Villagers digging up tree stumps to make into furniture accidentally detonated an anti-personnel landmine in Oddar Meanchey province, killing a 65-year-old man and injuring his son and two others in the third landmine fatality of the year, officials said.
The man died instantly when the mine exploded about 4 p.m. on Thursday as the villagers dug up the stump of a luxury-grade tree at the foot of Dangrek mountain in Trapaing Prasat district, Sun Bourann, the district’s military commander, said Friday.
The area remains infested with anti-personnel landmines that were planted along the province’s border with Thailand in the 1980s, including many believed to be buried by the Khmer Rouge.
“The villagers dug up the Beng trunk, then used a chainsaw to cut off its root, but hit the landmine buried next to the root and detonated it,” Mr. Bourann said.
Chhay Poeun of Tomnup Dach commune’s Cha Thmey village was killed and his 13-year-old son, Peng Sim, was hospitalized in Siem reap in critical condition with a head injury, Mr. Bourann said.
Ros Phean, 55, and his 18-year-old-son, Chhin Bunthoeun, sustained minor injuries to their legs and arms and were discharged from Tomnup Dach Commune Health Center on Friday.
Last month, two deminers were killed in Pailin province while clearing landmines. A 55-year-old deminer from the NGO Halo Trust died in an explosion while attempting to clear a field of explosives laid by the Khmer Rouge. A 38-year-old expert working with the military’s National Center for Peacekeeping Forces Management, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance was also killed while trying to clear a landmine buried under a large tree in Pailin province.
The deaths come amid an overall decrease in fatalities caused by unexploded ordnance and landmines that have continued to blight Cambodia’s recovery decades after the end of war. Last year marked the first since the Khmer Rouge fell that casualties dropped below 100.
There is still much demining work left to do. A report released by the U.N. predicted that Cambodia would miss a 2025 deadline for clearing the country’s mines because organizations were spending too much time and resources on areas that were not heavily mined.