The ravages of war that occurred in Cambodia from the 1970s to the early 1990s still leave an indelible mark on the country today. Countless land mines were placed during the Cambodian Civil War during the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, the Heng Samrin and Hun Sen regimes, and millions of tons of bombs rained down on the country during the Vietnam War.
Though the bloody conflicts are long over, land mines and underwater unexploded ordinance (UXO) are still part of everyday life for Cambodians. These dangerous weapons of war continue to injure and kill.
Efforts to find and defuse land mines have been ongoing for several years. However, in the last decade, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) was created to find mines, bombs, grenades and other military munitions in the country's lakes, rivers and streams. Its sole purpose is to provide extensive technical and underwater training to Cambodian volunteers so they can safely find, recover and relocate UXO.
In July, Black Laser Learning had the privilege of assisting the U.S. Department of Defence Humanitarian Mining Training Centre (HDTC) (part of the Humanitarian Mine Action group) in supporting the Government of Cambodia's demining efforts.
The HDTC supports developing countries by donating HMA Underwater ERW Detection System (HUEDS) and training for non-technical users. Other organizations that took part included the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, a U.S. non-profit charity dedicated to global demining research and ordinance clearance solutions (the Foundation pioneered recycling explosive ordinance disposal in Cambodia), and the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC) based out of Port Hueneme, California.
During the three week project, Cambodian trainees learned how to use aKlein 3900 side scan sonar unit as well as a Marine Magnetics SeaSpy II Magnetometer. A special configuration of using the Klein 3900 side scan was used for towing the magnetometer on a single cable. This survey work was the first step in locating submerged ordinance.
The first phase of training took place at the CMAC facility in Kampong, Chhnang. The underwater portion was carried out at port city of Kihanoukville. The group of 16 participants were split into a survey team and a dive team. During the on-water training with Black Laser Learning, inert ordinance were placed on the bottom for training purposes.
Black Laser Learning taught participants how to analyze the sonar data gathered and perform field operations. The sea trials were supported by Golden West.
HDTC is also supporting Black Laser Learning for the same type of operation in Montenegro. We will update you on that effort in our next article.