In the ongoing efforts towards de-mining in Cambodia, Prey Veng has become the second province in the country after Kep to be declared “mine free”. For context there are 25 provinces in Cambodia.
To read about our Dark Tourism tour click here.
Why are there so many mines in Cambodia?
Cambodia was in an almost constant state of war from its independence until the final days of the Khmer Rouge in 1998.
To read about there last Khmer Rouge state click here. but of course there is a lot more to the story than this. After independence the government of King Sihanouk tried to stay neutral, but was eventually not only drawn into the Vietnam War, but perversely into the arms of many communist countries, such as China and North Korea.
The friendship with North Korea and its leader Kim Il-Sung was particularly intense with Sihanouk describing him as his closest family after the death of his mother. He also not only had a villa in Pyongyang, but was also protected right up until his death by a team of North Korean bodyguards.
To read bout their friendship click here.
These friendships and the apparent lean to the left eventually led to Sihanouk being overthrown in 1970, from where he threw his lot in with the Khmer Rouge. This support buoyed the Khmer Rouge ranks and would not only lead to their eventual victory, but also carpet bombing of the whole country from US forces.
Therefore when we talk about de-mining, in facts mines are just part of it and actually it is unexploded ordinance and munitions that have plagued the country since.
The Killing Fields and the western supported civil war
The Khmer Rouge were of course to be victorious, with Sihanouk again briefly becoming head of state, but of course what was to follow was one of the most perverse and devastating episodes in human history.
We know it as the Killing Fields, but what caused it was a perverse theory called the Super Great Leap Forward, whereby everyone from the cities was sent to the countryside. not in some agrarian socialist experiment, but to reap a bumper harvest over 4 years that could be sold at great profit with the money being used to industrialise the country. Quite bold capitalistic thinking from the communist group.
To read about the Super Great Leap Forward click here.
Of course this was complete failure and was coupled with paranoia in the regime against Vietnamese people, starvation and the eventual death of perhaps 1/3 of the population. It was though the fear of the Vietnamese that led to numerous minefields being laid, something that would continue even after the liberation of the country form by the Vietnamese.
Again after liberation things would again take a turn for the weird, with the west now backing the Khmer Rouge as the “legitimate” government of the country, which would lead to more mines being placed and a civil war that would rage until pace was finally achieved to some degree in 1993.
The Khmer Rouge though were to not only continue fighting, but also form their own rump state, something that would not be quashed until another brief Cambodian cicil war, the death of Pol Pot and the win-win policy.
To read about the death of Pol Pot click here.
The win-win policy while still controversial was a policy of allowing Khmer Rouge soldiers to defect and then carry on with life as normal, so long as they had not committed any serious crimes.
You can read about the win-win policy here.
The affects of de-mining
According to H.E. Ly Touch Senior Minister & First Vice President, Cambodian Mine Action & Victim Assistance Authority de-mining has been a policy of the Cambodian government for the last 30 years, and this is very evident in the statistics.
In 1996 there were over 4500 casualties related to mines and unexploded ordinance, a number reduced to just 65 in 2020. It is though still a major government policy, with the ambitious plan being to be mine and ordinance free by 2025. The government plan for de-mining in Cambodia will thus move to other affected provinces, with the most mined, such as Along Veng – the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge probably coming nearer the end.
To read the Along Veng Guide click here.
De-mining in Cambodia – Prey Veng becomes second province declared mine-free
During a ceremony arranged by the Cambodian government and attended by various dignitaries such as the Prey Veng governor, ambassadors, members of the business community and of course journalists guests were given a look at the last de-mined area, as well as some of the ordinance removed.
As expected much of the ordinance included Soviet and American made weapons, with the US not only being the main bombers of Cambodia, but also a principal supplier of weapons to the Khmer Rouge in the civil war of the 1980’s.
To read about if America supported the Khmer Rouge click here.
As well as this ad demonstration of the equipment used for de-mining in Cambodia was shown, followed by a ceremony at Prey Veng City Hall, where not only the de-mining staff were awarded, but also the American Chamber of Commerce, commonly known as AmCham who had donated $10,000 towards the project.