The Tbeng Meanchey district police and Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD) officers removed 17 active unexploded ordnances (UXOs) on Sunday from a plantation in Chheanmok commune in Preah Vihear province.
District deputy police chief Pai Chin said on Tuesday that district specialists and commune police officials collaborated with the CSHD specialists to carry out the operation.
Chin said the team found 15 37mm artillery shells, a 60mm warhead and a B-40 rocket, all of which were still functional and could have exploded.
“Having received news from a plantation owner, we inspected it and told residents in the area not to come near the location with the UXOs for fear of their safety.
“Later, we reported it to the demining organisation and requested they come help remove them. Luckily, the UXOs did not endanger the people,” he said.
Chin said the district hadn’t had any cases of UXOs harming residents in the past, but authorities had reported seeing bombs and explosive remnants of war in the area.
As a measure to safeguard the public, the authorities disseminated information about the dangers and effects of UXOs and required residents to immediately report such sightings.
CSHD regional director for Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Kratie and Battambang provinces, Sin Kosal, said on Tuesday that after he was informed of the UXOs, he and a working group of three travelled to Chheanmok commune to install signs warning about the UXOs before they were removed.
He confirmed that the UXOs were functional and if anyone had hit them or set them on fire, they would have exploded.
Kosal instructed the working group to pack the UXOs properly before taking them to be neutralised at the CSHD’s Preah Vihear provincial headquarters.
“Our working groups were put on standby in four provinces – Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Kratie and Battambang. We only act on information from the authorities and reports from residents because our specialist forces are small in number.
“My working group has removed many UXOs this year, and some of the missions have resulted in explosions, causing deaths and injuries,” Kosal said.
Chheanmok commune police chief Hang Neath could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Kosal asked the plantation’s owner, who chose to remain anonymous, about the events that occurred.
The owner said he and his wife had driven a tractor to plough their land, about 2km from the village.
While ploughing, they hit what they thought was a tree stump, and stopped to inspect the ground. When they discovered an artillery shell, they immediately reported it to the authorities.
In a separate case on Tuesday, Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) officials neutralised a 230kg MK82 bomb in Chhvang commune’s Slaeng Meanchey village in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, said its director-general Heng Ratana.
He complimented his specialists for using armoured vests, protective helmets, face masks and scarves to prevent Covid-19.
“Covid-19 poses a threat to us. But we won’t back down or stop our work because of this threat. We continue our work as normal to ensure the safety of our society,” he said.