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Deminer dies in Koh Kong UXO accident

A deminer was killed near the Cambodian-Thai border on Wednesday when a piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO), believed to be an anti-tank mine, went off during a demining operation.

Mol Pisith, 34, from Takeo province’s Samrong district, died in the explosion in Koh Kong province.

Two of his co-workers, Yuth Yuoy, 38 – who was seriously injured – and Kong Vibol, 43, were taken to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh for treatment.

All three men were carrying out work as part of an explosive ordnance disposal team for demining group Halo Trust, which has removed more than 400 UXO from Cham Yeam village, about 30 kilometres northwest of the capital of Koh Kong
province, where the accident took place.

“On the day of the incident, the officers lifted the anti-tank mines to take them to safety,” a provincial staff member, who declined to be named, said.

“[A mine] exploded, causing one man to die on the spot.”

Halo Trust’s executive director Leng Saren said the body of Pisith, who had worked for the organisation for more than eight years, was transported back to his province via speedboat.

A statement by the Cambodian Mine Action Authority said the organisation will provide support to Piseth’s wife and father.

It will also provide assistance to the two injured workers until they fully recover.

“It is a reminder to us all as to the continued requirement for this critical humanitarian work, and also that we should never forget the dangers posed by such ordnance.”

According to information provided by the database manager for the Cambodia Mine Victims Information System, Nguon Monoketya, four people were killed by unexploded ordnance between January 1 and April.

Of those four, one was a demining professional.

Injuries caused by UXOs during the same period totalled 28.

One quarter of those who were injured were demining professionals.  

In January, four American demining instructors were injured at a training site in Kampong Chhnang province.

The men were attempting to dismantle a UXO to use it as a teaching aid when it went off, causing them severe facial and arm injuries. Several of them had to be airlifted to Bangkok at the time for weeks of  further treatment. 

Additional reporting by Melissa Mcmorran

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