takhmau town – At least one truck loaded with ammunition destined for Preah Vihear exploded in the bodyguard camp inside the Kandal province compound containing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence Sunday night, according to unconfirmed reports from onlookers and village officials.
Nuon Rom, 46, a village officer in Samrong village, Takhmau commune, said that he watched the explosions from nearby, and spoke directly with military officials inside the camp by walkie-talkie immediately afterwards.
He said he was told that two truck drivers were trying to gas up a truck filled with B-40 rockets bound for the disputed border area at Preah Vihear temple. At about 7:15 pm, one of the men flicked his cigarette lighter to get a better look at how full the tank was and ignited the gasoline fumes.
“There were many, many explosions,” Mr Rom said, adding that he believed both men died in the explosion.
“At least one truck was mostly destroyed,” he said. Another man, who asked not to be named, said he was inside the camp when the explosion happened, and saw four trucks destroyed by fire.
Mr Rom said that one rocket shell hit a neighbor’s home, but did not explode. Officials from the Cambodian Mine Action Center removed the shell and blocked the area off, Mr Rom said.
San Nuon, 25, was cooking her dinner nearby when she heard the first explosion.
“At first I stood and watched. I had never seen anything like that; I thought maybe it was lightning,” she said. “Then I ran away.”
Ms Nuon said she grabbed her four children and pushed them to the ground to protect them. “I was afraid,” she added.
Military police blockaded National Road 21 approximately 1 km from the blast site until about 10 pm, allowing only emergency vehicles through. Police officials declined to speak with reporters. Before then, ambulances, fire trucks, and CMAC trucks could be seen driving into the blast site.
Although a large crowd gathered around the blockade, most witnesses also refused to speak with reporters. Those who did speak reported hearing between two and four large explosions.
Several late-model SUVs carrying tags denoting the Prime Minister’s bodyguard unit left the area in a convoy shortly after 9 pm, followed by eight fire trucks at about 9:45 pm. Onlookers gathered at the police blockade reported that a total of about 10 ambulances entered and left the site.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-General Khieu Sopheak said, “I don’t know anything about that,” when asked about the explosion Sunday night.
Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, Hun Sen assistant Eang Sophalleth and Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment Sunday.