The Cambodian Mine Action Centre and chemical weapons experts yesterday began an operation to remove two Vietnam War-era bombs from a school and pagoda in Svay Rieng province.

Armed forces were also supported the team from CMAC and the National Authority for the Prohibition of Chemical, Nuclear Biological and Radiological Weapons.

The team dismantled an old wooden school office and cleared the surrounding areas to make it easy to excavate the devices.

Lieutenant General Ke Da, deputy secretary general of the anti-chemical weapons authority, said a 30-square metre area had been cordoned off around the bomb sites to protect the public.

The construction of a pagoda building was also temporarily suspended until the operation is complete.

Lt Gen Da said the actual excavation of the bombs will begin today.

About 1,000 villagers in two villages of Korki commune will be evacuated 1.5 kilometres away from the bomb sites from between 7.30am and 3pm for up to one week.

“We do not want the operation to take up too much time because it is raining and making life difficult for villagers,” he said. “We will get it done as soon as possible.”

Despite this, he was unable to say exactly how long the disposal will take, since the condition of the bombs is unclear.

Commune chief Kim Sam Oeun said she will work with local leaders in Tompaing Skun and Korki villages to coordinate evacuations.

“They will have to leave their villages from 7.30am to 3pm each day for one week,” she said, adding that people will be accommodated by a sugar plantation in the commune.

She said one member of each family, who is in good health and would be able to evacuate at short notice, will be allowed to stay home to protect their property.

“In case of any problem, they could leave easily” Ms Sam Oeun said.

She added that all evacuated villagers will be provided with lunch.

“We are concerned about the health of the evacuees because some are sick and elderly,” she said. Continue reading.