Demining efforts need speeding up
- From: "Chim" <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: 19 Aug 2005 19:25:36 -0700
Demining efforts need speeding up
Although landmines are outlawed by the Ottawa Convention because of
their barbarity, Burma, Nepal, Russia and Georgia have continued to use
them. But their nationals are not the only ones getting killed. So far
this month, two villagers and three border patrol policemen have been
blown up by mines near the Cambodian border in Lahan Sai district of
Buri Ram. All suffered terrible injuries, with one of the policemen
losing both legs.
This was not an isolated event. These deadly devices, an unwanted
legacy from past wars in Cambodia and instability along the borders
with Burma and Laos, cause death, dismemberment and disability, and
Thailand has long been plagued by them. As of last year, 531
communities in 27 provinces along the Cambodian, Lao, Burmese and
Malaysian borders were mine-contaminated areas, covering around 2,556
Not only do these barbaric devices cause enormous pain and suffering,
they also reap a grim economic and social toll. In addition to the
expense of medical treatment, and the cost to families of caring for
injured relatives, they hinder the flow of goods and people and make
large areas of agricultural land hazardous to farm, as has happened on
our eastern border.
Bearing the brunt of the mine-clearing operation is the Thailand Mine
Action Centre. Its task is a formidable one and it is shamefully
underfunded and under-resourced. With the help of financial assistance
from the United States and Norway, our deminers daily risk life and
limb in hazardous operations designed to rid the country of all mines
ahead of the April 2009 deadline set by the Ottawa convention. Their
task is an urgent one as up to 100 farmers and other innocent citizens
fall victim to mines here every year and nearly half of all victims are
believed to die before reaching hospitals.
Landmines can be cleared, as our deminers have shown, but only
laboriously, slowly and at enormous expense. Getting rid of them, once
planted, must rank as one of the most dangerous and highly-skilled
tasks on this planet. Unfortunately, the fine example set by our mine
clearance teams has not been followed by all our neighbours and only
Cambodia and Malaysia have signed the Ottawa convention. Vietnam, Burma
and Singapore have declined to do so and Rangoon actively uses
landmines, cloaking what should be a source of shame in the guise of
``national security.'' Factions battling the military junta also make
use of them.
In Bangkok last month was Susan Walker, a former member of the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which received the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1997 and now a consultant to the Humanitarian Affairs and
Disarmament Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. While supportive of our
mine clearance efforts, she feels Thailand still lacks a serious,
concrete and practical action plan, given that it has a
disproportionately high number of landmine victims out of the 145
countries which have ratified the Ottawa Convention.
She fears, as do many involved in mine clearance operations, that
without serious commitment and funding by the government and financial
support from the international community, Thailand might not be able to
fulfil its obligations under the Ottawa Treaty and remove all landmines
by the 2009 deadline. Given that only 2% of mine-contaminated areas
have been completely cleared, this is certainly an alarming
She also echoed the concerns of local campaigners that landmine victims
in Thailand receive insufficient care and assistance.
No quality artificial legs and feet are available for them in state
hospitals. Some of what is available breaks after three months because
of the poor quality or are only designed for use in the city _ not for
farmers who need to walk a long way to gather food for their families.
There is also a need for proper vocational training to be given to
All in all, we are doing a reasonable job, but there is still plenty of
room for improvement and none at all for complacency.