Sabotage may have caused the massive March 31 explosion at a RCAF ammunitions depot in Battambang town that left six dead and more than 20 injured, co-Defense Minister Tea Banh said Tuesday.
The massive blast at about 2:30 am at RCAF’s 86th Infantry base sent artillery shells, rockets and bullets raining down over fields and surrounding houses.
By 11 am, explosions were still erupting from the ruin of the weapons dump where tons of heavy and light ammunition were being stored, officials said at the time.
“It cannot explode by itself,” Tea Banh told reporters outside the National Assembly. “It might be sabotage by an individual for benefit.”
The government is continuing to investigate the cause of the blast, he said.
Two RCAF colonels were arrested on April 6 in connection with the blast.
Senior military officials at the time declined to reveal the reasons for the officers’ arrest, but Khmer-language newspapers Rasmei Kampuchea and Kampuchea Thmei alleged that five luxury vehicles smuggled from Thailand were found in the ruins of the destroyed weapons dump.
In Dara, deputy commander of military region five, said Wednesday that it is too early to say what caused the blast.
But, he added, the warehouses were checked every three months, and there were no reports that any weapons were being sold illegally from the depot.
Om Sovet, an RCAF warehouse administrative official, said the blast may have been caused by old, decrepit armaments inside the depot that were not handled correctly.
Tea Banh spoke following an Assembly vote to limit the sale and export of weapons. “Our old, outdated weapons cannot be sold to other countries,” he said.
Cambodia has in the past sold weapons to other countries, Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Tuesday, but he declined to name the countries in question.