Eighty-one villagers from Svay Rieng province’s Koki commune went to hospital yesterday, claiming they had fallen sick due to years of exposure to American CS tear gas bombs, though an official said he couldn’t confirm the cause.
While the US Embassy says Cambodian officials knew about the 1970s-era bombs for years, Cambodian officials claim the first two of 17 subsequently unearthed were only discovered in the commune in January. The two bombs were removed this month.
Ke Rotha, director of the Svay Rieng Provincial Health Department, confirmed the villagers’ visit and said that only 26 stayed for treatment.
“I do not dare to claim that they all are affected by the chemical bombs,” he said.
Most of the 81 patients were suffering from itchy skin and coughs, he said, as well as heart, lung and respiratory system diseases.
Heng Ratana, head of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said experts were still continuing working to neutralise the bombs. He added that an MK 82 bomb, also believed to have been dropped by a US plane, was discovered yesterday in Takeo province’s Donkeo town.