© EPES Mandala 2011


Source: EU-ASAC project

Cambodge (EU ASAC)

The European Union disarmament and security sector reform project EU-ASAC was the birthplace of EPES Mandala Consulting. Although the principals had become friends while working on the Timbuktu (Mali) Flame of Peace in 1996, it was the success of the EU Assistance for curbing Small Arms and light weapons in Cambodia that brought the realization that the team had Learned Lessons that needed to be shared.


While the pictures of appalling weapon storage illustrate the problem, the coloured balloons illustrate one lesson in the search for solutions: ensure political support at the highest level. Here is Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng officiating at a weapon destruction ceremony. He presided at every bonfire, thereby showing the army who was in charge of overall weapon policy. With him on each occasion were the EU-ASAC project managers whose leadership was crucial: General Henny van der Graaf (sitting beside Ambassador Akashi, former Head of UNTAC during the 1993 elections) created the program in 2000, and David de Beer (standing to attention wearing a blue EU baseball cap) brought SU-ASAC to its successful conclusion in 2006 with some 200,000 weapons destroyed and all official armouries well-managed with computerized systems that allowed the government for the first time to trace numbers and stocks of arms and munitions.


Other photos show how a Flame of Peace is constructed: inside a wall of sandbags, a pile of wood and charcoal is soaked in diesel fuel. On top are the weapons, all pointing away from the crowds (in case a stray bullet was left unnoticed in the barrel of a rifle) and a pyramid of weapons bearing a flag “Flame of Peace”. Does it create heat and smoke and burn valuable fuel? Sure does! But there is no better message of peace to a war-shocked population, than to see with their own eyes the weapons of war going up in smoke. Each and every weapon destroyed is one weapon that will not fall into criminal hands, or be sold illegally to stoke up warfare in another country.


Beside High Excellency Sar Kheng in a government airplane sits a senior Buddhist monk. Pagodas are where all our sensitization meetings took place – here is a picture of the weapon collection team preparing a meeting in a pagoda under the leadership of Dr Poulton (on the left in a red shirt). The pagoda provided a neutral place where villagers could deposit weapons and grenades and mortar shells without meeting any officials. And monks said prayers and attended every weapon destruction ceremony, adding to the security and political dimensions an important spirituality that reminded us all of the objective: sustainable peace.