Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Explosion That Killed 20 Soldiers Due to “Technique Error” As Ammunition Was Unloaded, Army Says

Family members of dead military officials cry during the funeral at Region 3 military base in Kampong Speu province on April 28, 2024. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)
Family members of dead military officials cry during the funeral at Region 3 military base in Kampong Speu province on April 28, 2024. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)

A senior military official confirmed that the explosion which killed 20 soldiers occurred due to an “error in technique” as the ammunition was being unloaded from the trucks into the depot in the Military Region 3 base in Kampong Speu on April 27.

Royal Cambodian Army spokesperson Mao Phalla told CamboJA News that the ammunition had been transported from Koh Kong provincial military base.

“When we were unloading the ammunition [from the truck] to the warehouse, a wrong technique was employed. One ammunition exploded and hit the warehouse depot,” he said. 

“We have never encountered this problem previously when transferring [the ammunition] but it is strange [it occurred] as we were unloading. [The weather] at the time was very hot,” Phalla said.

The ammunition, which were being transported from Koh Kong consisted mostly of “mines and mortars”, some of which were obsolete or expired and needed to be kept in storage in the big warehouses located within the military base.

Phalla said 11 villagers and soldiers sustained minor injuries from the explosion and are being treated at the Military Region 3 hospital.

National Defense Ministry spokesperson Chhum Socheat, who shared a similar view, said the explosion was “accidental”, which occurred when the ammunition was being unloaded from the truck for storage at the military depot. He declined to comment further.

The government will pay $20,000 each to support the victims’ families, while former Prime Minister Hun Sen announced aid totalling $200,000 for the families of the late soldiers.

According to Phalla, three soldiers were cremated after their families conducted the last rites at the Military Region 3 base. The remains of the other soldiers were taken to their respective hometowns where their families organized funeral services.

The explosion partially collapsed some civilian houses and damaged others in Kampong Speu province on April 28, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

The explosion also caused damage to about 20 local residents’ houses located around the military base. Kampong Speu provincial authorities have been tasked to see to the house owners’ claims. 

Chbar Mon city deputy governor Ben Sokhom said relevant authorities and the provincial Cambodia Red Cross are working together on handling the impact caused by the incident on the villagers’ houses. But there were no details as yet.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang could not be reached for comment.

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