Table Speech


“Actions by Rotary Club towards removing Antipersonnel Land Mines”

May 16, 2007

Mr. Iwao Doi,
District 2580 Special Committee on Removal of Antipersonnel Land Mines,
Standing Committee Member (Tokyo Ochanomizu RC)
President, Shinyo Co., Ltd.

1. Background
Between 1998 and 1999, a NPO organization named JAHDS (Japan Alliance for Humanitarian Demining Support) was formed by a few leading members of Rotary Clubs when Mr. Tokumatsu was District Governor and Mr. Okazaki was District Secretary. The Rotary Club of Tokyo speedily decided to support JAHDS and has created a Special Committee on Removal of Antipersonnel Land Mines.

At that time, regarding international movements, the CCW (Convention on Conventional Weapons) was approved in 1980, and the following restrictions to land mines were adopted in 1996.

1)The agreement binds not only wars between countries, but internal conflicts as well
2)Prohibition of production of land mines that can not be detected
3)Land mines shall have devices to self destruct after a certain period of time
4)Maps are to be kept to show where land mines are placed
Countries that wanted an all-out ban of land mines were not satisfied with the above conditions and adopted a Treaty on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines in 1999. The treaty prohibited developing, producing, using, exporting and holding of all antipersonnel mines, and created an international inspection system.

Countries holding antipersonnel mines were to destroy them within 4 years, and also remove hidden mines within 10 years.

In this regard, the Japanese Self Defense Forces destroyed one million antipersonnel mines in February 2003.

It should be noted that the Special Committee of the Rotary Club was created in this international background.

2. Visit to 7th Clear Land
During February 2007, 20 members, including 8 from Okinawa RC, visited Cambodia to inspect the 7th Clear Land and discuss on the 8th Clear Land.

The cumulative financial assistance provided between the 1st and 7th Clear Land totaled around 100 million yen, and the land cleared totaled 920,000 squared meters. 4,061 people, or 948 families were able to live on safe land due to Clear Land.

For reference, the total land area of Cambodia is around 181,000 square kilometers, which is about half of Japan. Of this, around 1,500 to 2,000 square kilometers have hidden antipersonnel mines. During the last 10 years, 170 square kilometers were cleared of mines, which showed that it may take another 100 years to finish clearing.

At present, there are four organizations active in the clearing of mines in Cambodia. (1) HALO (Hazardous Areas Life-Support Organization) Trust of UK (1,200 members), which is our partner, (2) MAG (Mines Advisory Group), also of UK (500 members), and (3) CMAC (Cambodian Mine Action Center) of the Cambodian government (2,400 members).

HALO Trust is supported partly by the Swedish and US government, and I think the Rotary Club is the only private organization supporting it.

Regarding CMAC, as it is a governmental organization, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and JMAS (Japan Mine Action Service) supports it. Regarding MAG, as it is a humanitarian organization to help refugees, Japanese organizations support it as well.

JMAS is an organization created 5 years ago by former members of the Japan Self Defense Force with knowledge on removing land mines. As it was organized at a later period, JAHDS had teamed with HALO Trust.

In this way, Japan supports all three NGO’s active in Cambodia. As a country adopting the Convention on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines, Japan financially supports the actions in such countries.

3. History of Land Mines
Land mines were first used in 1919 during World War I by UK, as a deterrent to military tanks. During WW II (1943), anti tank and antipersonnel mines were used in Europe. Antipersonnel mines were extensively used in the Koreas ware of 1950’s. It was used to deter the clearing of anti tank land mines.

Antipersonnel mines do not choose the victim, can withstand for years, cruel, and cheap to produce. There are basically two types. One is a small type to injure under the knee, and another type jumps up to around one meter to kill the victim.

The most popular method to clear such mines is to us a roller, collect the mines and destroy them. Land mines are detected by use of magnetic field and radar, as well as sticks by men in the final stage of clearing.

Countries contaminated with hidden land mines are such as Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Countries that have not signed the prohibition treaty and produce land mines are such as USA, Russia, China, Cuba, former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Egypt etc.

4. Actions by Rotary Club
As Cambodia is still in a situation where it needs outside help, we would like to warmly support it. The ideal service by Rotary Club should be one that fosters people, and not just out of mercy. I would now like to introduce a conversation I had with a Cambodian person with an artificial leg during my trip to Cambodia.

He said he is fed up with land mines and fed up with the pain. He went into the woods though he knew it was dangerous with land mines, as he needed to gather wood to make a living. After the accident, an artificial leg was made and after painful training, he can now walk slowly and even ride a bicycle, though it still hurts.

He is still poor and eats only twice a day. He sleeps early at around 7 pm, as he will become hungry if he keeps awake until late.

He sometimes imagines what life would have been like without the accident. He thanked us for helping remove the landmines, as it enables him to walk around more freely.