Table Speech

Commemorative Ceremony for Completion
of Rotary Clear Land Project in Cambodia

June 16, 2010

Mr. Yoshio Okazaki
Special Committee for Anti-personnel Demining, RI D2580

“Clear Land Project”, the official “International Social Service Activity” of District 2580, was initially proposed by the Rotary Club of Tokyo during Rotary Year 1998-99, under the Governorship of Mr. Sumao Tokumasu when Mr. Kazuo Suzuki was a president. Let me make the final report of this activity today.

As we all know, this project started in 2000. Ten years have passed since the very 1st Clear Land was completed in February 2001 at Rohal Village located 60km northwest of Siem Reap, famous for Angkor Wat.

During the past 10 years, “Tokyo RC Clear Land” was created in Prey Chan village, near the border with Thailand, funded by 10 million yen contributions from Tokyo RC 80th Anniversary Commemorative event and another 10 million yen from the Special Fund for RI Centennial Commemorative event. 24 Rotarians and family members from our club visited the site and exchanged with local residents and children.

When this project was launched, it was not easy for us to explain to other clubs the significance of removing land mines as well as to ask for donations. We have repeatedly explained the necessity of this humanitarian service activity of removing land mines before giving any kind of assistance to residents living on mine fields. We also informed on assistance provided by Rotarians and NPOs from around the world, ranging from drilling wells, constructing schools to providing artificial limbs and wheelchairs to victims.

Rotary has allocated 150 million yen of funds to create 10 Clear Lands, covering an area of 1.3 million (100 times of the Tokyo Dome ballpark). In total 26,000 people residing in about 30 locations are now leading a peaceful life, liberated from the horrors of land mines. In spite of their modest life without electricity or water services, smiles, dreams and hopes are brought back to them.

According to the Cambodian Red Cross, the number of land mine victims peaked in 1979 with 4,674 casualties, but showed a dramatic drop to 266 per year in February 2008.

We visited our 1st Clear Land in Rohal Village last February and again this February. Ten years ago, villagers were too poor to operate a monetary economy and made their livings by bartering goods. What we saw today was a safe village with food stores in tents. Not a single incident of casualty was reported in the past 10 years. Children in school uniforms, who have never seen the actual landmines, study in a refurbished school. Local residents are delighted to be able to “live like a decent human being in safety.” This is exactly what the humanitarian spirit of Rotary aims at.

On February 5th 2010, the Completion Ceremony of this project was held in Siem Reap. 201 Rotarians participated from Japan on a chartered flight, of which 49 joined from Tokyo RC (26 Rotarians and 23 family members). Our tour was reported by NHK and the Asahi Newspaper Bangkok Bureau. The Ceremony was broadcasted throughout Japan on the NHK television and radio news in the morning of February 6th