Cambodia anti-tank mine kills 14 on tractor

Thai de-miners working on Thai-Cambodian border June 2008
Image caption Mine clearance remains a dangerous, painstaking process

The explosion of an anti-tank mine left behind by civil war in Cambodia has killed 14 people.

The group, which included a one-year-old girl, was returning from work at a chilli farm when their tractor hit the mine.

Official figures just released showed that people die in incidents involving unexploded ordinance every week.

A conference just held in neighbouring Laos highlighted the problem of cluster bombs left behind by war.

The deaths in Cambodia decimated five families in the northwest province of Battambang.

The police chief of Banan district, Buth Sambo, said it was "a tragedy".

The driver of the tractor had decided to take a short-cut and crossed into a field which had once been the site of heavy fighting between the Khmer Rouge and government troops.

The Cambodian government said 53 people died this year up to October; 63,754 people have died from left-over ordinance since 1979.

De-mining work, by Cambodian and international teams, has reportedly destroyed 2.7m mines, but an estimated 4m to 6m land mines and other unexploded ordnance continue to maim or kill Cambodians each year.

The Laos conference heard from the Cluster Munition Monitor that three months after an international treaty banning cluster bombs came into force, stockpiles are already being destroyed by signatories to the convention.

More than 100 countries have agreed to ban the weapon, which scatters hundreds of smaller bombs over a wide area.

They are blamed for causing civilian casualties both at the point of impact and for years afterwards by remaining armed and in effect becoming landmines.

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