Three boys were killed in Oddar Meanchey province on Friday after a grenade launcher they were playing with exploded, officials said.
The boys found the grenade launcher perched against a tree stump in Samraong City and began shooting at it with a slingshot, triggering the explosion, according to Heng Ratana, director-general of the state-run Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC).
“All three boys were hit on their body, and one boy’s legs and hands were cut off,” added provincial police chief Men Ly.
Mr. Ly said that two of the boys —Sieng Ly, 12, and Chann Sann, 14, were killed instantly, while 15-year-old Tuy Chamroeun was rushed to the provincial referral hospital.
He said he did not know the eventual fate of Tuy Chamroeun, but Mr. Ratana said the boy died at the hospital later in the day.
“That area along the [Thai] border is heavily affected by landmines and UXO—this includes the incident [site],” Mr. Ratana said, using an acronym for unexploded ordnance, which he said had killed or injured 23 people in the first three months of the year.
In February, three children died in two separate incidents after playing with dormant explosives. In one case, two cousins were killed after hitting a rocket-propelled grenade with an ax.
Landmines and other ordnance are legacy of the wars that ravaged Cambodia from the 1960s to the 1990s, including extensive bombing by the U.S. during the Second Indochina War. All told, the explosives have killed or injured more than 64,000 people across the country.
Mr. Ratana said CMAC had been largely successful in teaching villagers about the dangers of old munitions.
“We interview victims after incidents, and most of them inform us that they had [received] education,” he said. “But children are children. Sometimes they like to play with something that looks strange.”