Congratulations to MAG Cambodia’s Mine Action Manager Soth Diep, whose outstanding contribution to saving and improving lives in the country has been officially recognised.
On 2nd April, Diep was awarded the “Moni Saraphorn Thnak Sena” award by His Excellency Prum Sophakmonkol, Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, following 13 years of service to the development of mine action in Cambodia.
“We have a valuable mission here in Cambodia,” said Diep, shortly after receiving his award, “and I anticipate that MAG, and I, will need to keep working on this mission for a long time to come. We are doing things right, responding to the need of communities to give people safer lives and building their futures.
“This work will continue to reduce poverty and improve living conditions, and will continue to be important and lifesaving as the country develops and changes into the future.”
Well done, Diep!
Soth Diep (right) after receiving his medal from His Excellency Prum Sophakmonkol, Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (left).
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On 2nd April, 2013 MAG Cambodia’s Mine Action Manager Soth Diep was awarded the “Moni Saraphorn Thnak Sena” award by His Excellency Prum Sophakmonkol, Deputy Secretary General, in recognition of his long period of service and outstanding contribution to the development of mine action in Cambodia.
After 13 years, Diep reflects on a career marked by a distinctive rise through the organisation, international experience, and a continued commitment to saving and improving the lives of people in the communities in which MAG works.
In the summer of 1986, aged 19, Diep graduated from Build Bright University and was just beginning a long career with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery. Cambodia was still at war, with the Khmer Rouge in power fighting Vietnamese troops, and multiple casualties reported all over the country often as result of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) being used by all parties.
Three years later Vietnamese troops withdrew, and by 1992 a major UN peacekeeping mission entered Cambodia and took over administration of the country to try to bring an end to the bloody, decades-long conflict. But the explosive legacy of war remained in the ground.
By February 2000, Diep had made the decision that his fourteen year career in agriculture was at an end but that mine action awaited him. He wanted to put his knowledge of agriculture to use in helping people overcome the previous long hard years. Even now poverty in Cambodia is overwhelmingly rural with over 80 per cent of the population relying on subsistence agriculture, and 4.8 million people defined as below the poverty line.
Thirteen years ago, Diep saw that people were facing food shortages and taking great risks; putting themselves and others in danger, by using land which was suspected or known to be contaminated by landmines and UXO.
At night time, Diep and his colleagues at the Ministry were required to keep watch over the machines and equipment in nearby forests and mountainous areas where fighting would sometimes occur.
As Diep remembers, “Many of my colleagues were also sent to join the Government troops defending the Cambodia-Thai border during this time, and sometimes they stood on landmines and were killed.”
Starting out as the National Project Manager of a Survival Demining Tractor and Tools project with MAG, Diep comfortably put his previous experience into practice, helping in the research and development of former farming machinery which could be used to survey or clear contaminated land.
Focusing on the rural poor, offering communities the opportunity to revitalise their economic opportunities and ensure the safety of people living and working on land which was once a battleground, helped Diep to make his transition into mine action and work closely with MAG’s beneficiaries, the primary stakeholders of its activities, to ensure that their needs and their priorities were met during clearance.
His new position also allowed him “to gain experience with an international organisation, and an international working environment. I wanted to develop myself personally, to learn new things, and to gain support for my development.”
As Diep has risen through the ranks at MAG Cambodia, he has worked as Mechanical Unit Coordinator, and in a number of positions in the programme’s Mine Action Quality Assurance Unit.
Diep received his MAG-sponsored MBA degree from Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2008
Since August 2010, he has been Mine Action Manager, the most senior national technical position in MAG Cambodia. Diep is understandably proud of his position and what he has helped to achieve through his hard work:
“MAG’s working environment is all about fairness and being reasonable, patient and building yourself to be better. All national staff are encouraged to improve and upgrade their skills, and job sustainability is important. MAG has been able to create many jobs for Cambodian people across the country, allowing them to generate a monthly income to support their families both in urban and rural areas.
“This is very important in helping to build the economy, support people’s growth, and giving people the opportunity to learn.”
Over the years Diep’s life has changed alongside his career, marrying his wife Pol Srey March in February 1994, and having two daughters now aged 10 and 18. As he teaches his children to always strive to learn, he too has continued to do so:
“I have always been supported this way at MAG, for all my thirteen years here. They even helped put me through university again when I was 41, helping me get my Masters degree in Business Administration!”
Having worked under a number of managers, Diep has learned much from different styles of leadership and been given the opportunity to see different working environments in MAG’s Sri Lanka, Lebanon and Thailand programmes, while attending conferences on mine action in the US, Sweden and Laos.
“I always hope that staff in MAG will recognise my good work, and that I am trustworthy and patient. I try hard every day to achieve good results to ensure MAG always meets its requirements in the best way possible. I work actively to coordinate with the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) and MAG’s stakeholders and I work positively to solve any problems. Doing this work makes me proud, so I wish to do it to the best of my ability,” he said.
After thirteen years with MAG Cambodia, Diep’s receipt of the “Moni Saraphorn Thnak Sena” Award was a great acknowledgement of his hard work for both MAG and his country’s mine action efforts. “We have a valuable mission here in Cambodia” said Diep, shortly after receiving his award, “and I anticipate that MAG, and I, will need to keep working on this mission for a long time to come.
We are doing things right; responding to the need of communities to give people safer lives and building their futures. This work will continue to reduce poverty and improve living conditions, and will continue to be important and lifesaving as the country develops and changes into the future.”
by Clare O’Reilly, Programme Officer, MAG Cambodia