Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that his country, in collaboration with Japan, will send deminers to help train Ukrainians in clearing landmines planted by Russian troops.

In a statement issued on Oct. 3, Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said that Prime Minister Hun Sen had informed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky of the decision during a telephone conversation.

Cambodia itself was heavily mined during almost 30 years of civil war fought between the government and the brutal forces of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (commonly known as the Khmer Rouge). It finally ended in 1998 when Hun Sen was elected.

Due to the war, Cambodia became one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. The effort to clear the mines and other unexploded ordinance has been generally successful, yet is still ongoing, and has led to Cambodia now having some of the world’s most experienced deminers.

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Director General of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, Heng Ratana, said in a Facebook post on Oct. 2 that, after consulting with its Japanese counterparts, his agency would be sending the first batch of deminers to Ukraine in December, with a second potentially being sent in the first quarter of next year.

A report released by Human Rights Watch in June, said: “Russian forces have used at least seven types of antipersonnel mines in at least four regions of Ukraine: Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Sumy.”

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“This marks an unusual situation in which a country that is not party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty uses the weapon on the territory of a party to the treaty.”

“All manner of landmine delivery methods have been documented: hand-emplaced, mechanically-laid, and remotely-delivered. Several new, never-before-seen landmines have made their combat debut in the armed conflict, including some produced as recently as 2021.”

“Russian forces have also emplaced many victim-activated booby-traps as they retreated from positions taken during the initial phase of the invasion,” the report added. “Booby-traps can function as antipersonnel mines when the fuse that is used is activated unintentionally by a person.”

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Landmines have already claimed many lives in the ongoing war in Ukraine, particularly in rural areas.

In October, an ambulance driver was killed after driving over a mine in Kharkiv, leaving his paramedic colleague in a critical condition. Several farmers have also been killed, mostly from landmines being inadvertently driven over by tractors.

On Oct. 13, Oleksii Dokuchaev, commander of a demining brigade based in the eastern Kharkiv region, told Voice of America (VOA) that hundreds of mines have already been discharged in the area around the village of Hrakove, and warned that Ukraine would be blighted by landmines for years to come.

“One year of war equals 10 years of demining,”. Dokuchaev said. “Even now we are still finding munitions from World War II, and in this war they’re being planted left and right.”

In June, Kyiv Post’s Jay Beecher visited a team of deminers as they carried out their important work in farming fields north of Kharkiv near the border to Russia.

A video still image shows a Ukrainian deminer taking a short break on a destroyed tank near the Russian border, north of Kharkiv. Photo credit: Jay Beecher.

With unexploded ordinances still visible in a field beside a burnt-out Russian tank, one of the Ukrainian troops said that, along with salvaging equipment and military vehicle parts that could be reused, much of his work consisted of destroying or deactivating landmines and other explosives.

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“We do this to protect people, to protect children,” he said. “It’s [about] safety, so our people don’t die from these.”

“Be careful where standing [sic]”, he added, pointing over to an ordinance half-sunk into the muddy ground beside a red flag marker. “That one’s still dangerous.”

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