Mine Report: Casualties Remain High

Despite ongoing efforts to clear the Cambodian countryside of land ­mines and unexploded ordnance, 772 Cambodians were killed or maimed by explosives last year, according to the annual report from the Cambodia Mine /UXO Victim Information System received on Tuesday.

The report, titled “Towards Ze­ro Victims,” found that in 27 percent of cases, the victim knew of po­tential explosives in the area. Of those who ventured into the area despite the knowledge, 82 per­cent did so because they needed to make money, ei­ther from farming or scavenging for scrap metal from unexploded or­dnance.

In 36 percent of the cases, the ex­­­plosive was set off when tampered with, either by children playing or in a misguided salvage operation, the re­port stated.

Forty-five percent of casualties were farmers and 29 percent were students.

“Our people are very poor,” said Chhiv Lim, who managed the report. He added that people were faced with the choice of keeping clear of dangerous areas or venturing out to farm, pick fruit or otherwise make money.

The increase in the number of children hurt or killed by land mines and unexploded ordnance is a concern, especially since various groups have tried to teach them about the dangers of playing with the explosives, Chhiv Lim said Tuesday.

“We don’t know why they still play with [unexploded ordnance],” he said. “I think the children, they understand, but their behavior is not always good.”

Last year’s victim figures—which included 115 people killed —represented a slight drop from previous years. In 2001,

826 people were injured or killed, compared with 847 in 2002.

The report also found that of the 657 people who survived an ex­plosion, about 20 percent re­quired amputation. This number has remained consistent over the past few years.

The northwestern section of Cambodia, especially Bat­tam­bang and Banteay Meanchey pro­vinces, lodged the largest number of incidents, the re­port said.

 

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