More than 20 years after the internal conflict in Cambodia ended, the country is still littered with millions of mines. To speed up the detection of these explosive remnants of war, the demining teams receive support from an unlikely ally: giant African rats.
Since the 1970s, Cambodia has been in successive wars that killed millions of people and ravaged the country. And until today, people suffer the consequences. Large amounts of unexploded ordnance remain buried in the ground, most notably in the northwest, along the Thai border.
After the fall of the barbaric regime of Pol Pot in 1979, many of the Khmer Rouge soldiers were forced into Thailand. These armed troops as well as other factions, such as the Vietnamese and the Cambodian army, then laid mines to prevent movement of the enemy. Landmines were cheap, effective and easy to deploy. But people placed the explosives at random and didn’t keep track of the locations. Now, decades later, people have forgotten and it’s a monumental task to find out where the mines are buried.
In the east, near Vietnam, there’s another high concentration of unexploded ordnance: the remains of the 7.5 million tons of munitions that the US and its allies dropped on Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war. In 2016, the US released the database of these bombing missions, which makes pinpointing the contaminated areas much easier.