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20 Cambodian soldiers killed in ammunition base explosion

By AFP

April 27, 2024 08:33 PM


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Twenty Cambodian soldiers have been killed in an ammunition explosion at an army base, Prime Minister Hun Manet said Saturday, .

The blast at around 2.45pm (0745 GMT) at the army base in Kampong Speu province to the west of the capital also wounded several soldiers, according to the PM, with the army saying that an entire truck of munitions had exploded.

"I am deeply shocked to receive the news of the ammunition explosion incident," Hun Manet said in a statement on Facebook, expressing his "deepest condolences" to the families of those killed.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosion.

Pictures on social media showed a destroyed one-storey building wreathed in smoke, with residents of a nearby village also sharing images online of broken windows.

Other images showed what appeared to be civilians with cuts and gashes being treated in hospital.

Munitions accidents are not uncommon in Cambodia, which is awash with ammunition following decades of civil conflict -- accidents that are exacerbated by frequently lax safety standards.

Cambodia's army said the incident was a "warehouse ammunition explosion", that had destroyed a truck fully loaded with weaponry.

An office building as well as nearby barracks were destroyed, with 25 nearby homes also battered by the resulting explosion.

In his statement, Hun Manet said he had ordered the defense minister and the commander-in-chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to urgently arrange funerals for the soldiers who died.

He also said that the families of those killed would receive roughly $20,000 each, while injured soldiers would get $5,000.

 Unexploded ammunition 

 Cambodia is littered with discarded ammunition and arms from decades of civil war from the 1960s.

In 2005, five Cambodians were killed and three injured after an explosion in a major military arms depot some two kilometres outside the northwestern town of Battambang. It was unclear what had caused the explosion and resulting fire.

Deaths from mines and unexploded ordnance are more frequent, with roughly 20,000 people killed in Cambodia since 1979 and twice as many wounded in landmine and unexploded ordnance accidents.

In 2018, an Australian and a Cambodian were killed when war-era ordnance exploded during a de-mining training exercise in southern Cambodia.

Clearance work continues to this day, with the government vowing to clear all mines and unexploded ordnance by 2025.

Only last week four people were also killed by unexploded ordnance (UXO), according to the Cambodian Mine Action Centre.

Last year thousands of pieces of UXO left over from the civil war were unearthed inside a northeastern school, including some 2,000 explosives.


AFP


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