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Kampong Speu military base is closed after deaths

Police tape cordons off the shack used at a shooting range inside a military base in Kampong Speu province, where an explosion killed an Australian man and a Cambodian solider late last week. Authorities say no investigation will be undertaken. Facebook
Police tape cordons off the shack used at a shooting range inside a military base in Kampong Speu province, where an explosion killed an Australian man and a Cambodian solider late last week. Authorities say no investigation will be undertaken. Facebook

Kampong Speu military base is closed after deaths

A Kampong Speu shooting range believed to be the site of a fatal explosion that killed a Cambodian soldier and an Australian tourist late last week has temporarily closed.

The site, called “Cambodian Shooting Range” on Facebook, is marked as being in Kampong Speu province, where a bomb claimed the lives of two people and injured two others on Thursday. Photos featured on the page resemble those from the scene of the tragedy.

When contacted via Facebook, an administrator of the Cambodian Shooting Range page said they were not open.

“All shooting is currently suspended until further notice,” they said. The Facebook page was later removed.

The fatality at the site – which is located inside a military base – will not be investigated, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said on Monday, saying the incident was a “private matter” between friends.

The shooting range is one of several in Cambodia located on military grounds where tourists can pay to shoot rifles, hurl grenades and fire bazookas. Despite Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak saying the practice was illegal over a decade ago, it continues to thrive.

Evie Pettit, a British tourist, said she and a fellow traveller had booked an excursion to fire weapons in Kampong Speu through the B52 Hostel, and that the hostel promised them a “good discount”. She paid $50 to shoot an M16 rifle, while her friend forked out more to shoot a machine gun and rocket launcher. After the recent tragedy, Pettit said she looked back on the experience “in a totally different way”.

“Now that I look back on it, it didn’t seem very safe at all. I couldn’t see any safety measures for the weapons themselves . . . and where we shot from was literally a shack,” she said, showing photos of the range that also resembled those furnished from the scene of the blast. “We didn’t have protective eyewear either.”

Pettit said a man from the hostel drove the pair to the location and encouraged them to buy beers along the way. The weapons were kept in a cart and Cambodians supervising the shooting range were “drinking brandy and beers”.
Sath Nanthy, an employee at the B52 Hostel in Phnom Penh, said “of course” tourists could pay to shoot guns at a firing range in Kampong Speu.

Prices range from $20 to shoot a handgun to $300 for a rocket launcher, he said.

“Yes it’s safe,” he said. “It’s not really [illegal], because if you want to shoot, you pay.”

He said the two Australians involved in the fatal explosion had not stayed at B52.

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