Casualties From UXO Drop in 2015

Landmines and other old ordnance killed or injured 111 people in 2015, according to figures from the state-run Cambodian Mine Action Authority, as many as in 2013 but nearly a third less than last year, when casualties jumped to 154 people.

Of the 111 casualties last year, 18 people were killed by the explosions and 23 had body parts amputated.

The mines, rockets and bombs date back to the decades of war between the government and Khmer Rouge, mostly in the 1970s and and 1980s, and to a massive bombing campaign by the U.S. that started in the 1960s. The remnants have killed or injured more than 64,000 Cambodians since the Khmer Rouge fell from power in 1979.

Though annual casualty numbers have dropped significantly over the years, hundreds of square kilometers of the country remain contaminated.

“It is good to see this number come back [down], to drop,” Heng Ratana, director-general of the Mine Action Authority’s Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), said of the latest numbers. “We want to see the number become lower and lower.”

As in previous years, Battambang province suffered more casualties—28—than any other, owing to its particular share of Cambodia’s heavily mined border with Thailand. Mines and other ordnance killed or injured 40 people in the province the year before.

Pring Panharith, who manages CMAC’s 2nd demining unit, which covers Battambang, attributed the drop in casualties to the work of volunteers who educate locals on the dangers of mines and other ordnance along with other factors.

“First, we are demining more and more land year after year,” he said. “Second, CMAC’s volunteers are disseminating information. Third, people are becoming more aware of the dangerous areas.”

“I hope the number will keep falling, because the people are more aware and we keep demining,” he added.

Mr. Panharith said CMAC declared another 46 square kilometers landmine free in Battambang in 2015, just shy of the 50 square kilometers it was aiming for.

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