Explosion Tragedy at Cambodian Army Base: Mishandling of Ammunition Blamed

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – A tragic incident occurred over the weekend in southwestern Cambodia, as an explosion at an army base claimed the lives of 20 soldiers. The explosion, which took place on Saturday afternoon in Kampong Speu province, was reportedly deemed an accident caused by mishandling of ammunition by the soldiers stationed at the base. In addition to the loss of lives, the blast resulted in the destruction of military vehicles, damage to buildings, and affected homes in a nearby village.

According to Army spokesperson Maj. Gen. Mao Phalla, the soldiers were in the process of transferring ammunition from trucks into a storage facility when the explosion occurred, leading to fatal consequences. Following the incident, a mass funeral was held on Sunday to honor and remember those who lost their lives.

The incident was initially believed to have occurred while soldiers were unloading ammunition from a truck and stacking it on the ground before moving it to the storage facility. This misstep triggered a chain reaction that ultimately led to the devastating explosion. Mao Phalla mentioned the difficulty in determining the exact sequence of events due to the casualties involved in the unloading process.

As a safety precaution, the site has been sealed off, and deminers from the Cambodian Mines Action Center are diligently working to clear any unexploded ordnance from the area. This tragic event serves as a reminder of the dangers posed by poorly stored or mishandled munitions, a concern highlighted in a 2014 report by the Swiss-based group Small Arms Survey, which labeled it as a “global problem” with over 500 incidents of unplanned explosions at munitions sites from 1979 to 2013.

In reflecting on past incidents, a similar nighttime explosion at an arms depot in Battambang in 2005 resulted in casualties and widespread panic. Such occurrences underscore the importance of adhering to strict protocols and safety measures when handling ammunition to prevent such tragedies from recurring in the future. The loss of 20 soldiers in this explosion serves as a solemn reminder of the risks faced by those in the military and the critical need for vigilance in handling potentially dangerous materials.