The Defense Ministry’s chemical weapons experts will attempt on Monday to dispose two US unexploded chemical bombs discovered in Svay Rieng province.
“Mine clearance machinery and other equipment will arrive here on Sunday to attempt to safely remove these bombs,” a senior military official who did not want to be named, because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told Khmer Times.
“They will begin work early Monday,” he said.
The two gas barrel bombs were found in Svay Rieng province early this year, and are believed to have been dropped by the US in the 1970s during the Vietnam War.
The ministry’s experts were already at the site in Svay Rieng’s Korki commune this morning. One bomb is in a primary school compound and the other at a pagoda.
Dressed in full protective gear, in case of poisonous gas leakage, the experts took chemical samples from the two bombs for laboratory analysis. The results are to be released later.
Lieutenant General Ke Da, deputy secretary general of the National Authority for the Prohibition of Chemical, Nuclear Biological and Radiological Weapons, said his unit and the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) were working together to carry out the operations.
“Our first conclusion, after speaking to villagers, is that these bombs are believed to be dangerous chemical bombs dropped from US Chinook helicopters during the war in the 1970s,” Lt Gen Da said.
On March 18, 1969, the United States began a four year long carpet-bombing campaign in the skies of Cambodia, devastating the countryside and causing socio-political upheaval that eventually led to the installation of the Pol Pot regime.
Experts believe that more US bombs were dropped on Cambodia, during the period, than the whole of World War II.
Prime Minister Hun Sen early this week called on US ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt to visit Svay Rieng province and see the bombs for himself.
“Mr Ambassador, please visit and tell us what to do with these bombs,” he said. “This is the responsibility of the US and should not be overlooked.”
Serei Kosal, vice president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), said these bombs had been found since January, and the government was waiting for technical assistance from partners, international organisations and US to resolve the issue.
He said to date there has not been any response.
“We cannot wait them, we have to do by ourselves whatever the price would be to eliminate the fear of people,” said Mr Kosal.
Local resident Sar Hun applauded the government’s bomb disposal efforts.
“These chemical bombs are dangerous and they threaten the lives of villagers,” he said.
Mr Sar Hun is no stranger to the mayhem caused by these explosive devices and seen them first hand in the 1970s.
“Many of the villagers suffer from serious ulcers and it takes a very long time for them to get better. Some never do and they die.”