Hunting for landmines in Cambodia: ‘If you see a bomb, don’t touch it’

We are bounding down a hardpan dirt road an hour southeast of Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have to pee, my jaw hurts from the truck bouncing over the ruts, and we’re heading to a place that could get any one of us killed. I’m increasingly unsure I want to be here.

Here? There’s hardly even a here here. This is serious Nowheresville — Sangveuy, a farming commune in the rural Chi Kraeng district, where the simple, tin-roof houses are raised on stilts; where 120-pound men run up a ramp to the back of a lorry to unload 150-pound sacks of rice from their shoulders; where ox carts outnumber old cars, and sugar palms outnumber utility poles; and where someone has recently called for help to remove, dismantle, or detonate some moldering but deadly unexploded ordnance that a farmer has discovered on his cashew farm.

I’m traveling with Bill Morse, the American founder of the Landmine Relief Fund, who is sitting shotgun. Behind the wheel of our Ford Ranger 4×4 split-cab pickup is Chhun Bora, the no-nonsense senior training officer and safety officer of Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD), a Cambodian-run NGO. Morse is compact, fit, ex-military, and seems younger than his 71 years. Bora looks like he could defuse a mine with one hand while ripping out your throat with the other. I sit in the back seat and keep quiet.

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