Necessity is often said to be the mother of invention and no truer is it the case than for Khmer-Canadian mechanical engineering graduate Richard Yim.
With memories of children in his home country too scared to venture off defined paths lest they be killed by landmines burned into his memory, the 25-year-old has developed a safer method of dealing with the scourge left behind from almost three decades of war from the 1960s to late 1998.
Called a Jevit (Khmer: “life”), the remote control, tracked, robotic device safely deals with the most dangerous part of landmine clearance, the excavation and removal to a location where they can be safely detonated.
Costing between $50,000 and $100,000 each, the latest revision of the Jevit can be remotely controlled from a distance, further increasing the level of safety for deminers.
A graduate from the University of Waterloo, Canada, Mr Yim emigrated from Cambodia with his parents when he was 13-years-old and still recalls his surprise at seeing children in his adopted homeland running freely through parks and fields.
Cambodia landmine deaths up on 2018
It is estimated that up to six million landmines remain in the wild in Cambodia, with a report by the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) putting the number of deaths in the Kingdom in the first 10-months of the year at 11, with a further 60 others either injured or having limbs amputated. The figures are a 37 per cent and 42 per cent increase respectively over the same period in 2018 when eight people were killed and 42 injured or maimed.
|In Cambodia, Richard Yim aims to protect deminers around the world with his robot |
Globally the United Nations estimates that there are as many as 6,000 landmine related deaths each year. In Cambodia the CMAA says landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have killed 19,779 people and injured or maimed 45,070 from 1979 to October 2019.
Although demining operations had brought the area now cleared of UXOs and explosive remnants of war (ERW) to 1,910 square kilometers (about 472,000 acres), some 2,067 square kilometers (511,000 acres) remain.
From 1979 to 2019 the report says 1.07 million anti-personnel mines, 25,153 anti-tank mines, and 2.81 million items of ERWs were found and destroyed.
The Cambodia government has announced its intention to have the country free of landmines by 2025 and has put the cost associated with that at around $400 million. Governments including the United States of America, Japan, China, the European Union, and Australia are amongst those that have been actively supporting Cambodia in demining operations.
Manufactured in Phnom Penh by Demine Robotics, which Mr Yim started with some friends, the Jevit, takes less than one minute to excavate and extract a landmine compared to an average of about 30 minutes by a human deminer wearing about 20 kilograms (44 lbs) of bulky, move-restricting, blast-protecting clothing.
While Cambodia might not immediately spring to mind as a centre of engineering excellence, Mr Yim and his friends are helping impart the value of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to younger Khmer making this a Best of the AEC.
Updated: This article was last updated at 20:18 local time on December 27, 2019. The original version of this report misstated the time period over which one million UXO’s had been destroyed.
In a report released December 25 Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) said it had destroyed more than 36,000 mines and UXOs in Cambodia throughout 2019, comprising 5,415 anti-personnel mines, 75 anti-tank mines, 15 improvised explosive devices (IUDs), and 30,660 UXOs.
Feature video Demine Robotics
- Freedom to walk: Ridding Cambodia of mines through tech innovation (The Phnom Penh Post)
- Cambodian-Canadian engineer pushes to use robots in UXO removal (The Phnom Penh Post)
- A Cambodian engineer is building robots to demine his home country (Globe)
- Cambodia reports 71 landmine/UXO casualties in 10 months (Terrorism Watch)
After graduation she worked at the Philippine Broadcasting Service performing transcription and business news writing, before moving to Eagle Broadcasting Corporation where she worked as a news editor, translator and production assistant.
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