Fifty to 100 armed men looted and attacked a northwest village near the Thai border late Thursday night, killing five people, including two deminers and two children, officials said.
One military analyst briefed on the attack was told the men were resistance soldiers based in nearby camps.
The Cambodian Mine Action Center reported that the five killed in Boeung Trakuon in Banteay Meanchey province included a section commander, a driver, two children of deminers and a villager. In addition, about 10 were seriously injured and evacuated to a Thai hospital, including two deminers, two deminer’s wives and one child.
“This is the worst tragedy we’ve ever encountered,” said Sam Sotha, CMAC’s national director.
Three CMAC deminers also were taken hostage, but released at about 5 am Friday, according to a military attache briefed on the incident. The attackers were resistance soldiers based in camps within 20 km of the village, the attache said.
About 50 houses in the Boeung Trakuon market area were razed, an RCAF general said.
First reports of the 90-minute attack came at about 11 pm Thursday.
According to those briefed on the attack, the men stormed through the village market area, looting food and other supplies.
The group continued to a nearby CMAC compound, firing their rifles and at least one B-40 rocket. Most of the casualties were in that compound.
The soldiers then continued on down the road about 2 km to the compound of The Halo Trust, another demining group.
Paul Heslop, The Halo Trust’s program manager, said Friday the attackers were told Halo was an international NGO. Thankfully, they backed off and “respected our neutrality,” he said.
Two family members of Halo deminers were injured in the attack, but they were living outside the compound, he said.
A military analyst said he’s at a loss for a rational reason why CMAC was attacked.
What made some sense, he said, is that the soldiers have been desperate for food supplies, and their “blood was up” after looting the village. “They were angry, hungry and with their adrenaline pumping, they decided to take everything. Then they backed off when they realized what they had done,” he said.
Ieng Mouly, CMAC chairman, said in a statement Friday that CMAC is considering withdrawing from the area. Heslop said The Halo Trust evacuated all 250 of its people from the area Friday while it assesses the security risk.
Before leaving the area, The Halo Trust dealt with unexploded ordnance left from the attack such as grenades, Heslop said.
Government officials only had sketchy reports of the incident by Friday afternoon. RCAF General Meas Sophea, deputy chief of general staff for operations, said he had heard the attack involved about 40 armed soldiers from the forest who burned down roughly 50 houses in the market area.
Duong Khem, governor of Banteay Meanchey province, attributed the attack to thieves who stole cows and property.