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Shells at border destroyed

Deminers have destroyed dozens of unexploded shells and identified about 60 additional sites for examination in Oddar Meanchey province since they began clearing ordnance after border clashes with Thailand.

Heng Ratana, Cambodian Mine Action Centre director general, said the remaining unexploded ordnance from the fighting was a “serious” concern for local people.

Most of the UXOs identified are 105mm and 155mm mortar shells, and more than 30 had been removed and destroyed thus far, he said.

“Until today, not one villager has been injured by unexploded [ordnance from the most recent border clashes],” he added.

Five communes in Banteay Ampil district that contain a significant amount of unexploded Thai shells, he said.

“It is not like a mine field, so villagers can plant on their farm, and when they see unexploded [shells], they should report to our officers so they can clear them,” he said.

Sam Neang, a frontline soldier stationed neat Ta Moan temple, said yesterday that soldiers had been hesitant to leave the temple until CMAC cleared the area.

“We are not afraid of unexploded weapons, but we heard that they will explode if we touch them,” he said.

Fighting between Cambodia and Thailand broke out along the un-demarcated border near Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples on April 22 and took the lives of at least 18 people on both sides over 11 straight days.

Heavy artillery was used by both sides, though there has been no evidence found that Thailand employed cluster bombs – internationally-condemned shells that contain dozens of small bomblets. Such munitions were found in Cambodia following clashes near Preah Vihear temple in February.

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