Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Divers clear bomb boat

Divers clear bomb boat

Divers clear bomb boat

Two tonnes of explosives have been recovered from the wreckage of a ship in the Tonle Sap river, which is believed to have been manned by soldiers from the Lon Nol government.

More live munitions are expected to be removed from the submerged vessel in Kampong Chnnang province in the coming month, as divers from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre clear the site.

Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Touch Marim said yesterday that a man fishing on the river in the province’s Rolea Ba'ier district discovered the wreckage first. Local officials later referred the matter to CMAC, from which a team was dispatched to the area last Thursday.

Hundreds of unexploded rockets have since been discovered on board the shipwreck, Touch Marim added.

“The boat was sunk during the fighting between Lon Nol’s forces and the Khmer Rouge in the early 1970s,” he said. “These kinds of rockets, even after sitting in the mud for 100 years, can still explode, so that’s why we have to take them out.”

CMAC director general Heng Ratana said yesterday that more than two tonnes of rockets had been recovered from the wreck so far and were being stored pending their destruction.

“We found lots of unexploded munitions, most 105 mm, 80 mm and 60 mm [rockets],” he said. “The rockets can still explode … and there are many more under water.”

The wooden ship measures roughly eight-metres wide and 20-metres long and currently sits below 10 metres of water, Heng Ratana said, with CMAC divers swimming down to the riverbed to remove the explosives.

“I think our operation will take one month to complete,” he said.

Heng Ratana said the munitions from the wreck would be destroyed at some point next week.

Historian David Chandler, a professor emeritus at Australia’s Monash University, said yesterday that Lon Nol’s forces would have had trouble travelling overland in much of Cambodia during the early 1970s, making river travel an attractive option.

He added, however, that vessels such as the one found in Kampong Chhnang were likely scarce.

“As far as I know, the Lon Nol navy wasn’t very large,” he said. “I don’t think there’s lots of ships like that to be discovered.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O'TOOLE

MOST VIEWED

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National