Remnants of war continue to kill and maim people today

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Old landmines and explosive remnants of war continue to kill and maim people today.  This was the message at the Pattaya City Expats Club’s Sunday, December 11 meeting. Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg welcomed Lee Moroney, program manager in Thailand and Jan Erik in Cambodia. Both are with the Mine Action Department of the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) organization.

Lee was previously the program manager for Cluster Munitions Stockpile Destruction (Global). As a member of the Institute of Explosive Engineers and with his extensive career in the British Army and within the NGO world he has operated in many countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. Jan is a retired officer from the Norwegian Army. Having worked with Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) for 10 years he has vast experience in operations and mine action management in Angola, Mozambique, Lebanon, Iraq, Vietnam and currently Cambodia to name a few.

Lee Moroney is program manager in Thailand with the Mine Action Department of the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) organization.Lee Moroney is program manager in Thailand with the Mine Action Department of the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) organization.

Lee began by describing the NPA organization, which is based in Norway and was originally created as part of the labor movement in 1939. They are involved in several endeavors including assisting countries in clearing land mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). This effort began in 1992 when several countries including Thailand and Cambodia signed a treaty banning the use of landmines.  He described NPA’s involvement in developing the treaty and their current efforts for a similar treaty to ban cluster munitions.  He explained that they are currently assisting 18 countries in locating these explosive devices and training local personnel in their removal.  One of the first steps is to conduct surveys so that they will have a more accurate picture of the danger locations. With this knowledge the country being assisted can better utilize their resources in clearing them.

Jan Erik is Norwegian People’s Aid program manager in Cambodia, where demining is carried out near the Vietnamese border, as well as other areas.Jan Erik is Norwegian People’s Aid program manager in Cambodia, where demining is carried out near the Vietnamese border, as well as other areas.

He mentioned that most of the landmines and ERW in Thailand and Cambodia are from many years ago when they were used extensively in conflicts along their borders.

Lee then described the different methods used in discovering these devices; one being the use of dogs trained to identify explosives. In removing these destructive objects, safety is a prime consideration. In addition to training, they furnish body armor and other equipment for the demining operations. Also, if the object can be detonated where it is located, that is the preferred method of removal.  However, often they may be found in an area that if exploded could damage property or people; in these cases they are disarmed and removed.

Likewise, Jan explained and described their operations in Cambodia. Jan noted that much of their effort is near the Cambodia and Vietnam border; but they also work near the Cambodia and Thailand border. Because of the extent of landmines and ERW in Cambodia, it will take many more years to locate and destroy/remove these objects before the land can be reclaimed for safe habitation and use.

Lee pointed out that Thailand has a much more manageable situation as the remaining area to be reclaimed and released for use is around 500 square kilometers.  He also pointed out that in both Thailand and Cambodia, the effort is to reclaim land for habitation and use.  They give priority to such areas rather than clearing known mined areas where the land has no suitable use.

PCEC member Tony is happy to win a two for one dinner at one of Hawaii Bob’s ‘Frugal Freddy’ restaurant retinue.PCEC member Tony is happy to win a two for one dinner at one of Hawaii Bob’s ‘Frugal Freddy’ restaurant retinue.

Lee then described the situation with cluster munitions. He noted that these munitions are remnants of the past and, as with Thailand, are stockpiled. As a weapon, they are not very effective. They also kill indiscriminately. He described how they are constructed and disbursed by air or artillery; breaking into many bomblets with each having the destructive power of a hand grenade. He and Jan pointed out that from 20 to 30% of these bomblets do not explode. Thus they leave a hazard for anyone that stumbles across them.

Lee concluded by mentioning Thailand’s use of cluster munitions in the recent border clashes with Cambodia, which he felt was not deliberate, but had more to do with grabbing up whatever ordnance was readily available. Likewise, Cambodia used rockets which also had a significant failure rate. Currently, they are assisting both Cambodia and Thailand in identifying where these objects are located so that they can be removed.

To learn more about their efforts, Lee referenced NPA’s website at http://www.npaid.org/en/.

After Lee and Jan answered several questions, Richard Silverberg called on Roy Albiston to update everyone on current events and to conduct the always interesting Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about living in Thailand; Pattaya in particular.