A battle against landmines

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 February, 1996, 12:00am

SEVERAL weeks ago, an American soldier named Martin John Begosh was seriously injured by a landmine in Bosnia.

Mr Begosh was the first American soldier to be injured by a mine in Bosnia, believed to have approximately three million landmines.

Halfway across the world, landmine-disabled Cambodians wrote Mr Begosh a letter, not only to communicate their sympathy, but also to enlist his support in calling for a total ban on landmines.

There are eight to 10 million mines in Cambodia, where approximately 40,000 people have been maimed. Each month, there are 200 to 300 landmine accidents. January 2, 1996 Phnom Penh, Cambodia (translated from Khmer) Dear Martin John Begosh, We are representatives of Cambodians disabled by landmines. We are very sad to hear about the landmine accident during your mission trying to bring peace to the people of Bosnia and the world. We share your suffering and that of your family in the name of all mankind.

We would like to tell you about our own suffering too - we lost our limbs and mobility and ability to work. We cannot express the extent of our loss.

We lost happiness within our families. We are looked down upon by society. It is difficult for us to find work to support our families, which makes us poorer and poorer.

Some of us have lost faith in ourselves and our role as valuable members of society. We have lost our dignity and have become beggars in the market place in order to survive. Many handicapped women have been abandoned by their husbands and have great difficulty in trying to raise their children alone. Disabled children lose their ability to study and lose their friends because they are incapable of playing with them.

We urge all governments of the world and those who produce landmines to put an end to this trade, stop laying mines, destroy stockpiles immediately and join us in the international campaign to ban landmines in seeking world peace and putting an end to the landmines forever. With hope and love, Suon Chreuk, Kleng Vann and Hem Phang Last year, the United Nations called for a comprehensive ban on landmines, but so far, only 22 countries have agreed to the ban: Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay.

If you are Hong Kong Chinese, why not write a letter to China and the United Kingdom to ask their support for a total ban? If you are not Chinese, you can write to your government to urge support.

Many countries have recently made statements which support a partial ban.

For instance, France announced that it would ban production and trade of anti-personnel mines.

The German Government stated that it was not producing anti-personnel mines at present.

South Africa is also considering incorporating a ban on anti-personnel mine production, transfer and use into its laws.

In the United States, the House and Senate approved a one-year moratorium on the use of anti-personnel mines, which would begin in three years.

Oxfam will hold a major educational and fund-raising walk against landmines on March 16.

Please call Ms Slavick on 2821 3219 for more information. Oxfam Hong Kong is an independent development and relief agency based in Hong Kong. It works with poor people regardless of race, sex, religion or politics in their struggle against poverty, distress and suffering.