Provincial police and a team from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) uncovered a cache of mortars, rockets and anti-personnel landmines on Friday in Banteay Meanchey province’s Sisophon town, where officials believe they were buried by Khmer Rouge guerrillas during fighting in the 1990s.
Saem Bunnareay, the manager for CMAC’s Demining Unit 1, said that the operation was carried out in co-operation with provincial police, who were first alerted to the diverse war chest when a local farmer in O’Ambel commune was inspecting an irrigation canal.
The cache of unexploded ordnance and landmines appeared after the water level fell several metres.
“We found 13 mortars, 21 rockets and 13 landmines. Most of them were rendered useless by the dirt and water,” he said, adding the rest were destroyed the same day.
The finds aren’t uncommon, said CMAC deputy-director general Heng Ratana.
“We’ve found many items like this, at the back of a house, at the back of a barn. Sometimes even the owner doesn’t know it at all,” he said.
Over the past couple of weeks dozens of CMAC volunteers have been undergoing training from the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation in the hope of joining the country’s first underwater salvage unit.
Theng Solay, statistics officer at CMAC’s Demining Unit 1, said that 3,201 items of unexploded ordnance were found on 555 hectares of land in Banteay Meanchey last year.
Of those, 1,600 were anti-personnel mines, 13 anti-tank mines and 182 kilograms of bullets for use in rifles.
“Many hectares of land have unexploded ordnance, but we do not have a project to determine just how many,” he said.
People have become better aware of the problem, he added, noting that his office received more than 400 tips last year.
To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at [email protected]
With assistance from Joe Freeman