Photo Gallery: Cambodia's Cluster Bomb & Landmine Survivors

Landmine accident survivor Sor Sreynioh

Cambodia map

The Ratanakiri region of north-east Cambodia was so heavily bombed during the Vietnam War that an estimated 1.9 million to 5.8 million cluster submunitions continue to threaten lives there.

Added to this problem is the danger posed by landmines, particularly in north-west provinces such as Battambang, left over from three decades of conflict.

A landmine or cluster munition will often destroy one or more limbs when triggered. It can also permanently damage other parts of the body, such as the face, eyes, ears and genitalia. In a third of accidents, the victim dies¹.

As well as physical trauma, those who survive can suffer severe psychological and social problems.

Rochum set off a cluster bomb submunition

Cluster bomb accident survivor Rochom Toung

Photos and interviews: Sean Sutton/MAG

Rochom Toung lost an arm when he set off a cluster bomb submunition (known locally as bombies) when clearing his land in 2005.

"I'm afraid to farm – every day I think about the accident. Every day when I am farming I wonder when one will finally kill me. But what can I do? I have to feed my family.

"Five people were killed right next to my house. They lit a fire on a cold morning to keep warm and it blew up. More than 20 people have died in this village."

[Phom Padol village, Ratanakiri province, Cambodia]

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Seng was clearing his land to plant food..

Cluster bomb accident survivor Rochom Toung

Seng Ket was preparing his land in order to plant food crops. He cut down a small tree and when it fell it set something off. There was a big explosion and when the smoke cleared he realised his leg was missing.

[Phom Padol village, Ratanakiri province, Cambodia]

19-year-old Sor stood on a landmine 

Landmine accident survivor Sor Sreynioh

Nineteen-year-old Sor Sreynioh stood on a landmine in August 2014, a few weeks before MAG photographer Sean Sutton took these photographs of her.

"I was walking up a hill in the forest looking for bamboo shoots," she said. "I had just found some and had gathered them when I saw some more. I was happy to see them. I took a step towards them... I remember standing there in a cloud of smoke, then I passed out." 

Bamboo shoots are a common part of the diet in this region.

Landmine accident survivor Sor Sreynioh

"I woke up in hospital 12 hours later. I had lost my leg. I was so sad and so shocked. This can’t happen. I shouldn’t be like this."

Sreynio comes from a very poor family that has no land to farm. She left school aged 11 and has worked as a labourer ever since, mostly in rice paddy fields and cassava farms.

Landmine accident survivor Sor Sreynioh

"I will just have to take it as it comes. Hopefully something good will happen. I really want to work in a beauty salon for weddings. I hope this will happen, because then I will be able to move on with my life and not be a burden to my family, who are very poor."

[Tangea village, Battambang province, Cambodia]

This farmer hit a 'bombie'

Cluster bomb accident survivor So Vanny

So Vanny, 45, has six children. He lost both of his hands and suffered terrible chest injuries when he set off a cluster bomb submunition.

"I had my accident on my farm. I was hoeing the land when I hit a bombie. Everything went black. Villagers heard the explosion, but they couldn’t find me. After a couple of hours, at two or three in the afternoon, they found me. I was very afraid, covered in blood and unable to move. One arm was gone, the other was in pieces."

Cluster bomb accident survivor So Vanny

"They took me to a house, but didn’t take me to hospital because they didn’t think I would live. I was very thirsty and in a lot of pain. After a few hours I was still alive, so they decided to get me to the hospital. It took about a day to get to hospital – I arrived at 6pm the next day. The villagers had to carry me, and rest often."

Cluster bomb accident survivor So Vanny

“It is difficult with no hands but I manage. My sons help me with the farm, but I have to work hard to survive and feed my family. 

"We often find bombies and used to bury them or put them in the well. Now MAG is here, we call and they come and deal with them. I have a request, and that is that MAG stays here and clears the bombies to reduce the danger to the children of today and the generation of tomorrow."

[Phom Padol village, Ratanakiri province, Cambodia]

Chhav still feels pain

Cluster bomb accident survivor Chhav Pohn

Chhav Pohn hit a bombie while clearing farmland. He still feels pain.

From July to December 2014 alone, our teams helped 22,828 men, women and children in Cambodia.

Our partnerships with development agencies help us to target the most vulnerable people and builds a better future for the country. Eighty-three per cent of land we made safe in 2013 by removing and destroying landmines, cluster submunitions and other explosive weapons was then used for agricultural purposes.

[Phom Padol village, Ratanakiri province, Cambodia]

Note: ¹ Landmine Monitor 2014 states that there were 3,308 recorded casualties from landmines and other explosive remnants of war; at least 1,065 people were killed and another 2,218 people were injured.

MAG's work in Cambodia is supported by: Altadis Foundation; Caerus Foundation; Finn Church Aid; Humanitarian Demining Research & Development Program

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Page published: 6 March 2015