Detective hunts landmine menace

Kelly Bell
Detective Sergeant Tony Langer with an unexploded bomb found during underwater recovery.

For most people, the removal of landmines is probably the last thing they think of when on holiday in South East Asia.

But for one South Hedland detective, it is a reality.

East Pilbara Detective Sergeant Tony Langer became involved in the clearing of landmines and unexploded ordnance in 2009 when he organised for old WA Police equipment to be donated to the cause.

Since then, the detective sergeant has used his WA Police bomb technician training to clear hundreds of the deadly remnants of war in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.

"We are fairly lucky here in Australia that if you want to go for a walk in the bush, you can go for a walk in the bush," he said.

"In places like Cambodia, central Vietnam and Laos, you have to be very careful where you go.

"One of the main reasons why kids are so highly represented as victims is the fact that they just want to go and play … they see something like a bomblet from a cluster bomb and they think it's a ball."

In the past seven years, Det. Sgt Langer has spent weeks or months every year clearing explosives and training locals.

Last week, he launched a not-for-profit charity, Imprint Solutions, which will provide ongoing assistance with the clearance of mines, help the victims and fund other poverty-alleviation projects in the poorest areas of affected countries.

Det. Sgt Langer said the charity was about more than raising funds and organising equipment.

"It's about raising awareness … people need to know that this is still a problem because a lot of people have no idea at all," he said.

"You look at countries like Cambodia and the contamination there is about six million landmines in a country of 14 million people - that's almost one for every two people.

"Central Vietnam is still majorly contaminated to the point that it's keeping people poor because they can't use land for agricultural reasons because they risk killing themselves if they do."

Det. Sgt Langer said he believed that for every mine removed, one life was saved.

He talked about one man who was so desperate to provide food for his family he had lost three limbs after mines he had scavenged for scrap metal exploded.

"In a lot of these countries, once one member of the family gets injured, the impact is huge," he said.

"If they are the primary breadwinner … they can't earn for the family, if they are a child the family usually can't afford the medical care they need.

"A lot of these people weren't even born when these mines were put in the ground."

To make a donation or to find out more about the volunteer work Det. Sgt Langer does in South-East Asia, visit www.imprintsolutionsltd.com.