The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) instructed the capital and provincial mine action committees to take any measures necessary to prevent any danger to the public from unexploded ordnance (UXO) in areas where flooding has occurred following reports by authorities of loose UXO spotted floating through floodwaters.
The CMAA cited a notice issued by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology alerting the public about a low-pressure system that was affecting Cambodia’s weather and making it a near-certainty that rain will fall on most of the Kingdom’s territory in the coming days.
This weather system has already caused some flooding in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Speu, Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces.
“During and after the floods UXO was spotted in the flowing water that was likely unearthed by rain-induced landslides in areas containing anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and various explosive remnants of war. All of this can be a danger to people’s lives,” the notice said.
In order to ensure the safety of the public the CMAA instructed the committees to remind affected communities about the possibility of unearthed UXO or other explosive materials due to the floods and advise caution when traversing or working in any area where the floods caused a significant ground disturbance.
CMAA said the committees should remind people to report anything they see that is of concern to their local authorities at the village and commune levels or to any demining operators stationed nearby when the explosives are found.
They should also prepare informational materials on this topic to disseminate to the people in their local area to raise awareness about the effect flooding may have when it occurs in former war zones, battlefields or other areas that experienced armed conflict.
Sam Vireak, head of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre’s branch in Banteay Meanchey province, told The Post that the task force had talked to locals and put up some warning signs in areas known to still have UXO or mines that were affected by the floods.
“We have prepared two vehicles and a team of seven people for fast intervention if anything is unearthed by the flooding. And when the authorities have evacuated people to dry ground, we have also taken the opportunity to search for mines as the waters recede in some areas that we consider suspect because we can do so with far fewer concerns over public safety while they are away.
“Banteay Meanchey still has mines, we’ve no doubt about that. When there are no floods everybody sticks to the places and routes they commonly use that have already been cleared – if not by us, then by years of using them resulting in accidents, injuries and deaths.
“But when there are floods, they must evacuate to other places where, sometimes, fewer people have tread over time so unknown dangers may be present. And the waters wash away the earth and disturb the ground in the familiar places,” he said.