Five people were killed and three injured in Oddar Meanchey on Friday when the makeshift truck they were riding in drove over an anti-tank mine in Samraong district’s Konkriel commune, police said.
The eight villagers—including two infants, one of whom died—were on their way to a rice mill and their vehicle was weighed down with heavy bags of rice, said Lek Sokha, a provincial police official.
Though the pathway through Chroeng village was one the villagers used often, recent rains had softened the earth and potentially dislodged the anti-tank mine, Lek Sokha added.
“This is the rainy season. The land is soft, and vehicles sink deeper than before. So it can explode if the truck is carrying heavy things,” he said, adding that this was the worst landmine accident to hit the former Khmer Rouge hotbed since 2006, when an anti-tank mine exploded in Samraong, killing 10 people instantly.
Friday’s blast obliterated the homemade truck and killed Thoung Kea, 50, and Chea Sophan, 60, as well as 18-year-old Minh Bol, 20-year-old Tann Touch and a 4-month old baby, said district police chief Saing Yen.
“After the incident, we collected their separate body parts, and we could not tell whose they were,” he said.
Un Sokha, 28, who was driving and owned the truck, survived the explosion and was taken to a district health center. Minh Tran, 24, and her 8-month old child also survived and were taken to a Siem Reap provincial hospital, where they remained Sunday, Saing Yen said.
Cambodia Mine Action Center Director-General Khem Sophoan said Sunday that he believes the anti-tank mine in Friday’s accident was a remnant of the factional fighting of 1997. Following a two-day battle with CPP forces in Phnom Penh, Funcinpec troops fled to the nearby border town of O’Smach at that time, he said.
However, Lek Sokha said he thinks it more likely that the landmine dates back to earlier fighting between the Khmer Rouge and government forces.