Three children were killed when a suspected Khmer Rouge-era B40 rocket exploded in a field in Cambodia’s northern Oddar Meanchey province on Sunday.
Police suspect the three boys, aged between eight and nine years old, had tried to break apart the bomb to salvage a copper metal ring to sell as scrap metal, causing the ordnance to explode.
“This whole area is a former battlefield between the armed forces government and Khmer Rouge soldiers,” Keo Than, Trapaing Prasat district police chief said.
Two of the boys died instantly from the blast in the field, while the third died en route to the hospital due to wounds from the explosion.
“Their bodies were severely injured by the unexploded ordnance. We almost could not identify the victims’ body,” Than said.
While the sale of UXOs is illegal in Cambodia, the risk trade is hard to stamp out, Cambodian Mine Action Centre director general Heng Ratana said.
“Usually [individuals] try to sell the scrap metal, but this [type of] rocket does not have a lot of scrap metal,” Ratana said, adding in recent years he had seen a big drop in the illegal trade of bombs.
“The B40 rocket launcher was very commonly used in Cambodia and can be found in [war] fields,” Ratana said.
According to UXO research by Cambodian Mine Victim Information System (CMVIS), Oddar Meanchey is a high-risk province for remaining land mines and explosives.
In the first seven months of this year, there have been 114 casualties and 25 fatalities. In Oddar Meanchey, which has the second highest rate nationally, there have been 47 casualties.
"There are people injured and killed by UXOs nearly every year despite education to warn about the dangers of UXOs,” Than said.