At least 30 people have been killed or disabled by unexploded ordnance (UXO) this year, a 76 per cent increase on the same period last year.
The incidents happened during the grabbing of forest land, illegal wildlife hunting, unauthorised logging and attempted UXO disposal.
“From January 1 to March 16, this year, a total of 30 people were killed or disabled."
“From March 12-16 there were five incidents – two in Oddar Meanchey province and one in Battambang, Ratanakkiri and Tbong Khmum provinces respectively, with seven victims in total, three of whom were killed and four disabled,” said a press release by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) dated Friday and obtained by The Post on Monday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is CMAA president, called on people to reduce the risk of them becoming the next UXO victim, the press release added.
“Immediately report to the police, your guardians, local authorities or the CMAC [Cambodian Mine Action Centre] unit that is nearest to you about mines or unexploded ordnance that you have found, and absolutely avoid touching them."
“Do not use heavy machinery to clear forest land or farmland that is covered with mines, UXO left from the war and cluster bombs that have not been cleared, which can be particularly dangerous,” Hun Sen said.
Senior minister and CMAA vice-president Ly Thuch spoke to villagers in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district on Monday at an event to raise UXO awareness.
He said authorities must strengthen the enforcement of the law on the management of weapons, explosives and ammunition to the strictest level, and requested people educate each other and refrain from interfering with the disposal and processing of mines and explosive remnants of war.
“Otherwise, it could cause incidents at any time. People must report [UXO finds] to the relevant authorities – be it the village or commune chief, the police or the UXO disposal experts nearest to you, so that they can collect and destroy them,” Thuch said.
CMAC director-general Heng Ratana could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Ny Nhor, Victim Assistance Department deputy director at CMAA, said on Monday that the increase in UXO incidents was concerning. There were 17 victims in the same period of 2018, he said.
The 30 victims this year represents an increase of more than 76 per cent.
He said most serious UXO incidents involving people occurred during dry season, while in rainy season they usually damaged ploughing machinery or caused minor injuries.
“Civil society and the government have been cooperating closely on this issue, especially with regard to education, raising awareness and introducing other measures,” Nhor said.
He said that between 1979 and November last year, 64,771 people fell victim to mines and UXO, with 20,000 killed and more than 40,000 disabled.