Mine Action Regional Cooperation for ASEAN Communities
By Mr. Prum Suonpraseth Executive Director, ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre (ARMAC)
In Southeast Asia, the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plays a significant role in strengthening the regional cooperation in three pillars including ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Political-Security Community. With geographic proximity and similar interest/context, countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam have been collaborating in decades for the more peace and resilient community.
In mine action sector, ASEAN strengthens its regional cooperation through the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center (ARMAC). The role of the Center is also underscored in the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025 – Peacekeeping and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Efforts.
ARMAC was established in 2012 and started to operationalize in early 2018. Being hosted by Cambodia, ARMAC aims to (i) enhance awareness programs on the dangers of explosive remnants of war (ERW) among affected communities; (ii) facilitate appropriate medical and rehabilitation assistance for victims of ERW, upon request from the affected ASEAN Member States; and (iii) assist interested ASEAN Member States in research and knowledge sharing on the effects of ERW and efforts to address them.
The Center plays a significant role as a regional coordinator for cross country support and to unify the voices from the region, and has contributed to cross-country knowledge sharing and partnership building through upholding of mine action related trainings including operational efficiency, risk management, quality management and gender and diversity. Various workshops/seminars both in virtual and physical contexts have been organised to provide platform for mine action stakeholders in ASEAN and beyond to share their current knowledge, experience and/or expertise.
In 2019, ARMAC had a privilege to include youths from ASEAN in promoting the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, and most importantly enhancing awareness on the dangers of mines/ERW and the efforts made to address them. By inviting university students from all the ASEAN Member States, ARMAC was keen to involve the young generation to further think of creating the better nations for all men, women, boys, girls and other diversity.
With regard to Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE), ARMAC with the support from ASEAN focal points and its partner developed the study on Integrated Approaches to EORE in ASEAN which covers the effective practices, lessons learned, and innovative approaches from the ASEAN Member States as well as international quality standards, perspectives and theoretical frameworks. ARMAC Magazine that feature stories of good practices of EORE from the region was also launched in February 2020, and will be annually issued in the coming years.
Further in the area of Victim Assistance (VA), various assessments including need-assessment and rapid assessment on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 to the mine/ERW victims were conducted in the past years to ensure that ARMAC programme is implemented based on community-in-needs. Moreover in 2021, ARMAC will implement “Enhance Victim Assistance Programme in the ASEAN Member States.” This 3-year project will include the establishment of VA Network in the region, assessment, training on psychosocial support and VA researches.
Although ARMAC seems having made significant contribution to the region in the past three years, there are much more that ARMAC could assist to address several challenges that are faced by national mine action centre/authority and/or other mine action related organisation/institution. Needs of funding, resource mobilization and capacity including its development remain to be matters to be tackled. With regard to this, supports from our existing and prospective partners including international mine action related organizations, donor countries, etc. to assist national authorities are indeed much appreciated. Potential collaborations that may be explored from the perspective of regional cooperation may include knowledge sharing and future research related activities, exchange visits between ASEAN Member States, and funding for their mine action programme.
As regional cooperation in ASEAN presents an excellent opportunity and a platform to discuss challenges, lessons learnt and raise awareness to further assist countries in mine action related issues, ARMAC will continue to address the ASEAN Member States’ needs with regards to mine action, and will welcome any potential collaboration with mine action stakeholder, inter alia, national mine action centres/authorities, international, the United Nations and national mine action related non-governmental organisations to achieve its mandate and function for the ASEAN community and beyond.
Mr. Prum joined the humanitarian mine action sector in 2002 working for Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), the national and largest demining operator in Cambodia. He was in charge of department of international cooperation and project management as a senior director, a position held until October 2020. On 15 October 2020, Mr. Prum was selected and appointed as a new Executive Director of ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center for the term 2021-2023. Mr. Prum holds a Bachelor Degree in English and Law. He was a recipient of Freemen Foundation Scholarship Award and earned his Master Degree of Law from William Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA.