CAMBODIA – CHUN RY
A farmer who called the EOD team after his daughter found an old bomb lying in undergrowth.
My name is Chun Ry (far right) and this is my family. I am a farmer who supports eight children. I grow rice and cassava, and I raise 4 cows and many chickens.
I have worked my farm my whole life, and my father before me. During the war we endured many battles near and on our land. It was a very frightening time. There were soldiers everywhere, either resting or fighting. We saw things we would like to forget.
When the war finished it became peaceful for us and all the other families in the area. But our land was not the same. There were unexploded bombs in our field. Many were lying on the ground, but lots were hidden in undergrowth or under the earth. There were bullets, hand grenades, mortars, bombs dropped from airplanes and shells that had been fired but did not explode, and there were landmines along paths and near the river. It was very dangerous but we had to keep working in the fields to feed ourselves. I was so terrified for my children. I forbade them to go to the fields, but the explosives are everywhere. What if they stood on a landmine or picked up an old bomb?
We have lived like this for a long time and there are accidents in the community. We have lost a lot of our precious livestock, which puts us in big financial trouble. Sometimes someone gets hurt. This is terrible for the family and the community as a whole. The family is thrown into financial crisis especially if the person injured is a worker or head of the family. The community meanwhile gets terrified all over again.
Over the years people have worked to remove the explosives. First the Cambodian military and then the government authorities. This has made the land much safer. But we still find the bombs in hidden places.
Six months ago APOPO and CMAC arrived with what they called an ‘EOD’ team and they called everyone together to explain how they can help. EOD means ‘Explosive Ordnance Disposal’. They showed us pictures of what old bombs, bullets and landmines look like and explained that if we find them, we should immediately stop what we are doing, move everyone away and call them. Then they will come and remove the dangerous item. We were very happy about this and almost immediately we started calling them. They were run off their feet!
I myself had not called them until today. My daughter Charya was climbing a tree and she noticed something sticking out of the earth. She ran to get me and I left her at home and went to see. It looked very suspicious.
I called the EOD team and they arrived straight away. They told us to stay away and they went to the tree. They found an old mortar bomb and they used metal detectors to check all around the spot in case there was more. The Team Leader told me that long ago a farmer must have found it in a field and moved it away under the tree out of his way. It could have blown up in his hands, but in those days there was no EOD team!
All the nearby families had come to see what was happening and the EOD team gave us all another safety lesson. Everyone is scared again! But at least that is one more dangerous bomb off my land. One less bomb to hurt my family.
It is often the poorest who have to live in or near minefields. You can create real and lasting change in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.