first published on February 7, 2018 by Will
Watch as a fearless Cambodian man disarms landmines with his pocket knife.
Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined nations in the world. Various estimates suggest that there are anywhere between 4 million to 10 million unexploded mines still hidden in the jungle.
The mines are the result of several decades of war. The Vietcong hid them to target pro US forces in the 1960s and 70s. Following the Vietnam War, Cambodia fought a brutal war during the Khmer Rouge era, and then another decade of civil war in the 1980s.
In addition to all the landmines, there’s an frightening amount of unexploded ordnance from the U.S. airstrikes in the region. America’s air campaign during the Vietnam War is still the largest in history, regarding the amount and weight of munitions dropped.
For reference, on the neighboring country of Laos, the US military dropped 260 million cluster bombs (~2.5 million tons of munitions) over the course of 580,000 bombing missions, nearly seven bombs for every man, woman and child living in Laos. There’s guaranteed to be a lot of unpleasant surprises still remaining to be found, whether intentionally or by accident.
Cambodia has one of the highest amputee rates in the world, with about 40,000 victims. Yet, keep in mind that just as many people have succumbed to the mine blast and died before they could get to the hospital due to the remote locations these mines occupy.