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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Explosive fragments of the past dug up as new road is built

Explosive fragments of the past dug up as new road is built

Explosive fragments of the past dug up as new road is built

Former National Route 10 is being dug up and replaced, but over 5,000 unexploded ordnance have been unearthed in the past 5 months

 A LONG WAY TO GO

Heng Ratana, director of CMAC, says the group has demined 220km of land in Palin, but over 2,000km of suspected land mine area remains untouched. Eight mines have been exploded since the start of building National Road 57 last year.

MORE than 5,000 unexploded ordnance have been uncovered along former National Road 10 over the past five months, de-mining authorities say, as the decrepit road between Battambang and the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin is torn up in preparation for a modern highway.

Running along territory in the northwest of Cambodia controlled by the Khmer Rouge well into the 1990s, the route saw continual fighting between government and resistance forces, with each side laying mines before retreating from the area.  

"Many mines were laid along the route by resistance forces and government troops in the 1980s and 1990s. It has more mines than any other national road in the country," said Sem Sovanny, director of the Mine Clearance Training Centre.

He said teams totaling 120 de-miners unearthed 650 anti-personnel mines, 25 anti-tank mines and 4,750  other explosive remnants from the route, which in the future will be called National Road 57.

It has more mines than any other

national road in the country.

Two anti-tank and 6 anti-personnel mines have exploded, wounding an unspecified number of people and destroying or damaging several construction vehicles since construction on the road began in November of last year, officials say.

The mine clearance efforts have been assisted by access to a convoy of 30 advanced de-mining vehicles capable of detecting mines up to seven metres underground, whereas previous equipment only allowed for detection of devices buried near the surface, said Sem Sovanny.

Area of heavy fighting

For Keut Sothea, the deputy governor of Pailin province - who was formerly a member of the Khmer Rouge - the abundance of mines came as no surprise. 

"It was formerly a hot battlefield, and both sides of the armed forces had laid mines against each other to try to achieve victory," he said.

The Cambodian Mine Action Authority, which had previously conducted mine clearance operations along the road, defended itself, saying new mine discoveries were from areas where it had not operated.

Heng Ratana, director of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said, "Our deminers used to demine on this road, but the explosive remnants were not found in places where we had demined". 

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