“Objects of death whose characteristics is that of never being seen – they wait their entire life and are born only for a second to die with you.”
(Pedro Rosa Mendes)
The Ottawa Treaty defines landmines as "mines designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person, and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons."
Nearly three decades of war left Cambodia as one of the countries most severely contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Contamination includes unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO), including (cluster) submunitions, and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO).
In most cases, even the soldiers who planted the mines did not record where they were placed.
Now, Cambodia has the one of the highest rates of physical disability of any country in the world. While census data for Cambodia are sketchy, it is generally accepted that more than 40,000 Cambodians have suffered amputations as a result of mine injuries since 1979. That represents an average of nearly forty victims a week for a period of twenty years.
Cambodia’s society and cultural attitudes are strongly influenced by the dominant religion, Buddhism, in which the concept of karma is central. A karmic worldview implies a strong belief in predestination and that a person’s fate is a direct result of his or her “good” or “bad” actions in this and/or a former life. Therefore, in addition to the obvious strains of coping with permanent disability and lasting mental trauma, Cambodian landmine survivors and disabled people in general are often regarded both by themselves and others as having “bad karma” as a just punishment for former transgressions in deeds or attitudes.
While the Khmer Rouge were the worst offenders, deliberately targeting the civilian population with mines and booby traps, all sides have shown blatant disregard for the long-term consequences of the use of mines. Furthermore, the blame extends beyond the warring factions. Their Cold War patrons China, the Soviet Union and the USA and a host of smaller nations continued to supply the weapons with indifference to the effects of their actions. Mines found in Cambodia have been manufactured in the US, China, Vietnam, the former USSR and East Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, India, Chile, South and North Korea, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Poland.
Most of these countries has since stopped producing and stockpiling landmines in accordance with the 1997 Ottawa Treaty for the global ban on landmines. However, as of 2008, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) identifies the following landmine-producing countries:
China, Cuba, India, Iran, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia,
Singapore, South Korea, USA and Vietnam.
At the current rate of progress, it may take as many as 100 years to clear all the mines in Cambodia, and the UN estimates that with current technology, it will take nearly 1,100 years to clear all the mines in the world.
ICBL /Landmine Monitor
Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA)