A deminer from the NGO Halo Trust was killed in Pailin province on Friday after detonating a mine while attempting to clear an area in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold, police and the NGO said.
Loeung Reaksmey, 55, died almost instantly around 7:30 a.m. in a forested area in Bar Yakha commune’s Ba Huy Choeung village on the Thai border, HALO Trust country director Matthew Hovell said.
“Initial findings indicate that Mr. Reaksmey and his colleague were preparing a lane ahead of clearance and initiated an anti personnel mine with a vegetation clearing tool,” Mr. Hovell said in an email.
“Fragmentation bypassed his protective equipment and caused severe injury to his head which led to his death seconds after the accident,” he said.
Loeung Reaksmey had worked with the NGO since 2003 and had been part of a team that had cleared more than 1,450 landmines from 28 minefields in the surrounding communities, he said.
Another Halo worker suffered minor injuries in the blast and was flown to Battambang Provincial Hospital for treatment, he said, adding that she is expected to be released in the coming days.
An investigation has already been launched with the Cambodian Mine Action Authority and the results would be released once it has concluded, he said.
Deputy provincial police chief Nup Srey Yuth said that the area — which was in the hands of the Khmer Rouge until 1996 — was notorious for being heavily mined.
“In the past there were villagers who have died in the area,” he said. “Halo often try to clear mines over there. We are regretful and we can’t accuse them of being careless because there are lots of mines.”
The death comes less than nine months since Halo lost another worker in Pursat province’s infamous K-5 minefield in April. An investigation by the NGO revealed that he was using the wrong equipment while clearing an area.
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