Ten people were killed when the tractor on which they were travelling detonated an anti-tank mine in Oddar Meanchey province’s Samraong district on Friday afternoon, police said.
The massive blast obliterated the homemade tractor, killing the 10 passengers instantly and hurling body parts as far as 50 meters from the dirt path where the anti-tank mine had been planted, probably by Khmer Rouge forces in the late 1990s, provincial military police chief Puth Sarann said on Sunday.
Suon Narong, 58, a police officer from Siem Reap province, and his two brothers-in-law were among the dead, said Puth Sarann. The group were traveling to Bak Nim village in Samraong commune to visit land once owned by the police officer’s parents but abandoned in the 1970s, he said.
Among the other victims were a local civil servant and his brother-in-law, Puth Sarann said, adding that the site of the blast was about 50 km from the district town.
“Most areas in Oddar Meanchey were battlefields during the civil war between the Khmer Rouge and RCAF soldiers. So there are many frog mines and anti-tank mines,” he said.
In the past 18 months, 23 people have been killed and three vehicles destroyed by war-era anti-tank mines in the province, Samraong district governor Bou Sakhan said.
An explosion in neighboring Trapaing Prasat district in November left 13 civilians dead, most of them members of the same family. Returning from harvesting rice, the villagers were traveling on a well-used track when their vehicle detonated an anti-tank mine.
Bou Sakhan said that Samraong was heavily laid with anti-tank mines in 1996 and 1997 as government armor punched through Khmer Rouge lines on their way to Anlong Veng district—the last seat of Khmer Rouge power and base camp of the movement’s elderly leadership.
Anlong Veng eventually fell to Phnom Penh forces in 1998 following the death of Pol Pot.
“Mines were deployed by Khmer Rouge soldiers against RCAF tanks because this location was on the way to Anlong Veng,” Bou Sakhan said.