Tbong Khmum provincial authorities reported two deadly accidents last week – one involving an unexploded ordnance (UXO) and another involving a death during a mountain excavation.
The first incident occurred when a 125mm artillery shell exploded on Saturday morning, killing a blacksmith and injuring his four-year-old grandson in Tbong Khmum province’s Pich Thmor commune.
Speaking to The Post on Sunday, commune police chief Tim Neang said 59-year-old Pheap Phal had used the UXO as support during forging, a process in which blacksmiths shape metal objects.
“There are other blacksmiths in the area who use such bombs as support,” he said.
“Phal’s wife told the police that her husband had worked as a blacksmith for over 15 years and that he had often used the 125mm shell at work, but nothing had ever happened.”
Recounting the state of deceased’s body, Neang said Phal’s belly and upper legs were “shredded to pieces”, leaving only his lower legs and feet intact.
Meanwhile, Phal’s grandson, who was sitting about five metres away from him when the shell exploded, suffered minor head injuries.
After the accident, Neang added, he sent a report to the provincial police who later requested the local Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) investigate the cause of the explosion.
In response to the inquiry, Tbong Khmum-based CMAC officers explained that such artillery shells were dropped during the civil war. They noted that although the bombs had already been detonated, the shells could explode again when hit with strong impact.
‘Lack of data’
Neang said his team did not know the exact number of 125mm artillery shells left in the area due to a “lack of data”.
CMAC has previously issued an advisory urging people not to handle or tamper with any UXOs they might find, even if they have previously exploded.
In a separate incident in the province on Friday, a truck driver identified as 29-year-old Chum Ratana was killed at a mountain rock excavation station owned by China Road and Bridge Corporation in Chub commune.
Following an explosion, `the victim was struck on the head by falling rocks from the mountain, dying on the spot.
Deputy provincial police chief Chork Sok Kao told The Post that two suspects, Thai nationals, were arrested following the accident.
Theng Cheang, spokesperson for the Tbong Khmum provincial court, said on Sunday that the two suspects were being questioned by a prosecutor.
“The case has not reached the investigating judge,” he said.