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Last Updated: 09 October 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Mine Action Performance Ranking: GOOD AND IMPROVING[1]

Performance Indicator


Problem understood


Target date for completion of clearance


Targeted clearance


Efficient clearance


National funding of program


Timely clearance


Land release system


National mine action standards


Reporting on progress


Improving performance




The Kingdom of Cambodia is affected by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) left by 30 years of conflict that ended in the 1990s. The full extent of contamination is not known. A Baseline Survey (BLS) of Cambodia’s 124 mine-affected districts completed in 2013 estimated total mine and ERW contamination at 1,915km². The survey will be extended in 2014 to cover another 51 ERW-contaminated districts. Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) data does not, though, disaggregate mine and battle area clearance (BAC) permitting a calculation of the remaining mine-affected area.[2]


Cambodia’s antipersonnel mine problem is concentrated in, but not limited to, 21 northwestern districts along the border with Thailand. These account for the great majority of mine casualties, but in 2013 mines still caused casualties on the other side of the country in the southern province of Takeo, bordering Vietnam. Contamination includes the remains of the 1,046km-long K5 mine belt installed in the mid-1980s in a bid to block insurgent infiltration, which ranks among the densest contamination in the world with, reportedly, up to 2,400 mines per linear kilometer.[3]

The BLS completed in 2013 identified 12,982 polygons or hazardous areas affected to some degree by mines, covering a total of 1,112km2, of which 1,043km2 were affected by antipersonnel mines. This included almost 892km2 containing “scattered or nuisance” antipersonnel and antivehicle mines.[4]

Baseline survey results for 124 districts[5]


Area (m²)

A1 Dense AP mines


A2 Mixed AP and AV mines


A2.1 Mixed dense AP and AV mines


A2.2 Mixed scattered AP and AV mines


A3 AV mines


A4 Scattered or nuisance mines




Note: AP = antipersonnel; AV = antivehicle

Cambodia also faces a troubling issue with antivehicle mines, which are killing more people than antipersonnel mines, often on paths or tracks that have been well-used by local inhabitants. The BLS identified a total of 68km2 contaminated only by antivehicle mines, often on paths of tracks that have been well-used by local inhabitants. The BLS identified a total of 68km2 contaminated only by antivehicle mines.[6] A number of incidents, however, have occurred outside BLS polygons, raising the possibility of residual antivehicle mine contamination on land already cleared of antipersonnel mines. The CMAA has called on local mine action planning units to pay attention to areas such as old road alignments that may have antivehicle mines.[7]

Casualties by device in 2009–2013[8]









































































Note: APM = antipersonnel mine; AVM = antivehicle mine

Cluster munition remnants

The United States (US) dropped at least 26 million explosive submunitions on Cambodia during the Vietnam War, mostly in eastern and northeastern areas bordering the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and Vietnam. The bombing is estimated to have left between 1.9 million and 5.8 million cluster munition remnants, including unexploded BLU-24, BLU-26, BLU-36, BLU-42, BLU-43, BLU-49, and BLU-61 submunitions.[9]

The BLS of 124 districts identified 1,002 suspected cluster munition-contaminated areas covering an area of 492.66km2, but that figure was expected to rise as the survey continued to other districts not included in the BLS, including some heavily bombed districts close to the border with Vietnam.[10]

Other explosive remnants of war

The US dropped more than a million tons (one billion kilograms) of general purpose bombs during the war, mostly in eastern Cambodia. In other parts of the country, operators encounter mainly land-fired ordnance, including artillery shells, rockets, and mortars.[11] This contamination has for some years caused most of the ERW casualties. The BLS recorded 310.59km2 of unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination, not including cluster munitions but results of survey in eastern provinces will add to this figure.[12]

Mine Action Program

The CMAA, set up in September 2000, regulates and coordinates mine action, responsibilities previously assigned to the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC).[13] The CMAA’s responsibilities include regulation and accreditation of all operators, preparing strategic plans, managing data, quality control, and coordinating risk education and victim assistance.[14] Prime Minister Hun Sen is the CMAA President, and a senior government minister, the Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Prak Sokhonn, who is CMAA vice-president, leads dialogue with donors as the chair of a Joint Government-Development Partners’ Mine Action Technical Working Group.[15]

Mine clearance is undertaken mainly by the national NGO operator, CMAC, and two international mine action NGOs, HALO Trust and Mines Advisory Group (MAG). A national NGO, Cambodian Self-help Demining, has been active since 2011, while at the start of 2014 three commercial companies active on a small scale were BACTEC, Viking, and D&Y. The Cambodian army’s National Centre for Peace Keeping Forces, Mine and ERW Clearance (NPMEC) had 13 demining and two explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams accredited with the CMAA.[16]

Strategic planning

Cambodia’s National Mine Action Strategy 2010−2019 (NMAS) aims to “free Cambodia from the threat of landmines and to minimize risks from anti-tank mines and ERW.” To achieve that the strategy sets four supporting general goals:

·         Reduce mine/ERW casualties and other negative impacts.

·         Contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction.

·         Ensure sustainable national capacities to address residual mine/ERW contamination.

·         Promote stability and regional and international disarmament.[17]

A review of the NMAS in 2013 found that Cambodia had “achieved significant learning on how to organize mine clearance operations to achieve the greatest efficiency” and that its application of land release ranked among the most comprehensive of any major mine action program. It also found that performance had been compromised by lack of annual coordination and planning and noted the mine action sector “increasingly views the NMAS as an irrelevant paper exercise.”[18]

The CMAA hired a consultant in 2013 to draft a national strategic plan that would support implementation of the NMAS. The draft National Strategic Plan (NSP), observing that Cambodia’s mine action has moved from an emergency phase to a development phase, proposes that “much of the remaining contamination will be dealt with” within the present Article 5 deadline extension request. It would make casualty reduction the priority for mine action but states that most resources should be allocated to supporting development and poverty reduction.[19] As of April 2014, the draft plan was still under discussion by CMAA.

The CMAA currently identifies priority communes for clearance on the basis of casualty data and BLS data, but Mine Action Planning Units (MAPUs) in the eight most mine-affected western provinces and seven mainly ERW-affected eastern provinces are responsible for preparing annual clearance task lists, working with local authorities to identify community priorities and in consultation with operators. The task lists are reviewed and approved by Provincial Mine Action Committees (PMAC) and the CMAA. In provinces without MAPUs, mine action is coordinated with provincial authorities. The CMAA was preparing to set up nine more PMACs and MAPUs in 2014.[20] MAPUs are also responsible for quality-assuring land before release and verifying post-clearance use. However, MAPUs reportedly do not have BLS datasets to support decisions on prioritization and are acutely short of resources, from computers to vehicles, which result in delays releasing land on which survey or clearance have been completed.[21]

CMAA guidelines and criteria for planning and prioritization, which came into effect at the start of 2012, specify that priority is given to clearing hazardous area polygons identified by the BLS and where casualties have occurred in the past five years. The guidelines call for MAPUs and operators to deploy 75% of assets to communes identified as priorities leaving the remaining 25% available for other tasks. They also foresee the CMAA giving guidance and direction to MAPUs on the criteria that define clearance priorities.[22]

Cambodia’s mine action program has achieved significant productivity gains but has yet to lay out a coherent strategy harnessing the full range of mine clearance assets to clearly defined humanitarian and development goals. Cambodia is further ahead than many countries in integrating mine action into national development strategies on paper, but in practice demining priorities framed by MAPUs at community level are only weakly linked to national goals for infrastructure development and land use. Moreover, MAPUs need far more resources and training to support planning, prioritization, and land release. Meanwhile, mine clearance reporting only encompasses operations by national and international NGOs engaged on tasks agreed upon by MAPUs and some donors.

The army has significant demining capacity, often discussed as the appropriate mechanism for dealing with residual contamination in the long term, but there is no reporting, transparency, or discussion of the verification and/or clearance that is or could be undertaken by the army on national infrastructure and development projects.

UNDP has supported the CMAA through a “Clearing for Results” program since 2006. The first phase under UNDP management ended in March 2010 and a second phase (CFRII), advised by UNDP but managed by CMAA, started in January 2011 and is due to run until the end of 2015. The program introduced a process of awarding contracts for clearance by competitive bidding, although in practice international NGO operators have felt unable to compete with the square-meter clearance costs bid by national operators—CMAC and NPMEC—that have lower equipment overheads, and they have largely stayed out of the bidding.[23] In 2013, CFRII spent US$4.6 million, including $3.7 million on three clearance contracts, two awarded to CMAC in Battambang and Bantheay Meanchey provinces and one to NPMEC in Krong Pailin, which resulted in release of a total of 17.3km2 of land, three-quarters of it due to be used for agriculture. CMAA/UNDP reported that mine casualties in the three provinces were two-thirds lower in 2013 than the previous year.[24]

Land Release

After years of accelerating productivity in Cambodia, the pace of mine clearance has levelled off but the amount of mined area released has continued to rise as a result of survey and application of land release procedures.

Operators appear to have released a total of around 109km2 of land in 2013, including up to about 90km2 of mined area, but lack of clarity about some land release data does not make it possible to give precise figures or a comparison with last year. The amount of mined land subjected to full clearance remained at a little over 45km2 but increased donor funding, particularly by the US, for clearance of ERW in heavily-bombed areas of eastern Cambodia is raising the amount of BAC.

Cambodia reported release of a total of 2.76km2 through non-technical survey and 16km2 through technical survey by CMAC but data available did not indicate how much of this was mined or battle area.[25]

In 2014, CMAA set a target of clearing or releasing 1,083 minefields covering 82.87km2.[26]

Mine and battle area clearance in 2013

Total mined area clearance remained about 45km2 in 2013, similar to the previous year, but the number of antipersonnel and antivehicle mines destroyed dropped while commitment of more assets to clearance of battle area and cluster munition remnants saw the number of items of UXO rise close to 15%.

Demining NGOs have largely maintained rates of clearance despite most having to trim staff in the past two years as a result of fluctuating donor support. CMAC started 2014 with some 1,800 staff and, with steadier funding commitments for 2014−2015, expected to maintain that level of staffing.[27] HALO reduced capacity in the second half of 2013, ending the year with 929 staff, including 671 deminers, and similarly expected to keep that staff level in 2014.[28] A third international operator, APOPO, received a provisional license from CMAA in January 2014 and the same month, in agreement with CMAC and with Germany, as donor, took on management of its Siem Reap-based Demining Unit 6, with 302 staff, including 284 deminers.[29]

CMAC, accounting for more than half the total mined area clearance, reported a slight (4%) increase in the amount of land subjected to full clearance in 2013 and says it does not see room for further big increases after the growth in clearance achieved in recent years with improved equipment and approaches to land release.[30] Its 2014 work plan, however, targeted release of 66km2 of mined area and 14km2 of battle area through clearance and survey, an increase of around half on its 2013 results.[31]

HALO and MAG both reported slight reductions in area and items cleared in 2013. HALO has continued to commit resources to clearing antivehicle mines, including in areas outside the suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) identified by the BLS. Moreover, one-third of the antipersonnel mines HALO destroyed in 2013 were picked up in EOD call-outs. However, in 2014 local authorities have allowed HALO to return to a number of task areas on the densely-mined K5 mine belt where work was previously suspended because of border tensions.[32] MAG, with 12 mine action teams, has focused operations on Battambang, Bantheay Meanchey, and Pailin. In 2014, it has also received financing to revive two EOD teams in northern Rattanakiri province working in conjunction with CARE and responding to villager call-outs and has added BAC/EOD capacity in Mondulkiri province.[33]

Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), after working with CMAC, started operating its own teams in February 2013 and cleared three BAC tasks covering a total of 87,874m2 in response to requests from provincial authorities. NPA focused mainly on conducting its cluster munitions remnants survey in eastern Cambodia, identifying 53 SHAs covering 45km2. It expected technical survey in 2014 would result in confirmed hazardous areas up to 90% smaller. In May 2014, NPA won a US$2.5 million contract from the US to conduct survey and clearance in eastern Cambodia in partnership with CMAC over a period of 17 months.[34]


Mined and battle area clearance in 2013[35]


Mined area cleared (km2)

BAC (km2)

Antipersonnel mines destroyed

Antivehicle mines destroyed

Submunitions destroyed

UXO destroyed


















































Article 5 Compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty (and in accordance with the 10-year extension granted by States Parties in 2009), Cambodia is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 January 2020.

Cambodia’s national strategy for 2010−2019, released in 2010 a year after submission of the extension request, called for demining operations to clear some 649km2 of mined land and to release 1,097.8km of suspected land “through baseline survey and technical survey.”[37] These targets have been superseded by the results of the BLS, but no new plan or strategy has yet emerged to replace them. The BLS in 124 provinces identified 73km2 of dense mine contamination and 892km2 of scattered contamination , but although it added clarity on the extent of Cambodia’s mine problem, BLS findings do not determine clearance priorities; MAPUs may give higher priority to clearing polygons with scattered mines than to densely mined areas.[38]

The draft NSP proposes that “much of the remaining contamination” will be dealt with within the current extension request but does not distinguish between mine and ERW contamination.[39] Based on clearance and funding patterns, Cambodia can expect to clear more than 200km2 of mined area in the coming five years.

Mine clearance in 2009–2013 (km2)


Mined area cleared













Support for Mine Action

CMAA reports international support for mine action in 2013 amounted to US$22.76 million while the Cambodian government contributed an additional $3.1 million in costs and equipment.[40]

 Most international support for Cambodian mine action is agreed bilaterally between donors and recipients. Funding of $4.6 million provided through UNDP’s Clearing for Results in 2013 represented one-fifth of total international support for that year. CFRII had received or been pledged a total of US$25.7 million, exceeding the Phase II budget of US$24.5 million.[41]


·         Cambodia should develop a national strategic plan to take account of the findings of the Baseline Survey and include a realistic assessment of the time needed to address remaining mine contamination and comply fully with Article 5.

·         CMAA should improve external reporting and dissemination of mine action data to provide accurate, up-to-date information on the progress of survey, clearance, and land release.

·         The capacity of the MAPUs to support planning, prioritization, and land release should be developed to help ensure that the humanitarian benefits of clearance are achieved.

·         The roles of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and NPMEC in mine action in Cambodia would merit clarification. In particular, they should be required to provide CMAA full details of mine clearance and/or verification.


[1] See “Mine Action Program Performance” for more information on performance indicators.

[2] Statement of Cambodia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 11 April 2014; Minutes of BLS Phase II meeting, 5 May 2014.

[3] HALO Trust, “Mine clearance in Cambodia–2009,” January 2009, p. 8.

[4] Revised BLS data presented in statement of Cambodia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 10 April 2014.

[5] Data received by email from CMAA, 16 October 2013, and presented in statement of Cambodia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 11 April 2014.

[6] Data received by email from Eang Kamrang, Database Manager, CMAA, 11 April 2013.

[7] Interview with Prum Sophakmonkol, Deputy Secretary General, CMAA, Phnom Penh, 19 March 2013.

[8] Compiled by the Monitor from Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System (CMVIS) casualty data provided by email from Nguon Monoketya, CMVIS Officer, CMAA, 30 January 2014.

[9] South East Asia Air Sortie Database, cited in Dave McCracken, “National Explosive Remnants of War Study, Cambodia,” Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) in collaboration with CMAA, Phnom Penh, March 2006, p. 15; Human Rights Watch, “Cluster Munitions in the Asia-Pacific Region,” April 2008; and Handicap International (HI), Fatal Footprint: The Global Human Impact of Cluster Munitions (HI: Brussels, November 2006), p. 11.

[10] “Report on the Results of the Baseline Survey in 124 Districts,” CMAA, undated but 2013, p. 9.

[11] Interview with Dave McCracken, Consultant, NPA, Phnom Penh, 21 March 2006.

[12] “Report on the Results of the Baseline Survey in 124 Districts,” CMAA, undated but 2013, p. 9.

[13] CMAC is the leading national demining operator, but does not exercise the wider responsibilities associated with the term “center.” Set up in 1992, CMAC was assigned the role of coordinator in the mid-1990s. It surrendered this function in a restructuring of mine action in 2000 that separated the roles of regulator and implementing agency and led to the creation of the CMAA.

[14] Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), “A Study of the Development of National Mine Action Legislation,” November 2004, pp. 64–66.

[15] Email from Prum Sophakmonkol, CMAA, 10 October 2013.

[16] Information provided by the CMAA in response to Landmine Monitor questions, 13 March 2014.

[17] Royal Government of Cambodia, “National Mine Action Strategy 2010−2019,” 11 November 2010, p. 3.

[18] “First Review: National Mine Action Strategy (2010−2019),” commissioned by CMAA in partnership with UNDP, June 2013, pp. 40−45.

[19] CMAA, “National Strategic Plan for Mine Action in Cambodia” (Draft), January 2014, pp.10 and 18.

[20] Email from Prum Sophakmonkol, CMAA, 26 May 2014.

[21] Interviews with mine action operators, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, 10−14 March 2014.

[22] Statement of Cambodia, Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 30 November 2011; interview with Melissa Sabatier, Mine Action Project Adviser, UNDP, Phnom Penh, 25 April 2011; and telephone interview, 3 August 2011.

[23] Interviews with Cameron Imber, Programme Manager, HALO, Siem Reap, 22 March 2013; and Alastair Moyer, Country Programme Manager, MAG, 14 March 2013.

[24] CMAA/UNDP, “Annual Project Report 2013, Clearing for Results Phase II,” undated but 2014, pp. 5 and 12.

[25] HALO reported cancelling 2.7km2 through NTS and CMAC reported release of 15.5km2 through technical survey, up from 10.08km2 in 2012. Data provided by Database Unit, CMAA, 1 May 2014.

[26] Information provided by the CMAA in response to Landmine Monitor questions, 13 March 2014.


[27] Interview with Heng Rattana, Director General, CMAC, Phnom Penh, 12 March 2014.

[28] Email from Adam Jasinski, Programme Manager, HALO, 7 March 2014.

[29] Interview with Kim Warren, Country Programme Director, APOPO, Phnom Penh, 12 March 2014; and email 2 May 2014.

[30] Interview with Heng Rattana, CMAC, Phnom Penh, 12 March 2014.

[31] “CMAC Completion Report 2013 and Integrated Work Plan 2014” (Draft), undated but 2014, p. iii.

[32] Interview with Adam Jasinski, HALO, Siem Reap, 14 March 2014.

[33] Interviews with Ben McCabe, Programme Officer, and Alistair Moir, Country Programme Manager, MAG, Phnom Penh, 10 and 11 March 2014.

[34] Interview with Jan Eric Stoa, Programme Manager, NPA, Phnom Penh, 11 March 2014; and email received 25 March 2014.

[35] Email from Database Unit, CMAA, 1 May 2014. Details of items cleared by MAG provided by email by Alistair Moir, MAG, 21 May 2014.

[36] NPMEC reports clearing a total of 28.37km2 in 2013 but produced no record of the location, size, or type of tasks outside Clearing For Results and whether these represented clearance or verification. Only the 2.69km2 cleared by NPMEC under Clearance for Results and involving BLS polygons is taken off Cambodia’s officially recorded contamination.

[37]National Mine Action Strategy 2010−2019,” Government of Cambodia, 2010, p. 5.

[38] Interview with Prum Sophakmonkol, CMAA, Phnom Penh, 13 March 2014.

[39] “National Strategic Plan for Mine Action in Cambodia” (Draft), CMAA, January 2014, p. 10.

[40] Information provided by the CMAA in response to Landmine Monitor questions, 13 March 2014. The government contribution included $1.03 million towards the costs of CMAA, $400,000 by both NPMEC and the police, $650,000 towards CMAC, and $599,642 for CMVIS and MAPUs.

[41] CMAA/UNDP, “Annual Project Report 2013, Clearing for Results Phase II,” undated but 2014, pp. 5−6 and 20.