The Ministry of Interior is drafting a sub-decree that would criminalize for the first time the buying and selling of unexploded ordnance, effectively ending the scrap metal trade in these weapons and lowering the risk of injury for scavengers, officials said.
Until now, the government has merely confiscated unexploded bombs, which has prompted scrap dealers to demand that local buyers and sellers remove detonating devices and explosives themselves, or the dealers will not buy the metal, Cambodian Mine Action Center Director-General Khem Sophoan said Sunday.
This condition has “put people [in] more danger. It is difficult to stop because people are poor,” he said, adding that scavengers risk their lives to make money even though they know the dangers.
Colonel Tean Bun Seang, the Ministry of Interior’s deputy director of explosives and fire department, said Sunday that once the sub-decree comes into force, all trade of metal from bombs—regardless of whether their detonating devices have been removed—will be banned.
The livelihoods of scavengers will not be seriously affected by the ban because only a few people actually make money, he said. “They tend to show they’re brave to toy with UXOs than to make money. The price they get cannot be compared with the danger of it,” he said.
At a roundtable discussion on UXO Awareness Day, Feb 24, broadcast on television Saturday, Khem Sophoan said that in Poipet alone, CMAC collected more than 30 tons of metal from UXOs.
RCAF Major General Sem Sovanny said the army has disposed of 165,884 landmines and 59, 582 artillery and mortar shells between 1993 and 2004.