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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘An explosion occured immediately. Prisoner Duong was in a pool of blood one metre away’

‘An explosion occured immediately. Prisoner Duong was in a pool of blood one metre away’

An account of a fatal accident during road construction contained in a letter dated June 17, 1931:

“After having eaten lunch, the militiamen and prisoners ... went back to work around 2pm. Siou, Fund and Nget stayed under a shelter made of metal sheets on the edge of the road. They stooped around a fire of dry sticks, warming themselves up.

A wine list from the hotel in the 1920s
A wine list from the hotel in the 1920s. COURTESY OF TOM VATER

Corporal Prisoner Duong, coming from the road, walked to the fire to light a cigarette. He bent over and took an ember. At the same time his handkerchief, in which was enveloped three [dynamite] detonators, slipped from his shirt pocket and fell on the flames. An explosion occurred immediately. The metal sheets were projected into the air and while the smoke cloud dissipated Militiaman Lon saw Prisoner Duong in a pool of blood one metre away from the area and Militiaman Nget not too far away.

Prisoner Duong died immediately. Militiaman Nget died during his transfer to Bokor.

“Duong was a quality Cpl. prisoner. He was one of the most intelligent men of those detained at Bokor...

“It is the result of fate. I must add, however, that the militiamen as much as the prisoners do not realise the danger which presents these explosives they are given for roadwork. Sergeant You, who seems very intelligent, declared to me that he very frequently kept detonators in his pockets for several days...

“Instructions have been given to the Post Commander that explosives are now to be manipulated with the utmost precaution, and that the detonators be placed in specialised boxes, hermetically sealed.”

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