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

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget