Table Speech

Land Mine Clearance in Cambodia

May 11th,2005

Member of the Special Committee for Land Mine clearance in Cambodia
Mr.Yoshio Okazaki

Tokyo Club member Yoshio Okazaki, member of the Special Committee for Land Mine clearance in Cambodia spoke on his activities at the meeting of May 11. The Land Mine clearance is an official program of our District 2580 and we gain funding not by assessing fees from our members, but from voluntary contributions by our members putting money into the collection boxes at each meeting.

In this matter, we are able to collect 4 to 5 million yen from the 72 clubs in our District. Cambodia is famous for its cultural treasures such as Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom but they were surrounded by mine fields when their conflict ended. Fortunately the minefields have been cleared and many tourists are visiting them. I learn that the price of land has multiplied by 5 or 6 times since we started mine clearance.

At the time, their roads were not paved, and there were no traffic signs.
But last year when I visited, their roads were paved, and there was a traffic signal. This shows you how a locality may prosper when mines are gone.
This land mine clearance program got started in the 1998-99 year when Club President Kazuo Suzuki and our Sumao Tokumasu was District Governor.
In the 7 years hence, we have been able to mark much progress in land mine clearing.

When a village is cleared of mines, we erect a signboard at the village entrance saying “This land has been cleared of mines by Rotary funds and is now a safe place to live”.

The British Halo Trust, who are our partners in this project tell us that it will take another 10 years to make Cambodia free from land mines in their villages so we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.

In 5 years, we have cleared 780,000sq.m. of land in 30 locations, where so 400 families now live. 780,000sq.m. is about the size of an 18 holes golf course. It is quite a painstaking job to clear the land of many hidden mines or unexploded shells.

Our Committee makes annual visits to the area in February, purchasing local made confectionery and items for school use which are distributed to the children who are very grateful.

We made our 6th annual visit this year with Rotarians from 3 other Districts joining us. We were able to turn over the 5th plot of mine free land to the villagers at this time. When the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Phot left Cambodia for Thailand in 1984, they laid mines in the amount of 3,000 in a belt of land 7 to 8 kilometers long, and there are places where they are buried at a distance of 30 or 40 cm.

I heard at the time of our visit that during the past month, they had unearthed 3,900 land mines, and 13 anti-tank mines. They also unearthed and disposed of 3,397 unexploded shells.

Quite near where the villagers live, there are dangerous areas. One week before our visit I heard that a woman tripped on a mine and fell down on another which exploded an killed her.

A proposal to create a Tokyo Rotary Clearland in Cambodia was adopted by our Club Board which will disburse 10 million yen (US$95,000) from our Club Fund, and a contract was signed between the Halo Trust representative and Club President Mizuno.

We wish to continue our efforts by calling on 33 Districts in the 2006-6 Rotary Year, as we would like to enlarge the scope of our land mine clearance activities in Cambodia where peace has returned, and provide their people for a base for recovery.