Cambodian casualties from old weapons fall 52 percent (CAMBODIA)
Casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia dropped by 52 percent in the first seven months of 2006 compared to the same period last year, mine experts said Monday.
A total of 318 people were killed or injured by landmines and other explosives from old weapons from January to July, according to the Cambodia Red Cross and Handicap International's Cambodia Mine Victim Information System (CMVIS).
"This represents a decrease of 52 percent compared with the 668 casualties reported in the same period in 2005," CMVIS said in a report.
Much of the improvement is due to a crackdown by police on scrap metal buyers who collect old weaponry for sale, CMVIS project manager Chhiv Lim said.
Authorities have warned they would confiscate any unexploded weaponry taken for sale, which has helped discourage people from the deadly practice, he said.
"Many of the victims were killed as they tried to dismantle old, unexploded ordnance in order to sell the scrap metal to the buyers," Chhiv Lim said.
Chhiv Lim said another factor in the drop was the heavy rainfall in some parts of the country, which has allowed villagers to support themselves off their farms without needing to scavenge for scrap metal.
Many of the casualties were in northwestern Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces and the town of Pailin, all former Khmer Rouge strongholds along the border with Thailand, which was the scene of fighting for decades.
The Khmer Rouge regime was toppled in 1979 but remnants fought on until 1998, resulting in impoverished Cambodia becoming one of the world's most heavily mined countries along with Afghanistan and Angola.
Von: 21.8.06, Agence France Press