Operators clearing underwater unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the wreckage of sunken warships have been focused on speeding up operations. They dredge sand from around the wreckage, enabling them to recover both the UXOs and the pieces of the vessels, sunk during the 1970-1975 civil war.

Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), told the Post on August 22 that after an August 10 meeting with Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, it was agreed that operations need to be accelerated a quickly as possible.

He added that the plan has three basic elements. First, the operators at the site have to be consulted on dredging techniques so that nobody’s safety was compromised. Second, training has to be standardised among the different organisations involved, and third, all of the groups working on site should integrate their forces into one team.

“We have been retrieving around 10 explosive items per day, but we expect operations to pick up the pace under our new strategy,” he said.

According to Ratana, the plan to clear UXOs and retrieve ships in the Mekong River near Koh Chek commune’s Koh Peam Reang village of Prey Veng province’s Peam Chor district covers an area of 268ha, or 2680,000sqm, of which 197ha is considered high risk.

During an August 10 meeting to review the progress of operations, Sar Kheng urged that the Kingdom’s waterways be cleared as soon as possible.

“The government has set the goal of clearing all underwater munitions for the safety of the people. It will also facilitate increased navigation of the river,” he said.