VIETNAM VETERANS MINE CLEARING TEAM - Cambodia Inc.
AUGUST 2014: Members of the new EOD Team (in orange demining aprons) and below them is a few items (ERW) that they destroyed in the first week of the team's operation. The items were handed in to the Police and held for a time before our boys came along. The CMAA (Cambodian Mine Action Authority) has demanded we replace the EOD Team's Toyota 4x4 petrol vehicle with a new diesel. Just another expense for the VVMCT and the CSHD. The makeup of the EOD Team has been increased to three operatives. One of which has to be a medic and two deminers. Obviously there are 4 in the photo. This should change in the immediate future. I think so anyway. Our original budget was set down to 2 deminers......... but the masters who crack the whip (Cambodian Government) sometimes alter our guidelines without telling us...... It's the way that business is often done in Cambodia.
Bomber has returned to Cambodia. I am stuck here in Australia with medical issues and unable to return to Cambodia in the short term. Our truck problem should be sorted out by the end of 2014. We are importing an American built deuce and a half. (2.5 ton ex US Army vehicle) It is coming in by ship and we should get it here without having to pay import duty etc that would be applicable on a new truck from China. Hopefully we should be able to get it imported for under US$30,000..... our original budgeted figure......... I'll let you know when we get it through Customs.
JULY 2014: The new EOD reaction Team is being set up as we speak. The vehicle has been supplied along with 2 Minelab Detectors by us. Bill Morse is supplying the rest of the equipment required to finish fitting out the team. Early days, but everything is almost ready to go.
Bomber and I are back in Australia for a well earned break. I wonder what changes we will see on our return. A new road or a new building appears out of nowhere. It changes all the time and sometimes not for the better.
Our deminers have cleared over 2,000,000 sq metres of contaminated land and all in the rural sector. The farming community and their families are the winners. The incidence of landmine incidents has been reduced dramatically during the last 5 years. However, one incident is still one too many. Bottom line is we are winning the battle... slowly, but still a win none the less. The task is never ending.
Our replacement truck is still a work in progress. It's not that we don't have one, it's just that we need a new one that is more suited to the type of work we need it to do. It was all we could afford at the time.
MAY 2014: I arrived back in Cambodia a few weeks back and will be here until early May. Bomber comes back in about a week. He spent last Christmas in hospital and has just gotten out. Mac Macgregor comes over a week after Bomb arrives. Having the whole team (all three of us) in the country at once is very unusual.
Through the efforts and input of one of our major supporters, a solicitor in Western Australia, Mr. Ian Yarwood, we have embarked on a program of sponsoring a deminer in monthly periods at $240 per month. Ian, his sons Matt and Steve have started the ball rolling by sponsoring 3 of our office staff for an initial period of 3 years. The program virtually started yesterday, so we will sit back and wait for it to develop. Ian assures me he has a lot of friends who may be interested. We all thank Ian for his input, persistence and patience.
Sometime in the next 2 months, VVMCT will be donating a (used) Toyota wagon or utility (we most certainly cannot afford new vehicles on our budget) to the CSHD. With the start-up of a Response Team coming on line, vehicles will be needed.
While we're on the subject of vehicles. I have begun another fundraising project to replace the CSHD's truck. Without this vehicle we would not get the equipment and personnel into the field. In the wet, it (2 wheel drive) refuses to move over even moist ground with its 4 cyl Nissan (small) car engine. Top speed is around 20kph. Kathy Freeman would have outrun it in her day. I have a few ideas that amount to around $30,000. All I need now is another $20,000. Still, it's a 6 to 12 month long program.
Anyway, a suitable (used) 4x4 or an all-wheel drive medium truck costs between $40,000 and $50,000 US. In anyone's terms, that's a lot of funds to raise. Believe me, it's not an extravagance. We need a more reliable and appropriate vehicle which forms the backbone of the Cambodian Self Help Demining NGO ability to get into the field to clear landmines.
It would take a fleet of utilities to get our boys and girls into the field without a truck. I don't think I would be happy to travel for hundreds of kilometres in the back of the existing vehicle, but our deminers have little choice. Some of the modes of transport here in Cambodia would have you shaking your head in amazement. At my age, I can't even get into the back of the truck. And no, it didn't come with a ladder.
That's it for now. I will use this medium to keep you up to speed on things over here. Thanks for your support. Keep interested and spread the word that we always need funding.
The truck purchase did not work out as hoped. The truck we were looking at came in at the expected price, but when the import duty and VAT were added, the price ended up being well over our budget. If you know someone with a spare $30,000, let them know that's how much I need to pay the taxes on a new truck…….
Don't worry, it's not the end of it. We have other options available and they are being evaluated as we speak. It will just take longer that's all. (See photo right PLAN B) Hey, nothing happens in a hurry here in Cambodia anyway. They say that tomorrow never comes. Well in Cambodia the day after doesn't arrive either and the day after that is also in a bit of doubt. You learn to live with it after a while.
The deminers are out of the field at present for Khmer New Year and will return when the festivities are over. Unfortunately, most things in Cambodia also close down for a minimum of 5 days over the New Year, so everybody else is having a break as well and that includes us.
Handed over to the Cambodian Self Help Demining NGO, a Toyota 4 Runner (see photo right) for their primary Explosive Ordnance Disposal Ready Reaction Team (EOD Team) that we are setting up. We also handed over 2 Minelab F3 mine detectors (total value AUD $20,000+). Also to be fitted is a comprehensive first aid facility and other required bits for such a team. In their down time, they will be visiting schools, villages and community forums with a Mine Awareness education module for teaching the locals what to do when they encounter such dangerous devices. Early days as to the eventual structure, but it fills a void in our overall program. It will save more lives.
It was once common for a young kid or a farmer to call out to us as we drove past down some isolated jungle track to hand to us a few green or black bits in a plastic bag. Those 'bits' were usually a PMN, PMN2 or similar landmine, already armed and bloody dangerous. Scary stuff then, but with some more mine awareness education that may not happen as often now. The authorities call us and we go out to investigate the problem hence the Ready Reaction EOD Team''s existence. It's taken a while to get the funding together, but it's all good and it's happening.
While I'm on the typewriter, I have put together some funding for a new truck. I've sourced a new Dong Feng EQ240/EQ2081 Cargo Truck (NEW) from China. (photo under the 4 Runner at right) Going down to Phnom Penh in a few days to check it out. Early days, but it will happen in the next month or my name's not ??. That's all for now.
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