LETTER: Past and present horrors in a worldwide plague of land- mines

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The Independent Online
From Mr Neil Thorns

Sir: Your article on the clearing of land-mines by German prisoners of war was shocking ("Minefield plague was legacy of war for France", 23 May).

For developing countries, these sorts of horrors and dangers are still a day-to-day reality.

In Cambodia, El Salvador and Angola agricultural communities are struggling to survive because much of the land cannot be cultivated due to land-mines. In Cambodia, where 88 per cent of the population lives in rural communities, there are an estimated 7 million land-mines and only 8 million people.

Like the German PoWs, refugees from Burma tell of how people from ethnic minorities in their country are forced to walk through fields to clear mines.

Third World countries today face even greater dangers from land-mines than the unfortunate soldiers mentioned in your article - land-mines have been "improved", making them even more difficult to detect. Civilians in developing countries have no minefield maps. Mines are often scattered from aircraft or helicopters.

The article talks of a "moral responsibility" of those who had laid the mines in the Second World War to clear them. Today, we in the West must share a responsibility for clearance of mines in developing countries, as it is we who have profited from the indiscriminate sales to areas of conflict.

It is terrible that dozens of French citizens are still killed by land- mines; in Cambodia 300 land-mine victims are treated in hospital per month. Doctors reckon twice as many never make it to the hospital, most dying in the fields where they are working.

Christian Aid would like to see Western governments do more to combat this "plague" worldwide.

Yours sincerely,

NEIL THORNS

Campaigns officer

Christian Aid

London, SE1

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