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Anti-tank mine blast kills five Cambodian soldiers

Written by: Staff
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BANGKOK, May 9 (Reuters) Five Cambodian soldiers working as deminers in a former Khmer Rouge stronghold along the Thai border were killed when an anti-tank mine exploded, officials today said.

''They had been hired to remove anti-tank mines so a casino could be built at the border, but there was a technical mistake and the mine exploded,'' Pech Sokhen, governor of the northern province of Oddar Meanchey, told Reuters.

Another soldier lost his leg in the blast in the unofficial operation in a country where troops are often hired as freelance deminers.

Last month, at least 10 villagers from the same province -- one of the final redoubts of Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist guerrillas -- died when their truck hit an anti-tank mine, one of millions still littered across the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

In November, another mine explosion killed 14 Cambodians not far from the mountain hideout of Anlong Veng, where Pol Pot died in April 1998.

Mine clearing teams have destroyed an estimated 1.6 million landmines in the past decade, but those remaining and are responsible for hundreds of deaths and injuries every year.

Of more than 4,000 mine-related casualties reported between 2000 and 2004, more than 1,000 were children.

REUTERS OM HS1722

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