Military Police in Banteay Meanchey province arrested a police officer after high-explosive TNT powder and detonators were discovered in his vehicle as it traveled toward Siem Reap province, officials said on Tuesday.
Military Police officials said initial investigations indicate the 0.71 kilograms of TNT powder was not intended for use in a bomb, but most likely for use in crude attempts to kill river fish with explosive blasts.
“Until now we are not thinking about terrorism,” National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha said by telephone.
“After we arrested the man, he said it was for fishing. But for my job, we must investigate to see if that is true,” Sao Sokha said.
Sao Sokha said the suspect was arrested by Military Police conducting illegal weapons checks on vehicles traveling from Banteay Meanchey’s Sisophon town toward Siem Reap province.
Security has been strengthened countrywide in the run-up to next week’s Asean summit in Phnom Penh, Sao Sokha said.
Nhoung Thol, Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court Prosecutor, said Tuesday the suspect Koeum Kes, a police officer in Pailin town, was arrested on Sunday in Preah Net Preah district with the TNT, three detonators and a B40 rocket fuse.
The suspect is being held in the provincial prison on charges of possessing illegal explosives. If convicted, he could spend between six months and three years behind bars, Nhoung Thol said.
“No…we don’t make any conclusion that he is involved in terrorism. But the judge is still investigating the case,” Nhoung Thol said.
“The suspect told officials he was bringing the explosives to catch fish at his home in Siem Reap,” he said.
Using hand grenades to kill fish was once common practice in Cambodia. The highly explosive TNT is not a commonly used method, but would be very effective in large bodies of water, police officials said.
Security has been heightened around tourist locations throughout Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, since the recent car-bomb attack on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali that killed nearly 200 people and left hundreds maimed and injured.
Cambodian authorities are also on high alert ahead of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and Asean summits, which will see some 14 regional leaders, including the those of Japan, China, India and South Korea, attend talks in Phnom Penh next week.
Mobile teams of municipal and military police units scouring Phnom Penh for illegal weapons in the run-up to the summit have confiscated dozens of handguns and more than 160 military license plates from civilian-owned vehicles, officials said recently.