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Villagers warned against demining without experts

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Anti-tank mines are found hung from a tree in Preah Brolay commune in Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district on March 1. CMAC

Villagers warned against demining without experts

Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana on March 3 reiterated his call for people to refrain from clearing land in areas known to have unexploded ordnance (UXO), regardless if they used to be in the military or have experience in mining activities.

“Taking the risk of clearing land that has landmines and other UXOs could result in death or injury, as well as damaging property,” he said.

The call came after CMAC’s 6th Mine Action Unit on March 1 found a landmine hanging from a tree near a dirt road in the Krahorm Senchey temple area in Preah Brolay commune of Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district. There was also other UXOs on the tree, which were leftover from the war.

The unit then searched and gathered information about other ordnance. There were four to five villagers who boasted that the UXOs were collected from the land they had just been clearing. The villagers claimed they used to be soldiers and knew how to lay and clear mines.

Ratana said the villagers even mocked members of the unit, saying they hung the explosives on the tree to make it easy for CMAC officers to find. The villagers also claimed that the land was free of mines.

Ratana said however that this area was surely a minefield, based on the ordnance villagers had found. He said demining officers later found an additional two landmines, five 60mm bullets, four AT67 and one type of 69 mine (anti-personnel mine), according to the unit’s head Minh Sron.

Sron told The Post that once villagers saw all of these weapons, they began to trade blame, accusing each other of being “too arrogant”.

“They were afraid there were mines remaining under the ground that could kill and they then walked away. The area is actually a minefield that has not been completely cleared,” he said.

Ratana said minefields and explosives left from the war are only safe when they have been cleared using the proper procedures.

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