Security situation overview: Antipersonnel mines in Thailand & Cambodia

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As a region marred by a history of complex cross-border and international conflict, South East Asia is an area of particular focus when it comes to demining. With this profile focusing specifically on two countries – Thailand and Cambodia – it is notable that both have a partially shared history of heavy antipersonnel mine use, specifically alongside the Thailand-Cambodian border, an area which displays a high level of landmine contamination.

Cambodia is one of the most heavily mine and UXO-contaminated countries in the world, marking 64,000 deaths by explosive items since 1979. Many mined areas are still heavily contaminated by antipersonnel mines left behind by China, the USSR, the US and Vietnam, as well as UXOs remaining from many conflicts, including the heavy bombing of Cambodia and notably the bombings in the 1970s which saw over half a million ton of bombs dropped onto the country. The notable portion of landmines were laid alongside the border during the Vietnam War by both the Vietnamese and the Americans. The rest of inland Cambodia was subsequently mined by the Khmer Rouge forces in order to secure their acquired zones and mines were subsequently used heavily at later stages of the war by both sides. A few more waves of mine laying followed, predominantly alongside the Thai border. After three decades of heavy mining, it became common practice to lay much denser minefields than necessary and often also within the perimeters of civilian communities. Since maps of the minefields were not drawn, repetitive re-mining of already mined areas often took place. Moreover, in 1992, a large number of refugees were repatriated from Thailand, with many subsequently injured or killed by landmines during the crossing – an event which sparked the attention and involvement of many international demining NGOs. All in all, due to this complex history of mine use, the issue of unexploded landmines affects every one of Cambodia’s 25 provinces. 2019 has seen a sharp rise in UXO and mine-related incidents, with 66 people injured or killed this year alone, as compared to 23 in 2018.

Thailand similarly faces a rather high explosive threat, as it is one of the ten worst IED-affected countries, both in terms of incidents and deaths. Specifically, mines and explosive remnants of war (ERWs) / UXOs trouble the country, largely due to its history of internal as well as international conflicts with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar. The vast majority of mined areas (circa 80%) in Thailand are to be found in the eastern and north-eastern provinces on the border with…

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