Latest Clashes Aggravate Land Mine Problem

siem reap town – Sok Seap, 34, said he defected to the government from the hard-line rebels in Anlong Veng because he was tired of fighting.

His reward? The RCAF gave the life-long Khmer Rouge member a new uniform, a new gun and sent him to battle against troops loyal to his former commander, Ta Mok.

On April 29, in a battle to take Mountain 200, Sok Seap step­ped on a newly laid mine and lost his left leg. Now his fighting days are truly over.

“I have been a soldier for a long time….Now I have nothing. Now I will rely on the government to feed me,” said the father of three children, who spent Thursday in the Siem Reap Military Hospital waiting for transportation back to his family at Preah Vihear.

Refugees waiting at O Bai Tap camp in Siem Reap province to return to their homes in Anlong Veng said Wednesday that newly planted mines are one of their greatest concerns.

Chea Saran, chief of operations for the RCAF general staff, said in Siem Reap on Thursday that Cam­­­bodian Mine Action Center officials have contacted him about going to Anlong Veng, but he doesn’t know when they plan to start operations.

“The government soldiers and defectors are working together to clear the newly planed mines,” he said, referring to the ones Ta Mok’s troops planted as they withdrew from their positions.

Chea Rarim, program officer for the Mines Advisory Group in Siem Reap, said Anlong Veng is perhaps the most hazardous re­gion when it comes to mines.

“In other provinces, the number of mines are being reduced from day to day, but in Anlong Veng, new mines are still being laid,” he said.

Seven victims who have lost limbs came to the military hospital in April. Twenty have come in May. Most were soldiers, he said. The numbers do not include those who died from explosions.

Put Kou, team leader of CMAC’s Mine Awareness Team in Siem Reap province, said his mobile units, which give lectures to villages and schools, have not been to O Bai Tap yet.

“We would like to go there, but me haven’t received permission from our headquarters in Phnom Penh. If the security is OK, and we get permission, we will go,” he said.

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