
Public pressure on governments to ban and destroy landmines is crucial to their eradication, he told the 500 people at the event, which aimed to spread awareness of the dangers of unexploded ordnance.
People disabled by landmines were among those present at the gathering, which saw the participation of NGOs such as the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Buddhist monks, teachers, students, police and social activists.
Cambodia is one of 156 countries that ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, which came into force on March 1, 1999.
However, Cambodians still continue to be affected by these devices. From 2007 to June 2010, 1,025 people were reported killed or injured by unexploded ordnance.
The recent gathering allowed victims to share their thoughts on what has been accomplished as well as the challenges ahead, said JRS official, Kosal Sang.
JRS has been involved in landmine awareness activities since 1994 “and today we are working with other partners … to eradicate the danger from these killing devices,” said Sang, who is also Cambodian representative to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
In order to integrate victims into society, JRS has organized vocational training programs, wheelchair production and non-formal education services, said Sang.