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Huge weapons haul halts house construction

Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times Share:
Some of the shells uncovered near the house. Supplied

A team from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre discovered a large haul of 1,800 old rocket launchers and shells in Kandal province’s Ta Khmao town over the weekend.
Centre director-general Heng Ratana posted on his Facebook page to say officials had discovered the stockpile, including 60mm, 81mm, 82mm mortar shells and rocket propelled grenades, in Thmey village. 
Nab Chrenh, 33, the owner of a car repair shop, said his family was preparing to build a new house on their empty yard when they made the discovery.
They had begun digging the ground when neighbours alerted them that the land was part of a military base in the 1980s. 
“My neighbours came and told me to stop digging and suggested that I speak to CMAC officials before continuing because there might be old explosives hidden there from the past,” Mr Chrenh said.
CMAC experts then attended the scene.
“It is unbelievable that there was all that old weaponry hidden under the yard at the back of our shop,” Mr Chrenh said. 
“We didn’t know we had been living with that there for years.”
Ieng Sopheakna, 58, said she remembered the history of the area well. 
“That whole area was a military barracks. My family has been living here since 1987,” she said. 
“I went and told the shop owners to stop their digging because I knew what might be down there.” 
Thorn Hourn, 38, said he and other construction workers were shaken up when they saw what they had been drilling close to.
“We were really afraid when local people told us what could be down there,” he said. 
“We stopped digging immediately and waited for CMAC officials. I haven’t seen anything like it before.”
The number of casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnances dropped 21 percent in the first four months of 2017 when compared to the same period in 2016, according to a report by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.
The April 2017 report, released this month, said there were 26 casualties in the first four months of 2017, compared to 33 during the same period in 2016.
Mines and UXOs remain a leading cause of casualties and deaths in the kingdom, with an estimated four to six million landmines and other munitions left over from decades of war and internal conflict, according to a CMAC report from November last year.

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