Cambodian de-miners plunge into dive training


by Reuters

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Scuba diving in Cambodian waters off the coast of Sihanouk Ville province.

But this is work not recreation.

These men are mine removal experts, learning to dive to recover munitions sunk during fighting in the 1960s and 70s.

The 14-strong mine-disposal team was selected from 40 applicants.

But first they had to learn the basics -- starting with how to swim.

SOUNDBITE: 43-year-old trainee diver from Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) Mam Vuth, saying (Khmer):

"It was so hard to learn swimming or diving in the beginning but now I am doing fine."

Allen Tan from the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation which is providing the training said the men are being taught by a former U.S. Navy diver.

SOUNDBITE: Allen Tan, general manager of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation which is providing the training, saying:

"They're going to be eventually, when they have enough training, to go into the Mekong or Tonle Sap rivers, and those rivers are very low visibility, maybe 10 centimetres or zero visibility so you can't see. They going to be asked to recover ordnance from the bottom of those rivers and bring it up to the surface. Now from a diving standpoint this is inherently pretty dangerous process. There are some...there's a lot of things that can happen in the river, it's very dynamic environment, as we say, and requires a lot of training."

Once the training's over, these men will form Cambodia's first underwater salvage unit, tackling the large quantities of unexploded weapons plaguing rivers and lakes after decades of conflict.