Cambodia’s Ongoing Battle with Unexploded Munitions: The Dangers and Efforts for Clearing

Cambodia, a country scarred by decades of civil war, is facing yet another grim reminder of its violent past. Recently, thousands of unexploded war-era explosives were discovered at the Queen Kosomak High School in Kratie province, forcing the school to close temporarily. This alarming find highlights the ongoing dangers posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia.

The discovery of more than 2,000 pieces of rusted explosives, including grenades and anti-tank launchers, emphasizes the urgent need for clearance efforts. The explosives were unearthed during the clearance of the school’s grounds for a garden expansion. This stroke of luck prevented potential disasters, as the explosives could have been triggered by a simple dig in the ground.

Cambodia’s history with landmines and unexploded artillery is long and tragic. The country’s civil war, which ended in 1975, left behind a deadly legacy. Landmines scattered across the country have claimed the lives of over 64,000 people and resulted in 25,000 recorded amputees since 1979, according to The Halo Trust. These hidden hazards continue to threaten lives and hinder development even decades after the conflict’s conclusion.

The Cambodian government, aware of the urgency and devastating consequences, has pledged to clear all landmines and unexploded ordnance by 2025. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre, under the leadership of Heng Ratana, is at the forefront of these clearance efforts. Despite facing numerous challenges, such as limited resources and vast areas to cover, their dedicated work is crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of the Cambodian people.

Efforts to clear landmines and unexploded artillery involve painstaking work by trained deminers who meticulously scan and deactivate each explosive device. These professionals put their lives on the line to protect others, navigating treacherous terrain and hazardous conditions. Their bravery and tireless efforts deserve recognition and support.

However, the process of clearance is not without its risks. Deminers face the constant threat of accidents and injuries, as they deal with volatile explosives. Additionally, the scale of the problem in Cambodia poses a significant challenge. The vast number of landmines and unexploded ordnance hidden beneath the soil requires substantial resources, both financial and logistical.

International support is crucial in aiding Cambodia’s clearance efforts. Donor countries and organizations must rally together to provide the necessary funding and expertise. Collaborative initiatives, such as The Halo Trust’s projects in Cambodia, have made significant strides in clearance operations. These partnerships are vital for accelerating progress and ensuring a safer future for the Cambodian people.

Furthermore, educational campaigns and awareness programs play a critical role in safeguarding communities. Teaching children and adults about the dangers of landmines and unexploded munitions is essential for preventing accidents. By promoting safe behaviors and highlighting the importance of reporting suspicious objects, lives can be saved.

In conclusion, the recent discovery of thousands of war-era explosives at a high school in Cambodia serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing threat posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance. The country’s violent history continues to haunt its present, as countless lives have been lost or forever altered by these hidden hazards. However, through dedicated clearance efforts, international support, and comprehensive education, Cambodia can overcome this legacy and pave the way for a safer future.