Three children were seriously injured on Friday afternoon after a piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO) they found near their homes in Kompong Speu province detonated when they tried to make it into a cowbell, local officials said Sunday.
The children are cousins who work as cow herders in Baset district’s Kat Phlok commune. At about 3:30 p.m. on Friday, they were tending their families’ cows near a known minefield when they discovered the UXO, commune chief Khut Phanna said.
“One boy found the UXO and wanted to make a cowbell. He took it and hit it with his machete, and it exploded and critically injured all of them,” he explained.
The boy, 12-year-old Moeun Met, lost four fingers on his left hand to the explosion, along with his right thumb, said his father, Moeun Nith. He also sustained serious shrapnel wounds to the torso that injured his intestines.
“My son was critically injured on the upper part of his body,” Mr. Nith said.
Another victim, Kong Dany, also 12, had her torso cut open by shrapnel, exposing her intestines, while the third child, Oeun Sreynich, 13, had cuts all over her body but was not as badly injured, according to Chun Nan, a district police official in charge of UXO cases.
All three children were rushed to Kantha Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh after the accident and were still being treated there as of Sunday evening, Mr. Nan said.
Mr. Phanna, the commune chief, said villagers in Kat Phlok regularly found mines and other UXO in the field where the children were injured, but that despite having made several reports to the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), the area had not been demined.
“We reported it to CMAC many times, but CMAC did not come to remove them,” he said.
“When I would get a report from villagers that a UXO was near their rice fields, I would collect it and put it in my office,” Mr. Phanna added.
However, CMAC director-general Heng Ratana said authorities were unaware of the reports, and suggested that Mr. Phanna might have misdirected them.
“If they reported to CMAC, CMAC would know,” he said.
Mr. Ratana said that a standby group of deminers based in Phnom Penh would be dispatched to deal with the minefield in Kat Phlok.
“We work according to our schedule. We are not ignoring this case,” he said.