Police in Chhnal Moan commune of Battambang province’s Kors Kralor district have reported the death of a boy along with a cow on March 9 due to a mine exploding the previous day. The incident took place near the boy’s residence in Prey Toteung village.
Commune police chief Chreng Chamroeun said that on the evening of March 8, the villagers and authorities heard a loud explosion coming from the forest about 500m from the centre of the village.
“After that, the authorities and some villagers went to check what caused the noise and found the dead boy and cow nearby and realised it was the sound of an anti-tank mine exploding,” he said.
According to Chamroeun, the remains of the boy, 13-year-old Soeun Vansing, had been handed over to his parents for a traditional funeral ceremony.
Commune chief Ouk Saroeun said the site where the mine blast occurred was an army barracks during the war. Villagers took their animals to feed in that area after it was abandoned militarily.
“This forest land has never been cleared of mines or unexploded ordnance in the past. For the safety and development of the people’s livelihoods, I’d like to ask the Cambodia Mine Action Centre [CMAC] to come and clear the remnants of war near the former army barracks as well as our people’s farmland,” he said.
According to Saroeun, on the morning of March 9 a group of CMAC officials, including demining experts from its Battambang branch, inspected the site but he did not know if they would launch a demining operation there any time soon.
Khim Khoeun, an expert with the Battambang provincial mine action authority, said that as a first step his team would inspect and report any suspected UXO locations that had not yet been cleared to the provincial leadership and then the national organisation would review the information and make a decision.
“Indeed, the site of the mine explosion has not yet been investigated and cleared,” he said.
Try Panharith, head of CMAC in Battambang, told The Post that in order to retrieve the boy’s remains, his team inspected the area around the site of the explosion on the evening of the incident but did not find additional landmines.
“On the morning of March 9, our team began collaborating with the local authorities to study the history of the site, because the site had been abandoned for many years, and after that we could formulate and submit a demining plan,” he said.
CMAC director-general Heng Ratana said: “Even though the war ended more than 20 years ago, landmines and other munitions continue to threaten the wellbeing of the Cambodian people.”
Ratana told The Post that on March 9 that the task force had recently cleared and removed MK82 bombs dropped from an aircraft that were lying underwater in the Stung Sen River in Kampong Thom province.
He said the bombs, weighing 230kg, had already been cleared and transported to CMAC’s disposal site for destruction.
“During the war, soldiers would hide along the Stung Sen River and that’s why the area was hit with these heavy bombs,” he said.