Two men were killed off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province on Monday when a homemade bomb designed to kill fish malfunctioned and exploded aboard their small, makeshift vessel, police said on Tuesday.
Provincial police chief Chuon Narin said the men were killed in waters near Koh Trangorl island, located about “one hour from shore by boat.”
“The victims worked for a boss who does illegal fishing and is the mastermind of the operation using TNT bombs to kill the fish in the sea in order to sell them,” Brigadier General Narin said.
“Our investigators are working on this case to find the ring leader, who hired the fishermen to illegally fish by using the homemade TNT bombs,” he said.
Deputy provincial police chief Kol Phally identified the dead fishermen as Kol Chruk, 31, and Nam Chhayluon, 28, adding that both were residents of Sihanoukville’s Muoy commune.
Mr. Phally said that Pen Leng, 29, the pilot of the boat from which the pair’s floating cane basket had been launched, was arrested upon returning the fishermen’s bodies to shore and sent to court after being questioned by provincial police, who accused him of helping to make the bomb.
He said Mr. Leng told police that both men died instantly when a bomb—made of TNT and fertilizer placed inside a can of motor oil—exploded prematurely after one of the two pulled its detonator as they floated in their small basket.
“The victims…had been illegally fishing aboard baskets for five days already by using the TNT bombs placed in cans,” he said.
Mr. Phally added that police had identified the victims’ boss—who remains at large—but declined to give his name.
Monday’s was the second fatal accident caused by an explosive device designed for illegal fishing this month.
On January 6, a farmer in Tbong Khmum province was killed when a mixture of coal and gasoline exploded as he was attempting to make a bomb for fishing.