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Ukrainian de-miners wrap up training in Cambodia

by SOPHENG CHEANG and DAVID RISING The Associated Press | January 22, 2023 at 3:51 a.m.
Ukrainian deminers view old demining machinery during a tour of the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province, northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- A group of 15 Ukrainian de-miners wrapped up a week of training in Cambodia, where experts who have cleared minefields from one of the world's most contaminated countries shared their expertise with the relative newcomers to the dangerous job.

Cambodia is still strewn with mines from three decades of war and internal conflicts that ended in 1998, while the problem in Ukraine is a new one since the Russian invasion last year.

Ukrainian de-miner Stanislav Kulykiusky told reporters that his team was grateful for the training, and at home already, but 64 de-miners had been injured and 13 killed in the line of duty.

"It is a very difficult situation," he said.

The non-governmental organization Landmine Monitor in its 2022 report listed Cambodia and Ukraine among the nine countries with "massive" mine contamination, meaning they had more than 38.6 square miles of uncleared fields.

Kulykiusky said the main challenge for Ukrainian de-miners was the scale of the job, but that it was critical to ensure all mines are removed before people return to villages and farms.

"This is a precondition of the recovery," he said.

Cambodian de-miners are among the world's most experienced and several thousand have been sent in the past decade under U.N. auspices to work in Africa and the Middle East.

The team of Ukrainians was at different sites last week, learning to use an advanced Japanese mine detector known as the Advanced Landmine Imaging System.

Developed at Tohoku University, the hand-held device consists of a metal detector with an integrated ground-penetrating radar that can help de-miners detect and identify buried mines.

On Friday, the group visited a museum dedicated to explaining the different landmines and unexploded munitions found in Cambodia, then took part in practical training at a site nearby.

They wrapped up their journey Saturday with a day off from training to visit Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex before returning home.

The training will continue, however, with regular video conference calls and a team of three to five Cambodian experts will travel to Poland in April to train more Ukrainians, said Oum Phumro, deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, the government agency that oversees the clearing of landmines and unexploded ordnance in the country.

He said Cambodia was also giving Ukraine experienced sniffer dogs and training them on how to use them to detect mines.

"Our de-miners have experience clearing mines for about 30 years and we have trained many countries," he said. "Today we are proud that we are training Ukrainian de-miners."

  photo  A Ukrainian deminer views a Cambodia's country map made with old war weapons during a tour to Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province of northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 
  photo  Director General of Cambodia Mine Action Center Heng Ratana, right, shakes hands with Ukrainian deminers during a tour of the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province, northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 
  photo  Ukrainian deminers hold a press briefing during a visit to the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province, northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 
  photo  A Ukrainian deminer views an exhibition during a tour of the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province, northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 
  photo  A dog sniffs Covid19 scents during a demonstration while Ukrainian deminers tour the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province, northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 
  photo  Visiting Ukrainian deminers and media view a controlled bomb explosion during a tour to the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province of northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 
  photo  Ukrainian deminers view bomb casings recovered from the war during a tour of the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province of northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 
  photo  A trained service dog demonstrates learned techniques during a tour by Ukrainian deminers to the Peace Museum Mine Action in Siem Reap province, northwestern Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Cambodian experts, whose country has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most contaminated by landmines, walked a group of Ukrainian soldiers through a minefield being actively cleared hoping their decades of experience will help the Europeans in their own efforts to remove Russian mines at home. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
 
 

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