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52 Cambodian soldiers join demining operations in Sudan

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June 10, 2009 (PHNOM PENH) – Some 52 Cambodian soldiers left today for Sudan where they will take part in demining operations within the framework of the UN mission in Sudan.

The Cambodian soldiers, all members of the army’s mine-clearing unit, are part of a 135-person team stationed in the southern Sudanese city of Malakal along the White Nile River. They will replace the old ones who will depart to Combodia in Friday.

This group is the fourth batch of de-miners that Cambodia has sent to Sudan, after the signing of a peace agreement that ended more than two decades of war in the southern part of the country.

"Beside helping mines and UXOs clearance for UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur region, you all have to help other humanitarian affairs in Sudan like purified clean water, digging wells and housing for local people," Pol Saroeurn, General Commander in Chief said in farewell ceremony at Pochentong Airbase.

Cambodian soldiers who were sent to Sudan have been trained with the UN standard by trainers from other countries, mainly the United States. As part of the preparation, the Cambodian troops have been given some basic courses in English and Sudanese history, geography and culture.

During the UN peacekeeping operation in 1992-93 to help Cambodia to move from conflict to democracy, mine clearing operations were launched to make land available for refugees returning from camps near the Thai border.

Tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid were invested in building Cambodians’ capacity to remove land mines. The effort is slowly paying off by freeing land from the deadly scourge to allow poor peasants to farm and make a living.

An estimated 4 million to 6 million land mines and other unexploded ordnance from the decades of conflict still maim or kill Cambodians, mostly civilians. Last year about 265 people were killed by the mines.

(ST)

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