Trieu Phong, Quang Tri (24 December 2013)
A teenage boy may have saved schoolmates and local residents from death and injury today by flagging down a Project RENEW Mobile EOD team and directing them to a cache of more than 100 cluster munitions and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) he had found near his home.
Le Xuan Nhan, a sixth grader at Trieu Van Secondary School, knew that the Project RENEW team was operating in Trieu Phong District. So the 12-year-old waited by the side of the road in Trieu Van Commune until he spotted the RENEW vehicle approaching, then he stepped out and flagged down the truck and the team. They were on their way to a site where they are working on a cluster munitions remnant survey (CMRS) to determine the level and extent of danger to local people and plan the cleanup.
Spotting Nhan waving to the team to stop, CMRS team leader Ngo Thien Khiet ordered the vehicle to halt so they could talk with the boy and see what was the problem. Nhan reported that he had discovered a big quantity of UXO in a village acacia forest near his house while he was tending cows the other day.
Team leader Khiet quickly invited the boy to get into the truck and lead the team to the the location of the UXO. On the way, Nhan told the team that he had seen “a lot of bombs and mines“ in the area, and after attending risk education training at the Mine Action Visitor Center in Dong Ha this year, he was aware that he had a responsibility to report them. When he realized the RENEW team was working in the area, Nhan decided to report his findings. “I was scared that someone would be killed or injured because of these bombs,” Nhan said, “if they are tending their buffaloes or working in this area – like Mr. Cat who lost his leg several years ago.” Cat was one of the 1300 casualties in Trieu Phong District since the war ended in 1975.
Arriving at the site where Nhan led them, the team found UXO lying scattered all over the ground. Khiet patted Nhan on the shoulder and thanked him for his diligence, reminding him that his action may have kept friends and family safe from a potential tragedy. Congratulating him for being alert and flagging the team down that morning, Khiet invited Nhan to climb into the truck for a quick ride to school so that Nhan wouldn’t be late.
Meanwhile, the CMRS team investigated the area and fenced it off with warning signs to prevent villagers from entering the site. Information was passed on to a RENEW mobile EOD team operating in Trieu Phong District to schedule a timely technical response and start cleaning up the site. That work continued all day on Tuesday, with the team identifying a total of 118 items of UXO which included artillery shells, white phosphorous mortar rounds, rocket warheads and deadly cluster munitions. Unstable items that were too dangerous to move were destroyed in place, while other more stable ordnance was removed and transported to RENEW’s central demolition site for safe destruction.
The risk education training which taught Nhan and his classmates how to identify and report the danger of UXO is provided at the Mine Action Visitor Center in Dong Ha, where more than 3,000 students have learned about UXO risks and how to be safe when they encounter these threats. The activity is part of an integrated Mine Risk Education program for local children conducted by Project RENEW and partially funded by the U.S. Department of State and the government of Norway.
In 2013, through the MRE program, Project RENEW provided UXO safety messages to more than 40,000 children and adults living in the four districts of Hai Lang, Trieu Phong, Cam Lo and Dakrong. In addition to receiving guidance on alertness and constant safe behavior, all members of the community are encouraged to report UXO sightings to RENEW teams for timely and safe removal.
Young people like Nhan and his classmates, their family and all adults in the community, have become the first line of defense against accident and injury from bombs and mines – in the continuing struggle to make Quang Tri Province safe.