20 Soldiers Killed, Civilians Injured in Cambodia Ammunition Explosion

Deadly ammo blast in Cambodia kills 20 soldiers, sparking investigation into role of heatwave and need for improved safety standards to prevent such tragedies.

Salman Akhtar
New Update
20 Soldiers Killed, Civilians Injured in Cambodia Ammunition Explosion

20 Soldiers Killed, Civilians Injured in Cambodia Ammunition Explosion

On April 27, 2024, a devastating ammunition explosion at an army base in Kampong Speu province, Cambodia claimed the lives of 20 soldiers and injured several others, including civilians. The blast destroyed nearby buildings and homes, leveling an office building and barracks. At least 25 homes in the surrounding area were damaged.

The explosion occurred on Saturday afternoon while soldiers were unloading ammunition from trucks. Cambodia's defense ministry stated that the incident was caused by old and faulty weapons detonating, destroying an entire truck of munitions. Authorities are investigating whether the ongoing heatwave in Southeast Asia, with temperatures reaching up to 43 degrees Celsius, played a role in the explosives becoming unstable.

Why this matters: The tragic incident highlights the dangers posed by leftover ammunition and mines from past conflicts in Cambodia, as well as the need for improved safety standards. It also emphasizes the impact of extreme weather conditions like heatwaves on the stability of explosives and the risks they pose to military personnel and civilians.

Prime Minister Hun Manet expressed shock and sadness over the heavy loss of life. He announced that the families of those killed would receive around $20,000 each in compensation, while injured soldiers would get $5,000. Hun Manet called for the armed forces to respond to fire incidents and water shortages amid the extreme heatwave.

A funeral was held on Sunday for the 20 soldiers who lost their lives, attended by their relatives and fellow soldiers. Defense Minister Tea Seiha presided over the ceremony, representing Prime Minister Hun Manet. The wooden coffins of the victims were draped with Cambodian flags.

Acting President Vo Thi Anh Xuan and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh of Vietnam sent messages of sympathy to Cambodian leaders over the heavy losses of lives and assets. Vietnam's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bui Thanh Son, also sent a message of condolences to Sok Chenda Sophea, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia.

The defense ministry dismissed claims by exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy that the explosion was a deliberate act of rebellion, calling the allegations 'ludicrous' and 'unnecessary.' The government has warned the public against spreading false information about the cause of the tragedy.

Deadly munitions accidents are not uncommon in Cambodia due to the abundance of leftover ammunition from past conflicts and lax safety standards. Prime Minister Hun Manet has instructed the defense ministry to thoroughly investigate the cause of the explosion and publish a report to end damaging speculation. "The ministry needs to find out the real cause to stop any parties from accusing the government of being incompetent," he stated.

Key Takeaways

  • Ammunition explosion at Cambodian army base killed 20 soldiers, injured others.
  • Blast destroyed nearby buildings and homes, likely caused by old, faulty weapons.
  • Heatwave may have contributed to explosives becoming unstable, authorities investigating.
  • Cambodian government providing compensation to victims' families and injured soldiers.
  • Deadly munitions accidents common in Cambodia due to leftover ammunition, lax safety.