The story of Southeast Asia is not only a story of staggering economic growth and ascension to one of the hotspots of international relations and security. The recent history of this region is also a story of internal conflicts, international disputes and wars, as well as military interventions of the last century’s great powers.
As a result, post-conflict countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam are littered by landmines and UXOs, posing a threat to economic development and the lives of innocent children, farmers and their families. But not only landmines, but also homemade explosives, various kinds of evolving IED threats, and activities of terrorist networks continue to threaten the life and security of people from Southern Thailand to Jharkhand in India, where police forces have to deal with violent insurgencies. This threat has of course widely spread all over the world from Afghanistan and Iraq to your everyday metro line, while compromising health and life of military representatives serving in post-conflict areas. Incidents like the Boston Bombings in 2013, but also the sticky-bomb incidents in Bangkok and Delhi 2012 as well as the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 show that these threats are not bound to military conflicts, but continue to challenge first responders worldwide.
NCT eXplosive Asia 2014 in Siem Reap/ Cambodia (6-8 May 2014)
After successful regional forums in India and Thailand, the third edition of Asia’s leading C-IED and EOD event, NCT eXplosives 2014, came to Cambodia to discuss and elaborate solutions to these enduring threats. Being organized in cooperation with the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority CMAA, the annual event proved again his function as the leading regional platform assembling the most imminent decision-makers from Afghanistan to Indonesia. From Khim Bun Song (Provincial Governor of Siem Reap), H.E. Chum Bun Rong (Secretary General of CMAA), H.E. Heng Ratana (Director of the Cambodian Mine Action Center) and Maj. Gen. Theam Bunseng (National Police Secretariat) to Maj. Gen. Yentieng Puthira (National Counter-Terrorism Committee), the ‘who is who’ of Cambodian decision makers and experts was present to share their lessons learned and best practices with delegates from over 20 countries.
The live EOD Demonstration at the Khun Ream Village Mine Field
But before going ‘in medias res’, a very impressive visit awaited this year’s delegates. After having received an overview of mine action activities around Khun Ream’s village, the visitors had to jump into heavy PPE in order to access an actual mine field. While a lot of experienced experts from GICHD and other international mine action authorities where immediately eager to get as near as possible to the recently found UXOs, other delegates had the chance to witness live mine action for the first time and therefore watched the procedures with a healthy amount of carefulness. But with the live mine disposal of an 82mm mortar and another anti-tank landmine, everyone got literally blown-up in the end, showing respect for the everyday work of deminers and K9 dogs working under the heavy PPE with temperatures around 40C.
Afterwards, the attendees had the chance to visit the Cambodian landmine museum and to get a hands-on introduction on the mine- and IED detectors of the exercise sponsor Vallon – training with the last state of the art detectors available. But after the whole day in the Cambodian countryside, everybody was ready to get back in the evening to the stylish haven of the LeMeridien Angkor Hotel to have a cocktail at the poolside during the events icebreaker reception.
NCT eXplosive Asia 2014 – The Conference
The day after, H.E. Chum Bun Rong, Secretary General of CMAA, finally opened the long awaited two-day conference, welcoming high-level guests from neighboring countries and the rest of the world such as Lt. Gen. Krisda Norapoompipat (Director of the Thailand Mine Action Center), Col. Helmut Heck (Director of C-IED Center of Excellence the German Army’s Joint Forces Command), Col. Ronny Asnawi Asri (Deputy Director of Prevention at the National Counterterrorism Agency Indonesia) and Mohammad Sediq Rashid (Director of the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan). During two days, numerous experts from I(N)GOs such as UNMAS, MAG, GICHD and NPA discussed with their colleagues from regional mine action centers the most recent developments and challenges in regional demining and land release. But also the threat of IEDs and the future of terrorist networks TTPs was eagerly discussed, leading to intense conversations thanks to outstanding presentations of representatives from UNDP Tajikistan, the Indian Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare Center, and other international military representatives. Providing insights in state of the art robotic solutions for EOD and C-IED, as well as intelligence and forensic activities to counter the international threat of explosives, NCT eXplosive Asia thereby continued together with this year’s chairman Mohd Jamal Khan ( Institute of IED Management in Pune/ India) its mission to bring together the people that matter to exchange their views and best practices when it comes to fighting terrorism and explosive remnants of war – making one step forward to the establishment of an Asian EOD community. And even if questions such as the post-2014 situation in Afghanistan and the future involvement of international military forces remained a discussion with open end and different perceptions of attending delegations, this year’s NCT eXplosive Asia forum further developed a common mind-set on how to respond to explosive threats in the future.
NCT eXplosive 2015 – The Way Ahead
As challenges related to EOD, demining and C-IED will rather grow than diminish in 2015 around the world, the NCT eXplosive event series will continue its now 3year effort and spread to further different countries from the Balkans to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, interconnecting local and regional communities to make the world a safer and more secure place. Stay tuned.