For the second time in six months, an RCAF airplane has hit a land mine on the Koh Kong airport runway, prompting provincial police to blame the former first deputy governor for planting the mine.
Four military officers and supplies for troops were aboard the Russian-made Antonov-24, which detonated the land mine on Friday while taxiing on the gravel runway after landing on a flight from Phnom Penh.
No one was injured in the blast, which damaged the tire and the left wing of the aircraft. The plane can be repaired, officials said.
“It was lucky the plane hit a mine after it had slowed down,” Koh Kong Police Chief Yem Plueng said Sunday.
“Otherwise, the blast would have been more dangerous and damaging to the plane.”
Police believe the mine was one of several planted in the gravel late last year allegedly by the province’s former first deputy governor, Pal San, who by then had left his post to join Funcinpec resistance troops loyal to deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
However, May Sam Oeun, a top Funcinpec official, said the allegations were baseless.
“Police authorities should have evidence first before they say that,” he said.
Pal San returned from the resistance some months ago, Funcinpec officials confirmed Sunday, but never returned to his deputy governor post. Pal San could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The last land mine that exploded on the runway was in December, seriously damaging another Antonov-24 that was carrying a Cambodian Red Cross aid mission. No one was injured. Following the blast, military deminers checked the runway, but did not find any other land mines, Yem Plueng said.
At the time, Koh Kong Governor Rong Plamkesan (CPP) claimed that Pal San had called him on the telephone earlier in the month, telling the governor that rebel forces had infiltrated the airport and laid five mines.
Police said they worry that there are other land mines hidden in the gravel runway and said military deminers and the Cambodian Mine Action Center will be asked to search again.
The two explosions happened about a meter away from each other, Yem Plueng said.