A man crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia through the jungle stepped on a landmine causing an explosion and injuring his leg, according to Cambodian-Thai border police officers.

Prey Kub border police chief Sea Saody said on February 15 that the accident occurred on the evening of February 14 in Phsar Kandal commune’s Prey Kub village of Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town.

The victim was identified as Yoeun Ron, 33, a resident of Prey Kub village.

“When we heard the explosion, the police went to check and saw the victim lying on the ground with an injured right ankle, a calf fracture and many lacerations to his right thigh,” Saody said.

According to Saody, the victim was carried from the forest by his team and transported by car to Poipet referral hospital. The victim fainted en-route due to the seriousness of his injuries.

Because the Poipet referral hospital lacks surgical equipment the doctors there referred him to Banteay Meanchey provincial hospital.

Provincial police chief Sith Los said the victim is currently undergoing surgery and being treated by a team of doctors at the provincial hospital. According to the doctors who assessed his condition it is likely that he will have permanent disabilities.

“We deployed all of our forces and closed all the corridors along the border. We don’t allow people in or out because we are afraid that someone who is infected with Covid-19 will come and infect the people in our community.

“The victim was trying to avoid quarantine and he was sneaking across the border from Thailand into Cambodia through the jungle and he stepped on a landmine,” he confirmed.

According to Los, the area that the victim was trying to cross through was dangerous and known to have many landmines, unexploded ordnance and remnants from the war that have not been cleared out yet.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged all relevant authorities – including provincial authorities on the Thai-Lao-Vietnamese borders – to increase communication with each other and exchange information on a regular basis with the provincial authorities of the three neighbouring countries to improve efforts at preventing people from crossing the border illegally using lesser-known routes and corridors.

“On the [evening] of February 14, one of our Cambodian workers crossed the border illegally and stepped on a landmine. In addition to being disabled now, he may also be infected with Covid-19,” Hun Sen said.

Separately, two people were injured in the explosion of an anti-tank mine in the evening of February 13 in Lomtong Chas village in Lomtong commune of Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district.

Lomtong commune police chief Chea Chandara said the victim, Sum Kong, 42, a principal at Lomtong primary school, hired a 16-year-old excavator driver named Lek Lay to dig an irrigation ditch around his farm.

Excavation of a canal around the plantation went on for two days and by the evening of the second day, Kong told the operator to cut a trench in the river bank of the O’ Trob to let water flow into his ditch to irrigate the crops.

“While the excavator was moving in to dig a trench at the river bank, it hit an anti-tank mine causing an explosion and breaking the excavator’s chain which then whipped around and hit Kong who was standing next to the machine. He was hit in the neck, left arm and abdomen and seriously injured. The excavator driver suffered minor injuries to his right leg,” Chandara confirmed.

According to Chandara, after the incident Kong was transported by relatives to the referral hospital in Anlong Veng. Both victims survived, though a team of medical professnals had to operate to remove shrapnel from both of their bodies.

On February 14, Lomtong Chas village’s security guard head Teav Tuy said that in the past his village was a frontline battlefield between government troops and Khmer Rouge guerrillas.

After the integration of the Khmer Rouge into the government’s military forces these battlefields were cleared many times by deminers before the forest land in this area was given to the citizens to live and farm on.

“Because this area is a former battlefield, there are many landmines and unexploded ordnance that are buried and hidden almost everywhere. Without maps or specific information reporting on the mine locations, it is impossible for the deminers to clear all of these mines with certainty,” he said.

He added that experiencing a mine explosion like this one would make the local people afraid to dig in the land and use it to grow crops to the extent that would normally be possible.