The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) successfully neutralised a large US air-dropped bomb in Kampong Cham province on February 27.

The 340kg bomb, identified as an M117 US general purpose bomb, was defused by CMAC operatives, in a carefully planned operation.

A CMAC statement said the large explosive remnant of war (ERW) was discovered in Chakar Leu district’s Bok Knor commune.

CMAC director-general Heng Ratana explained that unusually, the M117 was found with its head facing up, adding that the majority of airborne bombs were discovered facing down. Despite its peculiar flight path, it had still buried itself in the ground to a depth of 5m, where it failed to explode.

According to Ratana, there are 115,273 locations throughout the Kingdom where an estimated four million bombs – and more than 27 million cluster bombs – were dropped on more than 500,000 US bombing missions between mid-1965 and 1973.

“I am pleased to announce that the operation went well, and everybody on the team is safe and sound. This was an example of the ERWs that continue to contaminate the Kingdom, and unfortunately we believe the Cambodian people may continue to live with this kind of threats for many decades to come,” he added.

In addition to the dangerous task of clearing landmines and disposing of bombs and munitions, CMAC also conducts regular educational outreach programmes to warn the public to remain vigilant about the ongoing threat of mines and ERWs. 

Last week they reached nearly 80,000 people in 22 target provinces.

Ratana described public education as a crucial task.

“This is one of our core activities here at CMAC. We are encouraging people to pay more attention to the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance [UXO], and urge them to alert us if they suspect the presence of any explosive items,” he said.

According to the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), from 1992 to end-2023, a total of 3,024sq km of land had been cleared of mines and restored to public use. Approximately 76 per cent of the reclaimed land is now used to cultivate crops, with five per cent used for housing construction. The remaining land is employed in other ways, including schools and transport infrastructure.

The CMAA estimates that a total of 11,980,172 people have benefited from demining activities in the country.