CMAC Halts Demining in Province After Blast

A truck loaded with 10 tons of rocks detonated a deeply buried land mine on a road in Samlot district, Battambang province earlier this month, prompting the Cam­bodian Mine Action Center to sus­pend demining operations in the area until the risk can be fully assessed.

Trucks will be banned from about 40 km of older roads in the area until CMAC determines they are safe, said Hem Khan, CMAC’s deputy director in Bat­tam­bang province.

Such deeply buried mines pose little threat to normal traffic, CMAC officials say. Motorcycles, cars and even light trucks had failed to detonate the mine that blew up recently; it apparently took an unusually heavy weight to explode it.

Ung Sang On, CMAC’s director of planning, said Monday, “We believe that this mine was an improvised anti-tank mine, and that it didn’t work properly. Had it been fully functional, the whole truck would have been gone. Instead, it just broke the back axle, and the mine left about a 1-meter crater.’’

No one was hurt in the explosion, which occurred March 1 shortly after 11 am as the truck drove along the old road to Sam­lot from O’Chaknea toward Amp­eup village with a load of building materials for a school being built by the Action Nord Sud NGO.

Villagers have told investigators they remember the Khmer Rouge planting deep mines on several secondary roads in the area. Ung Sang On said CMAC teams are fanning out across the area today to pinpoint where deep mines are likely to be. He said interviews with the villagers indicate somewhere between 20 and 50 deep mines were planted in the area.

Ung Sang On said the road had previously been cleared by CMAC teams. According to the team that spent the past two weeks investigating the explosion, the mine had not been detected for several reasons including:

•The mine, probably homemade of TNT and plastic with few or no metal parts, was buried about 1 meter beneath the surface and was detonated by a vertical stick of wood that extended up to the surface.

•The road is made of a type of laterite soil in which bomb detectors don’t work very well.

Ung Sang On said CMAC is working to modify techniques and equipment to safely locate such deep mines.




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