When Ukrainian soldiers train in demining in Cambodia

While the war is raging at home on the other side of the world, 15 Ukrainian soldiers came this week to train in mine clearance in a field in northern Cambodia with local deminers, whose expertise is recognized.

The Southeast Asian kingdom has been one of the most heavily mined countries in the world during 30 years of civil war.

In the remote province of Battambang, Ukrainians, wearing white helmets, pace a demonstration field with areas marked off by red warning signs, watching their Cambodian instructors in action.

A Ukrainian soldier learns to use a metal detector during demining training on January 19, 2023 in Battambang province, Cambodia (AFP – TANG CHHIN SOTHY)

Under the blistering heat of Cambodia, the language of the Ukrainian soldiers mixes with that of the Khmer instructors who pass on their hard-won experience.

The group learns about Japanese-made metal detecting equipment used by Cambodia to clear large swaths of mined land.

Captain Diadchenko, a participant in the training, says the technical skills and expertise gained from Cambodian deminers will help prevent injuries and fatalities in his country.

“It will be very useful to rid our territory of Russian mines and Russian (unexploded ordnance)”, he assured the press, before adding: “It will help them and their families to be safe “.

Ukrainian soldiers communicate with Khmer instructors during mine clearance training on January 19, 2023 in Battambang province, Cambodia (AFP - TANG CHHIN SOTHY)
Ukrainian soldiers communicate with Khmer instructors during mine clearance training on January 19, 2023 in Battambang province, Cambodia (AFP – TANG CHHIN SOTHY)

Russian troops have used at least seven different types of landmines in Ukraine in 11 months of conflict, according to Human Rights Watch.

While it is not known how many Ukrainians have been killed or injured by landmines, there have been cases of farmers being hit while plowing their fields on tractors.

– Cambodia full of mines –

The fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in 1998 left the country riddled with mines laid down in three decades of conflict.

Ukrainian soldiers train in demining with Cambodian instructors on January 19, 2023 in the province of Battambang (AFP - TANG CHHIN SOTHY)
Ukrainian soldiers train in demining with Cambodian instructors on January 19, 2023 in the province of Battambang (AFP – TANG CHHIN SOTHY)

Nearly 20,000 Cambodians have been killed by landmines and around 45,000 others have been injured, according to a 2019 report by the NGO Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

The kingdom has set a goal to completely eliminate landmines buried in its soil by 2025.

But the government still hasn’t figured out how to release $76 million, the amount needed to clean up the 716 square kilometers of remaining contaminated land.

Ukrainian deminers communicate with a Cambodian deminer on Thursday as part of demining training in Battambang province, January 19, 2023 (AFP - TANG CHHIN SOTHY)
Ukrainian deminers communicate with a Cambodian deminer on Thursday as part of demining training in Battambang province, January 19, 2023 (AFP – TANG CHHIN SOTHY)

After the field demonstration, the Ukrainians had a moving encounter with landmine victims from nearby villages — and presented them with rice and gifts.

These encounters with amputated victims after jumping on a mine have reinforced the determination of the Ukrainians, whose country was attacked by Russia last February, to prevent their people from suffering the same fate as the Cambodians.

A Cambodian instructor shows a Ukrainian soldier how to detonate a mine during demining training on January 19, 2023 in Battambang province (AFP - TANG CHHIN SOTHY)
A Cambodian instructor shows a Ukrainian soldier how to detonate a mine during demining training on January 19, 2023 in Battambang province (AFP – TANG CHHIN SOTHY)

Cambodian Mine Action Center deminers have destroyed more than half a million mines and over 2.2 million pieces of unexploded ordnance over the past two decades.

In addition to metal detectors, Cambodia has also in recent years employed an elite team using specially trained African farmed rats to sniff out landmines.

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