21 July 2013
Last updated at 19:54 ET
For more than 20 years, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has been training people to clear some of the country's landmines which kill or injure more than 100 people each year.
Working in conjunction with the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, CMAC has now selected a 14-strong group from 40 hopeful volunteers to become Cambodia’s first elite salvage diving unit.
During the early 1970s large stockpiles of explosive ordnance were sunk in the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers by the Khmer Rouge and today fishermen often pull up the bombs in their nets. The scrap metal value also means some try to retrieve the ordnance by hand to sell.
To counter this the selected 14 are being trained, not only to dive and recover, but to do so blind. During the training the divers, wearing blackout masks, are tethered to a rope to replicate the dives in the river. The divers can communicate with the surface and vice versa via a series of rope pulls.
The mask used is simply a dive mask painted black to ensure no light can creep in. The mask means that the real-life search conditions, which are low to no visibility, can be replicated at a safe and shallow depth as the diver training progresses.
Each dive has a team leader who is responsible for keeping track of the dive times, oxygen levels and the search pattern.
Tri Khun (left) who started working for CMAC in 1997, said: “When I was younger I worked as a fisherman before becoming a soldier so I am comfortable with the water. I have worked on the land with unexploded ordnance (UXO) and know the dangers so now I want to see what it’s like with UXO in the water.”
With depths of up to 30m (100ft) and with strong currents the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers represent hostile conditions, requiring both physical and mental strength and dexterity.
The dummy shells are placed by the dive instructors within the search grid and then retrieved by the students. Currently the team is in training while surveys of the rivers and shorelines are conducted.