SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AP) — A group of 15 Ukrainian sappers wrapped up a week of training in Cambodia on Friday, where experts clearing minefields in one of the world’s most polluted countries shared their experiences with relative newcomers to the dangerous job. .
Cambodia is still strewn with landmines from three decades of war and internal conflict that ended in 1998, while the problem in Ukraine is fresh after the Russian invasion last year.
Ukrainian sapper Stanislav Kulikyuski told reporters that his team is grateful for the preparation, saying that 64 sappers have already been injured and 13 died in the line of duty at home.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” he said.
In its 2022 report, the non-governmental organization Landmine Monitor listed Cambodia and Ukraine among nine countries with “massive” mine contamination, meaning they had more than 100 square kilometers (38.6 square miles) of cleared fields.
Kulikiwski said that the main challenge for Ukrainian sappers was the scale of the work, but it was very important to ensure that all mines were cleared before people returned to villages and farms.
“This is a prerequisite for recovery,” he said.
Cambodian sappers are among the most skilled in the world, and over the past decade, several thousand of them have been sent to work in Africa and the Middle East under the auspices of the United Nations.
The Ukrainian team has been at various sites for the past week, learning how to use an advanced Japanese mine detector known as the Advanced Landmine Imaging System.
On Friday, the group visited a museum dedicated to explaining the various landmines and unexploded ordnance found in Cambodia, and then took part in hands-on activities at a nearby site.
They conclude their journey on Saturday with a training day off to visit Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat temple complex before returning home.
Training will continue, but with regular video conferences, and a team of three to five Cambodian experts will travel to Poland in April to train more Ukrainians, said Umm Phumro, deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, a government agency. which oversees the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance in the country.
He said Cambodia is also providing Ukraine with experienced sniffer dogs and training them on how to use them to detect mines.
“Our sappers have about 30 years of demining experience, and we have trained many countries,” he said. “Today we are proud to be training Ukrainian sappers.”
____ Rising reports from Bangkok.