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Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan calls for ban on landmines

© UNICEF Cambodia/2005
Jackie Chan and Edwin Moses visit with elementary school children attending a mine awareness class in Pailin, near the Cambodian/Thai border.

By Mark Thomas

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, 22 April 2005 - Hugely popular film star and UNICEF/UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan wrapped up a three-day mission to Cambodia on Friday by saying that officials of governments that use or produce landmines “should be forced to see the reality of how landmines hurt people and make them suffer, because this would surely make them stop.”

The charismatic actor, who was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador on his first mission to Cambodia in April 2004, was visibly moved on Wednesday as he visited adults and children recovering from landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) injuries at an emergency hospital in the provincial capital of northwestern Battambang province.

During the 20-22 April mission, Chan also visited UNICEF-assisted mine education projects and mine marking and removal projects along the Cambodian-Thai border in Pailin, once a stronghold of the former Khmer Rouge regime.

Although some 1.6 million landmines have been located and removed since 1992, an estimated 4 to 6 million landmines are still buried in Cambodian soil. Mine awareness and mine marking programmes supported by UNICEF and numerous other organizations have led to a significant reduction in the number of deaths and injuries in recent years, but between 2000 and 2004 there were still 4,194 casualties from mines and unexploded ordnance, with more than one-quarter of the victims under the age of 18.

At a mission-ending press conference on Friday, Chan said he was planning on producing a film in Cambodia that would be related to landmines, and that he hoped that government leaders worldwide would see the film and reconsider their stand on the use or production of such weapons.

© UNICEF Cambodia/2005
Chan and Moses visit with a woman who lost her leg to a landmine one month after her wedding.

But Chan said that in order for a global ban on landmines to become universal, “everybody will have to work together. Maybe my film will help, but what we need is for 200 million people to get out on the streets in cities around the world on one day to demand their elimination.”

Accompanying Chan on his mission to Cambodia was Edwin Moses, the Olympic gold medallist who amassed a record 122 consecutive victories in the 400 metre hurdles from 1977-1987. Moses, the chairman of the Laureus Sports for Good Foundation, a private foundation which promotes the power of sport for positive social change, said he was “shocked” by the heavy infestation of landmines in Pailin and the fact that “a child who chased a soccer ball kicked out of bounds might never return.”

Chan, who talked with several patients at the Battambang emergency hospital, spoke of being “haunted” by landmines. “When I was here last time [in 2004] and went back to Hong Kong, I just couldn’t stop thinking about what landmines are doing to people here. I told people - my friends - about it, but it was just not enough. I knew I had to do more.”

Chan said that he and other celebrities have a duty to call attention to problems such as landmines and to push for action on them.

“I am more committed now than ever,” said Chan. “We have to do what we can to help wherever and whenever it is possible for us to help.”

On Friday morning in Phnom Penh, Chan spent three hours working on a pair of television spots with UNICEF and the BBC World Service Trust. One spot promotes non-discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, while the other encourages the use of helmets by motorcycle riders. Both spots are follow-ups to other TV spots featuring Chan that were shot during his 2004 mission.

Chan travelled on Friday afternoon to Hanoi, where he will visit UNICEF-assisted HIV/AIDS projects in Viet Nam.



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