Villagers Blame CMAC for Grenade Accident

Villagers in Kompong Chhnang province have signed a letter of complaint against the Cambodian Mine Action Center claiming the organization was to blame for a deadly grenade accident and that bomb disposal was scaring farm animals and local people, officials said Thursday.

The letter, signed by 161 people living in Sre Thmei commune, Rolea Ba’ier district, de­mands that CMAC cease disposing of bombs in the area and says the organization must take re­sponsibility for the recent death of a young man and the injuries of five others. Villagers said Keo Ban, 18, was killed and five others injured by a Chi­nese-made gren­ade they re­trieved from a pit used by CMAC to detonate unexploded ordnance.

The victim flung the grenade against the stone pillar of a house, causing it to explode.

Khim Nham, chief of Kul Kub village, said Thursday that CMAC should not have left unexploded ordnance in the area and should pay compensation.

Six cows have run away and villagers are constantly frightened by the noise of CMAC explosions, Khim Nham added.

CMAC Deputy Director-Gen­eral Heng Rothana denied claims that his staff was to blame for the fatal accident and branded accusations that the bomb came from a CMAC disposal pit an “injustice.”

“It’s not true…. We investigated, and the boy collected the gre­nade from another place to sell it,” Heng Rothana said, adding that a police investigation concurred that CMAC was not at fault for the accident.

Defending claims that warning signs were not posted around the area used for CMAC’s bomb disposal, Heng Rothana said signs were unnecessary, as staff members had warned locals directly to keep away from the area.

“CMAC has done a lot of education and awareness in the area and all over the country through radio, television and posters,” Heng Rothana said.

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