Ships Sunk By Rebels Recovered

The hulls of two rusted Lon Nol-era ships sunk by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, have been recovered from the bottom of the Mekong River in Kandal province in recent months.

Local firm Rithymex Co began clearing the river in April of the ships, which were embedded in a former battle zone on the border of Kien Svay district’s Bantey Deik commune and Lvea Em district, district and company officials said Tuesday. Rithymex intended to recover the ships’ steel for scrap metal, but rust had severely devalued the scrap, causing the company to lose money, said Heng Tin, who manages the company’s site. He did not say how much money was involved in the en­deavor.

The ships, which had nestled about 10 meters underwater, were raised by a crane fitted on a barge and hauled ashore with cables, Heng Tin said. The company dismantled them using power saws. One 20-ton ship, measuring 40 meters by 12 meters, is thought to have been sunk in 1973 or 1974, Kien Svay Governor Sout Year said. Inside, the company found 10 rusted shell warheads and 14 empty DK 80 mm shells, he said. The second ship was found a few kilometers away.

Dozens of ships, many of them US-made, were sunk by Khmer Rouge soldiers along the banks of the Mekong River during the 1970s, the governor said. Some of those ships were re­moved in the 1980s because they blocked the waterway and created fatal accidents, said Phun Tith, a villager in Ban­teay Deik commune.

Because of Rithymex’s losses and rising rainy season water levels, the company has suspended plans to haul any additional ships from the river, Hing Tin said.

But, he said: “If we did not re­move the sunken ships, they would have created an island if the river becomes more and more shallow.”


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