Three bombs were detonated safely Friday afternoon after they were found outside the Ministry of Defense and a construction site on Phnom Penh’s Russian Boulevard, though authorities have not identified suspects or a motive for the foiled bombings.
Two of the small explosive devices, made from aerosol cans filled with TNT powder and rigged with timer devices, were discovered by security guards in front of a building site near the TV3 studios at 1:30 pm. A road sweeper found the third bomb in the public gardens fronting the Defense Ministry main entrance at 3 pm, officials said.
“This is not good for our country. Our country is at peace,” National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha told reporters, adding that an investigation is now underway.
Police, soldiers and military police responded to the bomb alert, shutting down the lower part of Russian Boulevard from the Defense Ministry to near the intersection with Monivong Boulevard as demining experts carried out controlled explosions.
The first detonation, which took place at the Ministry of Defense, sounded a loud boom at 4:36 pm. The second detonation near TV3 took place at 5:14 pm, and was followed by third at the same location at 5:43 pm.
Cambodian Mine Action Center Deputy Director Heng Ratana told reporters at the scene that CMAC will carry out an analysis of the devices.
Sao Sohka declined to comment on whether the bombs were a possible attempt to spoil the 30th anniversary of the fall of Democratic Kampuchea on January 7 or the wedding party of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter on Friday.
Among the senior security officials present at Friday’s operation was Hun Sen’s son, Hun Manet, who is also an official at the Ministry of Defense.
Dressed in civilian clothes, Manet, who recently completed a PhD in economics at the University of Bristol in the UK, appeared to oversee Friday’s operation, and was at the forefront of the security cordon as the CMAC bomb disposal experts worked.
Leaving the area on foot to a waiting car following the detonation of the third bomb, Hun Manet said that it was too early to draw any conclusions from the incident.
“It is too premature to make any statements. We are just taking precautions,” he said.
An official at the Interior Ministry said later on Friday that Hun Manet is heading up the Defense Ministry’s anti-terrorist special forces department.
The last bomb incident occurred July 29, 2007 when three “fertilizer bombs” were discovered and safely detonated near the Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument in Phnom Penh.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha and Kevin Doyle)