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First UXO diver class graduates

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Deminers train for underwater salvage work in the Gulf of Thailand using fake UXOs this month. Photograph: Nick Street

A month ago, nearly 40 deminers started diving training for Cambodia’s first underwater salvage unit, a group charged with entering the river and pulling up the countless unexploded ordnance left over from decades of war.

Ten are graduating this morning with the rank of “Second Class Diver” in a ceremony at the Cambodian Mine Action Centre headquarters in Phnom Penh. Three additional recruits are receiving certificates of completion.

Though this is only the first step, and it could be a year before the deminers suit up and dive into the Mekong, it’s likely everyone graduating today will make it onto the salvage team.

“I think all of these 10 are going to be in the unit,” said the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation’s Allen Tan, an explosives expert who ran the course. “After their next training session on salvage diving, they will more than likely receive the salvage badge.”

Golden West researchers are conducting surveys of the Mekong this summer to pinpoint hotspots of unexploded ordnance, or UXO, which sunk into the water during the civil war and the American bombing of Cambodia.

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