An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) exploded near the Preah Vihear temple yesterday morning, causing panic among troops stationed along the Thai border area, military officials said yesterday.
Chhim Sovantha, a heritage police officer at Preah Vihear who was guarding the temple, said the drone exploded at around 10:45am with parts of its wings scattering in different places in the border area near the temple.
“I saw a huge cloud of black smoke in the sky and heard the bang of the explosion near the temple,” he said. “One part of the drone fell near the pagoda of Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara and some [fragments] fell into the Cambodian side and some in the Thai side [of the border].”
According to Sovantha, yesterday’s incident was the third time a UAV had exploded in the temple area in recent years. In 2011, a similar incident occurred in Kulen district, while last year, a drone also exploded near the temple, he said.
Major General Phat Sophen, deputy commander of the third military division and Chief of the Cambodian-Thai Border Relations Office at Preah Vihear, said he had ordered an investigation into the matter.
“I was not in the office [at the time], but military officials are collecting pieces [of the drone] and are investigating now,” he said.
A provincial military official who gave his name only as Chamroeun said that parts of the drone’s wings were also found in Sra Em commune’s Sreah Kdol and Chheu Teal villages, and in Ta Thav, about 10 kilometres away from the temple.
“Some of the wing parts weigh about 20 kilograms, while others are less than that,” he said.
Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said the drone had exploded over Sra Em commune.
“All the parts of the drone that were collected have been kept at the office of the Preah Vihear Authority for experts to find the source of where it came from,” he said.
The incident occurred just two days after Foreign Minister Hor Namhong visited troops in the area.