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Scores sick after bomb exposure

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
A total of 16 chemical bombs have been confirmed in Svay Rieng province. KT/Fabien Mouret

A total of 96 people, including 67 women, have sought medical treatment for suspected exposure to chemical bombs at Svay Rieng Provincial Hospital, local health officials said yesterday.

Svay Rieng Health Department director Ke Ratha said most of the villagers had skin and respiratory complaints.

Deputy district governor Sour Mol said about 90 percent of the patients have now returned home after getting treatment and medicine from the hospital.

“Some of the patients had been exposed to chemical bombs for a long time,” he said, adding they had different symptoms such as respiratory problems, skin allergies, ulcers and birth defects.

“They have been sick for a long time, but never reported it to us until the health check campaign.”

Villagers in Svay Rieng’s Korki commune, where a number of chemical bombs were recently found, were told earlier this month they would be eligible for free health checks and treatment at public hospitals.

Also yesterday, authorities said a total of 16 chemical bombs had now been confirmed in Korki and Ampil communes at 12 chemical bomb sites, excluding one that has already been cleared in Korki pagoda and school.

Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said there are several variants of CS substances used in the type of tear gas bombs dropped on Cambodia – some that dissolve in air and water and others that do not.

He said tests on residue samples indicate the type of chemical in the bombs discovered so far show it is the more harmful variant, CS-2, which does not dissolve in air or water.

“We are extremely concerned about the safety of people living in the area where the bombs were dropped,” he said.

Mr Ratana said he has already submitted a request to the United States for assistance to dispose of the chemical bombs, which were dropped during the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago.

“I have already sent data, reports and pictures to them, and we are awaiting their response to our request,” he said.

Speaking at Phnom Penh International Airport as he returned from the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in the Philippines yesterday, Defence Minister General Tea Banh said he had met with US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis and discussed how chemical weapons were still affecting the lives of villagers.

“We shook hands and he told me that there would be no problem and he would think about the matter,” Gen Banh said, adding that he would continue to monitor the issue.

On Wednesday, CMAC signed an agreement with Norwegian People’s Aid to extend by two months a US-funded project to clear unexploded ordnances such as clusters munitions.

An extra $320,000 means the work will continue into November and December. The project has already run for three years at a cost of about $2.1 million per year.

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