Underwater unexploded ordnance (UXO) operators have been expediting the removal of ammunition from warships which sank in the Mekong River at Peam Reang village and commune of Prey Veng province’s Peam Chor district, for the safety of residents in the area and despite encountering some challenges with the work.
Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana told The Post on July 14 that despite those challenges, the underwater UXO remnants could not be left because they pose a risk to people’s safety and inhibit national economic development.
Ratana said that many of the challenges and obstacles inherent to underwater operations have been resolved, but these sites were still difficult to clear and the munitions found were still effective even after they had been buried under sand and water for more than 50 years.
“Removing ammunition from the warships that sank in the Mekong River is not as easy as extracting ammunition on land, because it is an area where the water is flowing and the munitions get buried in the sand. We have to pump out the sand using a technique for deflecting the strong flow of water, which is difficult. However, with great effort we are able to do it,” he said.
According to Ratana, the operations for extracting munitions from the warships that sunk in the river during the 1970-1975 civil war would continue until they are finished and the area is made completely safe for people, following the government’s policy of making sure the Kingdom is safe both on land and in the water.
Peam Chor district governor Seng Thea said he welcomed CMAC’s efforts and the help from the Ministry of National Defence in clearing munitions from the river so that people would not be afraid to go fishing or otherwise make use of the water.
“On behalf of the local government, I really appreciate CMAC’s attention and cooperation with the government, regardless of their fatigue and the difficulty in extracting UXOs from the river bottom, so that one day soon people here can go fishing without any worries,” he said.
On August 28, 2020, Prime Minister Hun Sen set up an inter-ministerial working group to study and solve cases of UXOs found in warships that sank in the river in Meanchey commune’s Veal village of Kampong Cham province’s Srei Santhor district.
After successfully clearing the Srei Sranthor location on January 26, 2021, the premier decided to increase the number of people assigned to the working group and expand its mission to extract underwater UXOs from some other areas, including Kandal province’s Lvea Em and Khsach Kandal districts and Prey Veng province’s Peam Chor and Peamro districts.