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Cambodia’s Hun Manet demands details of deadly blast

The April 27 explosion at a military base left 20 soldiers dead and many wounded leading to 'damaging speculation'
Smoke billows from the warehouse following an explosion at an army base in Kampong Speu province on April 27.

Smoke billows from the warehouse following an explosion at an army base in Kampong Speu province on April 27. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 02, 2024 06:05 AM GMT
Updated: May 02, 2024 11:06 AM GMT

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet has ordered his defense minister and senior brass in the military to provide detailed explanations as to why an explosion left 20 soldiers dead, and many more wounded, at a base in southeast Kampong Speu province.

The blast was detonated on April 27 at Military Base 3 amid speculation that an excessive heatwave with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Celsius might have contributed to the incident which destroyed four buildings and shattered windows up to a kilometer away.

Hun Manet ordered the ministry of national defence to expedite its report and put an end to damaging speculation about the cause of the tragic incident, which has, in part, been blamed on exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Ministry of Defence officials have labeled comments by Sam Rainsy as “a moron and a psycho” after suggesting the explosion was deliberate and “the beginning of armed rebellion.”

They have also warned the public not to spread false allegations which could result in legal action.

“It was caused by a technical error, but certain individuals claim the army was starting a rebellion or mutiny, and these accusations have made people nervous,” Hun Manet said.

“It was not part of a military uprising, an act of terror, or any other intentional act, as some figures have suggested.”

“These false accusations cause chaos in our country, so I have ordered the ministry of defense to publish a report explaining the cause of the explosion,” he said in a statement.

Sam Rainsy, the former leader of the outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party, lives abroad and apparently made the comments online. In 2019, he made a failed bid to return to Cambodia and oust then-prime minister Hun Sen, Hun Manet’s father.

Since then he has been convicted in absentia of a wide range of charges, including treason, and faces life behind bars should he return. Opposition figures were also accused of attempting to link the explosion to opposition to the US$1.7 billion Funan Techo Canal project.

Independent analysts also described allegations that the explosion was linked to an insurrection as “ludicrous” and unnecessary given the suffering of the families involved.

“There is no evidence to suggest this was anything else but a tragic accident. Many people were killed, many more were wounded and their families are justified in wanting to know what happened to their loved ones,” an analyst, who declined to be named, said.

“Such claims are ludicrous and totally unnecessary,” he said.

One witness told local media the detonation happened while a team of soldiers was unloading ammunition from five trucks, while others said the ammunition was inappropriately stored and the excessive heat could have resulted in the explosives becoming unstable.

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