Sitting on the steps of her modest house, Rum Vet, 35, shyly describes the cluster bomb explosion that left her legless from the right knee down and killed her brother nearly 25 years ago. She was just a young girl when the cluster bomb went off while she was working in the fields near her house in Kratie, which is one of Cambodia’s most heavily-bombed provinces, but she has felt the effects of the explosion her whole life.
The bomb that permanently injured Rum Vet and took her brother’s life was just one of millions that were dropped on Cambodia during the Vietnam War. According to US bombing data, at least 26 million submunitions were delivered in Cambodia by 80,000 cluster munitions between 1969 and 1973. Conservative estimates put the number of bombs remaining in the ground somewhere between six and seven million.
Since the accident, Rum Vet has continued to live with her father, Ram Rum, 61, and help him grow vegetables and rice on their small plot of land. She never married, and her mother passed away last year. Although she and her father suspect neighboring fields are still contaminated, they continue to farm the land.
“If we do not continue to go to our fields, we don’t have anything to eat,” her father explains.