A father and son were killed and three others injured in Kompong Speu province when a K-57 rocket they were hoping to sell for scrap metal exploded, in an area where the Cambodian Mine Action Committee had supposedly defused all UXO, a district official said Monday.
Phnom Srouch district Governor Tep Mean said CMAC came on May 20 and destroyed UXO near Ka-ek Pong village. After the group left, villagers came to the CMAC site to collect the scrap metal, many taking it home in hopes of selling it later, he said.
Hun Phal, 26, died when the K-57 rocket exploded, as did his 5-year-old son, Hun Phoan. Hun Phal’s mother, 63, his sister and her daughter were injured in the blast, Tep Mean said.
The governor said that when he heard people were collecting scrap at the CMAC site, he sent officials to stop them, but they arrived too late.
Investigators found 539 defused bombs and rockets as well as 42 that still had explosives in them, he added.
The governor said he feared that CMAC did not properly check the site after destroying the UXO it found there.
CMAC Director Kim Sophoan said Monday that CMAC officials usually double check sites for UXO but that on this occasion they may have missed some.
“I sent investigators, but I don’t have a report yet,” he said.
Tep Mean said villagers were told not to collect the scrap but did so anyway.
“Villagers said they usually collect UXOs to make money because they are poor,” Tep Mean said.
He added that scrap buyers continue to buy UXO even though it is illegal for them to do so.
Laws officially limit the export of UXO, firearms and ammunition and ban scrap metal businesses from selling scraps of weapons and UXO, but many observers say they are widely disobeyed.
“Punishment should be leveled on such business,” Kim Sophoan said.