One Step Beyond – Mine page Cambodia
The K5 minestrip was laid at Cambodia's border with Thailand. During the mid-1980's, almost 600 km of the border was sealed off to prevent the Khmer Rouge from receiving help from the North. In all, around 3 million mines were laid in a swath with a width ranging from a few hundred metres to 2 km. Most of this strip lies in impassable areas – in uninhabited bush and jungle.
The battles between the Khmer soldiers and the Vietnamese army – which had occupied the country since 1979 – took place south of this strip.
The Khmer had a nasty fighting tactic: each soldier had numerous mines. When he advanced his position, he would plant mines behind him and secure his back. Since he and his colleagues knew the location of each mine, they could always retreat. The Vietnamese planted mines to secure the land they had won, which was often in the existing minefields of the Khmer.
Frontlines often shifted – keeping track of landmines became impossible. In addition, the long rainy season softened the earth, and the mines bloated up. The somewhat clearly-arranged front lines and defense lines dissolved. An impermeable, dangerous labyrinth resulted – not only composed of enemy mines.
From the mid to late 1990's, many years after the official end of the war, the situation in Cambodia had more or less calmed down. The residents of the countryside began returning to these former battlefields, in order to resettle their property. In the process, they entered mined areas. This is the main reason why – although it is peacetime – many more than 800 mine accidents happen each year in Cambodia. In 2002, the number was 829.
Mine clearance of former battlegrounds is advancing at a feverish pace – Cambodia's population is expected to double within 10 years, increasing the chances of mine accidents. Then, Cambodia's population is expected to be 25 million. Its current population is 13 million.