Mine, UXO Casualties Down; Deaths Steady

The number of casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) dropped 12 percent to 185 last year, while total explosions fell by more than a third, according to the latest figures from the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAC). 

Despite a drop in casualties however, mines and UXOs still killed 43 people last year, just as many as in 2011.

The number of explosions de­clined, with 76 last year, down from 119 in 2011, according to CMAC’s year-end report.

“We see it dropping below 200; this is the first year for Cambodia,” Heng Ratana, CMAC director-general, said of the casualties in 2012.

Mr. Ratana blamed the steady death toll on the growing proportion of antitank mines be­ing triggered.

Though fewer in number than anti-personnel mines, they pack far more explosives and so tend to claim more lives when set off. Deminers say more and more of them are getting triggered as rapid development pushes a growing number of Cambodians onto once fallow land and long-abandoned roads.

To combat the trend, Mr. Ratana said, CMAC—the government’s demining arm, and the largest deminer in the country—was continuing to modify more and more mine detectors to make them effective at finding the explosives below the typical 1-meter depth.

CMAC continues to receive modern detectors from abroad, he said, “but that technology is still limited [for] our needs in Cambodia.”

Nearly a third of last year’s casualties were children. And as in previous years, the majority of the casualties in 2012 were in the three border provinces of Battambang, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

Landmines and UXO have killed or injured 64,202 Cambodians since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, with most laid or fired by either Khmer Rouge or government forces in the years following, or dropped by U.S. bombers during the Second Indo-China War.

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