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Cambodian Deminers Aid Cyprus

As unity talks drone on, one of the key problems facing Cyprus – removing land mines – is being helped by experts from Cambodia.

There is an 11-member team under the United Nations auspices clearing unexploded mines left behind from the unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion.

The deminers work in an arid field inside a UN-controlled buffer zone that runs across the east Mediterranean island.

Kneeling under a scorching summer sun, each one meticulously circles his working space with red rope before scooping away dirt with a small spade and sweeping a metal detector across the area, Agence France Presse reported in a feature.

Over the past decade, deminers have removed more than 27,000 landmines from the buffer zone, with land reclaimed for agricultural use.

Lieutenant Sovannara Leang, who leads the team, uses skills to help other countries riddled with mines. He joined the UN demining operations program in 2009.

His assistant Sous Choom swapped his army uniform for a metal detector in 2000 and was part of a Cambodian team that helped demine South Sudan. Others have operated in Lebanon and Mali.

The team even hosted Daniel Craig, the movie star who plays James Bond, when he visited to support international de-mining operations.

 

“For these peacekeepers to take their expertise, gleaned over the last 40 years in Cambodia, and make it available to the people of Cyprus, half-way around the world, is truly inspiring,” said Craig.

Nearly three decades of civil war has left poverty-stricken Cambodia one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.

Nearly 20,000 people have been killed there since 1979 and twice as many have been wounded in landmine and unexploded ordnance accidents.

Cyprus “is little compared to what they have had to deal with unfortunately in their country,” Major General Kristin Lund, head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, told AFP.

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