Cambodian officials believe a remotely controlled aircraft, better known as a “drone” and possibly of Thai origin, exploded and crashed around 17 km southeast of Preah Vihear temple at noon on Wednesday.
“The provincial office’s preliminarily evaluation is that the exploding object was a small airplane without a pilot,” said Long Sovann, Preah Vihear’s second deputy governor.
Nuth Teng, Preah Vihear provincial bureau chief for RCAF’s second infantry brigade, said Thursday that debris from the unidentified aircraft was found scattered over one square-kilometer.
Nuth Teng said the unmanned aircraft might have belonged to the Thai military.
“It may have accidentally shot out from a [military] exercise in Thai- land,” he said. Investigators, who collected and attempted to reassemble the craft, were unable to determine exactly what it is, he added.
Locals said they heard multiple explosions in the air before the craft crashed, he said.
“It’s like an imitation airplane installed with explosive equipment,” Nuth Teng said, adding that villagers likened the sound of the explosions to that of US bombs dropped on Cambodia in the 1970s.
Chhay Sinarith, director of the Interior Ministry’s General Information Department, said he received a report from authorities in Preah Vihear province that three explosions were heard over Choam Ksan district’s Kantuot commune and 50 kg of metal were retrieved from the crash site area.
“The explosions did not hurt any villagers,” he said.
Chhay Sinarith said he doubted that neighboring countries would knowingly violate Cambodian airspace.
“I don’t think they would do that to us,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Defense was in charge of the investigation.
Defense Minister Tea Banh said he was unaware of the incident.
In May 1999, RCAF soldiers recovered what they believed to be debris from a remote-controlled aircraft blown up by the Thai military, debris from which landed in Oddar Meanchey province.
Thai officials denied at the time that any such incident occurred.
Attempts to contact officials at the Thai Embassy were unsuccessful Thursday.
(Additional reporting by James Welsh)