Cambodia gets first team of explosive ordnance disposal divers

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Ten Cambodian deminers graduated on Thursday from the first diving training to find underwater unexploded ordnances (UXOs) after a four-week intensive course.

The course was supported by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

Allen Tan, general manager of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, which organized the training, said the course, instructed by a former U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal diver, was attended by 35 deminers from Cambodian Mine Action Center ( CMAC), but only 10 graduated with the full rating of Second Class Diver.

"This is the first time that CMAC deminers receive this honor," he said at the course closing ceremony, adding that three additional recruits are receiving certificates of completion.

"This graduation marks the beginning of a great new capacity for Cambodia. Over the next 1-2 years, these individuals will be further challenged by advanced training from the U.S. Army Dive Salvage unit," he said.

After the training, the graduated divers will recover munitions spilled underwater during the 1960s and 70s, Heng Ratana, CMAC's director general, said.

"With the U.S support, now our deminers have skills to search for underwater unexploded ordnances," he said.

Cambodia is one of the countries suffering from landmines and UXOs as the result of nearly three decades of war and internal conflicts from the mid 1960s to the end of 1998.

An estimated 4 to 6 million landmines and other munitions left over from the conflicts.

As of last year, the country has removed and destroyed some 3 million landmines and UXOs, and it will get rid of landmines and UXOs in the next 10 years, Heng Ratana said. By doing so, the country needs about 30 million U.S. dollars a year.

From 1979 to 2012, a total of 64,202 landmine and UXO casualties were recorded. Of which 19,662 people were killed, 35, 640 were injured and 8,900 were amputated, according to the latest official report. Endi

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