A bomb explosion on Thursday killed two of three "unlicensed" men who were hired to carry out mine clearance in O’Svay commune, in Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district.
District police chief In Kay said the villagers had collectively hired Hok Rachhan, 18, Mao Kamsot, 22, and Tem Bunthim, 49, to detonate land mines at a plantation in Sen Sam village.
They have been in the business for more than 10 years as the locals know it, he said.
"The villagers trusted them, therefore, they were hired to do the work. The ground used to be a fighting area, containing a lot of unexploded ordnances [UXOs]. Some experts have come to demine the ground five times already," he said.
Kay said the authorities have "educated the locals about the dangers of the UXOs and warned them not to clear the bombs by themselves".
He said the trio were taking a break on the very spot where Rachhan detected an anti-tank mine underneath them.
Without realising how deep the UXO was buried, Rachhan dug the ground with a hoe, while Kamsot boiled water for tea and Bunthim walked away from the site to look for his snare.
As he kept digging, Rachhan’s hoe eventually hit and detonated the mine, killing him and Kamsot on the spot. Bunthim who was away escaped unscathed.
Aware of the accident, Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana said his team members plan to visit the explosion site and examine the case on Friday, regarding it as "one of the biggest issues".
"The men were not demining experts, they never got any training. They only knew how to clear mines from observing other people, but they still risked their lives."
"They did not possess a licence nor did they have the expertise to carry out mine clearance, thus they did their work illegally," he said.