A farmer in Battambang province died instantly Tuesday afternoon when the tractor he was driving ran over an old landmine, according to local authorities.
Sorn Sim, 36, who worked as a farmhand for the landowner, was preparing a field for corn planting in Phnom Proek district’s Pichr Chenda commune when the accident occurred, tearing the tractor in two and throwing the driver out of the vehicle, said commune police chief Chea Chhy.
He said the field had been farmed for at least six years without incident, but noted that Khmer Rouge rebels had laid mines in the area in the 1980s after the regime was overthrown by invading Vietnamese forces.
“It happens often because this area used to be under the control of the Khmer Rouge,” he said, referring to the blast. “They planted landmines to stop the Vietnamese forces as they advanced.”
Otasok village chief Chhin Sophin said the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), the government’s demining body, had cleared some areas in the village but not the specific spot where Tuesday’s explosion occurred.
He said that Sorn Sim is survived by a wife and two children, the oldest of them aged 5.
Tuesday’s accident follows the death of a 12-year-old boy on Saturday in Preah Vihear province when he and a soldier dropped an old artillery shell they had found while gathering firewood. The soldier and two other children also suffered serious injuries.
According to the most recent data from the state-run Cambodian Mine Action Authority, UXO explosions caused 27 casualties in January and February. Of those, six people died, three had limbs amputated and the rest suffered lesser injuries.
The two-month figures are down from the same period last year, when mine and UXO explosions killed or injured 40 people.
Despite several years of steadily falling numbers, casualties jumped by roughly a third in 2014 to 154.
CMAC has blamed the rise in part on the steady move to mechanized farming, which is more likely to set off buried munitions.