Trieu Phong, Quang Tri (16 July 2014)
A cache of unexploded ordnance was recovered and removed from an acacia forest in a coastal area of Quang Tri Province this week, after two schoolboys rode their bicycles two kilometers to report their discovery to a Project RENEW team.
The two boys, Le Thai Phien and Van Dinh Hoa, ninth grade students at Trieu Van School, knew that Project RENEW operated a Central Demolition Site (CDS) in the area, because controlled explosions occur there regular as RENEW staff destroy old ordnance. The area is sealed off for safety and no one is allowed to come near during a demolition, but the explosions can be heard for miles around.
“We had just finished a controlled demolition at the CDS and opened the roads to normal traffic,” said Team Leader Truong Cong Vinh, “when the boys rode up on their bicycles and told us they had found some UXO in a forest in Trieu Lang Commune.”
Vinh talked with the boys, questioned them about the exact locations of the ordnance, and scheduled his team to deploy to the sites identified by the boys. Following the boys’ directions, the teams found several locations that covered an area of some 600 m2 in Trieu Lang Commune. “Our five-man team worked for seven consecutive days and found 530 items of UXO, including cluster bombs, rockets, projectiles and a lot of fuzes,” reported Vinh. He said the munitions included white phosphorous canisters, which are highly dangerous, and had to be transported back to the CDS for later destruction.
Phien explained why he and Hoa decided to contact the RENEW team. “Hoa and I went to a Mine Risk Education musical show conducted by the Youth Union in our village recently,” Phien said. “After watching the performances, Hoa and I decided we needed to report the ordnance we had found in the acacia forest a couple of months ago.” Phien said he and Hoa were looking for acacia seedlings for their parents to plant in the family gardens when they discovered the munitions. “Suddendly we saw some wartime munitions lying half exposed on the sand,” Phien said.
At that time the boys did nothing. Then they attended the Youth Union music show and presentation on Mine Risk Education. Shortly after, they decided they should contact the RENEW team the next time they were working at the CDS.
As part of Project RENEW’s Mine Risk Education in coordination with thelocal Youth Union, the traveling music shows are aimed at educating children and adults on UXO risks and encouraging them to report UXO discoveries to RENEW’s team for safe removal. During the first six months of 2014, 15,000 children and adults in rural and far-off areas were exposed to UXO safety through the traveling MRE shows.
Hoa and Phien’s action, and the intervention of other children and adults who take responsibility for their neighbor’s safety, continue to prevent an unknown number of accidents and deaths. In May 2014, an American 100lb white phosphorous bomb was destroyed by a RENEW EOD team after an 82-year-old grandfather acted quickly to protect his grandson from a possible accident while fishing. The careful response of these two schoolboys, and the grandfather’s prompt reaction, both demonstrate that more and more people in Quang Tri Province know how to stay safe, and how to keep their families and their neighbors safe.