by Sile Sammon and Sean Sutton
Since 1997 MAG has worked clearing the land surrounding the small village of Chisang in Battambang, Cambodia. The area was of strategic military importance during conflicts involving the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Government and Vietnamese troops over three different periods of fighting between 1979 and 1996. Landmines laid during that time and other remnants of those conflicts still affect the villagers today. However, MAG’s teams have now cleared more than 1,000 dangerous explosive items and released 470,000 sq/m of land, which is now safe to farm and develop. The future’s certainly looking brighter for the villagers of Chisang…
“Before the mines were cleared, the children were not happy and couldn’t concentrate in lessons. They were scared every morning coming to class as they had to walk through land they knew had landmines. Now MAG have cleared around the school the children have space to run and play and are much happier…”
Kiet Chhon, teacher at Chisang School.
“I was very scared that either I or one of my animals would step on a mine. While they were clearing, MAG found 10 items around the house and on our land. My family now have more land to grow crops. Before we had limited access and didn’t feel safe, but now we have more room to work and we feel that we can live safely.”
Sum Bo, farmer in Chisang.
“I have two boys and a girl who are all in school and I came to work at MAG to support my children. One part of my job I really enjoy is returning to visit the people now using the land that we cleared. During my time with MAG I have destroyed around 500 mines and more than 1,000 items of unexploded ordnance.”
Chea Ratha, Supervisor of MAG Mine Action Team 3.
“Before the mines were cleared I was very scared for my safety; I was afraid I would lose my hand, my leg or worse. I was also very frightened for my family. My brother-in-law lost a leg and my brother lost an arm and is blind. The field was full of mines, so I never went there, I was too frightened. I’m so happy that my land is now safe to farm and that my family is now safe. We can move around freely and I can plant extra crops such as bananas and coconuts.”
Tem Yan, farmer in Chisang.
“I was born in Chisang village but during the war I went to Battambang. When I returned in 1997 the land was highly contaminated, in particular the land around the pagoda. The local authorities provided land to returning villagers to build their houses, but this was still contaminated. Many people had accidents. Both my brothers-in-law have lost their legs in landmine accidents. Now the land has been cleared I’m very happy; there have been no more accidents since MAG worked here.”
Thoun Run, member of the Chisang Pagoda Committee.
All photographs (c) Sean Sutton/MAG