When MAG Cambodia’s all-female MAT 3 (Mine Action Team) cleared suspect land in Prey Kantuot village, Pursat, 2,417 people from 455 families benefited.
MAG Community Liaison worker Khan Tavrak talked to some of the villagers recently – about their lives before and after clearance, and their hopes for the future.
Pursat, the fourth biggest province in Cambodia, is located in the western part of the country. It borders, clockwise from the north, Battambang Province, the Tonle Sap Lake, Kampong Chhnang Province, Kampong Speu Province, Koh Kong Province, and Thailand. Bakan district in Pursat is around 15 kilometres north of the provincial capital, Pursat town.
Prey Kantuot is one of the villages in Bakan that all-female Mine Action Team (MAT) 3 were deployed to, under funding support from Hind Aladwani. From April to August 2007, the team conducted manual clearance of 64,254 square metres of suspect land, finding and destroying 12 anti-personnel mines and 49 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO). This activity directly benefited 455 families, comprising 2,417 people in total.
"Clearing landmines gives us some hope for a better future. This year we hope our productivity will increase because now the village road is free from landmines it is safe for us to fetch water. Landmines are one part of poverty - while we still have landmines it means that we are poor as we cannot work land which is dangerous."
- Senn Neang, 38, lives with his wife and five children in Prey Kantuot
MAG Community Liaison worker Khan Tavrak talked to some of those villagers about their lives before and after clearance and their hopes for the future.
Twenty-nine-year-old Chea Nhak is married to Seth Sokha, one year his junior. The couple have four children and live on a former minefield. “I don’t have a regular job, but my wife sells noodles,” Nhak told us. “I moved here because I had to get my own house after we married. In late 2001, we built a small house here but there were a lot of mines and UXO near by. You know, on the day we started building I saw seven mines.
“When my wife was working on the farm cutting crops she hit a landmine with the sickle, but fortunately it did not explode. My family lived with danger around us every day – if we didn’t want to have an accident we had to pay attention. Even going for water was very dangerous as there were so many mines and UXO around, and during the rainy season the road floods and you can’t see it properly. I worried so much about my children as they are very young and don’t really understand the dangers.
“After MAG cleared the land everything is becoming better. Now we have a safe road, we can fetch water safely, and I am especially pleased as my children can now play around here safely. We are very happy with this!”
The young couple pictured right are Chea Hach (23) and his wife, Men Siengleng (20). They also live in Prey Kantuot village.
”I am an orphan,“ Hach explained. “My father was killed by a landmine when he went to the forest to get wood and my mother and younger sister left because of her fear of landmines. I have never heard from them since. I hate landmines – they killed my father and I lost my mother because of them.
“It was hard to grow up without parents. As a little boy I used to cry and cry for my mum... I lived with my aunt until 2004, when I got married. I was building a pigpen one day and I saw a UXO left from the conflict – it made me feel sick inside. At that time I didn’t know what to do, and my farm was full of landmines.
"My aunt also became very ill following a serious accident and it’s my responsibility to look after her and pay for her treatment. Thanks to MAG, now I don’t see any mines near my home. We can also farm safely and I hope we can start to earn some money to support our lives and my sick relative.”
Senn Neang (right, white shirt) is 38 years old. He is married to Sao Phorn (39) and they have five children.
“My parents suffered from a serious illness – we tried our best to take care of them but they both died. I moved here because we had to sell our land to pay for their treatment. As we have nowhere of our own we have borrowed this house from the local authority. We rent our farmland from others also – we have to provide them with three bags of rice per year.
“We don’t have enough food to support our lives – I have a lot of children and we are so poor. We have to rent a cow to farm the rice paddy and pay another three bags of rice for that. We just don’t produce enough food, so how can we survive? Sometimes I dig manioc (cassava) to cook with rice to make it go further.
“My children cannot go to school because we are so poor we need them to help us as much as they can – some tend our cow, they also go fishing and chop wood and one of them is a labourer. Also, the school is very far from our home and on the route to it there are landmines.
“But clearing landmines gives us some hope for a better future. This year we hope our productivity will increase because now the village road is free from landmines it is safe for us to fetch water. Landmines are one part of poverty – while we still have landmines it means that we are poor as we cannot work land which is dangerous.
“MAG’s clearance has made us very happy, we now have safe places to live and farm. I was very surprised when I saw that all the members of MAT 3 were women, but they are all very good people, and we appreciate them and the work they have done. We also appreciate the donors who help MAG to do its work, to you all we say thank you very much.”
Translation by Chham Rivann, MAG Cambodia Project Officer
16 July 08