Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lon Nol-era artillery cache uncovered

Lon Nol-era artillery cache uncovered

Lon Nol-era artillery cache uncovered

SIEM REAP - Not long before provincial governor Toan Chay was adding to political

fireworks in Phnom Penh, workers building him a new office were lucky to avoid more

deadly detonations.

They last month stumbled upon thousands of unexploded shells underneath the construction

site.

The find came when a construction crew started converting an old government meeting

house into an office building for the provincial governor of Siem Reap. While reccently

rehabilitating the grounds, a local resident informed the construction crew that

Lon Nol troops used to fire heavy artillery at the Khmer Rouge from this area. Given

the scale of the operation back in the 1970's, he believed there might have been

a few unused munitions left behind.

A French development agency, CIDEV, was alerted and its deminers have been uncovering

thousands of unexploded shells in the area to secure the grounds for future construction.

CIDEV de-miners believe that during the troop retreat by Lon Nol government forces,

they military hastily buried the shells and munitions in order to hide the explosives

from the Khmer Rouge.

After Lon Nol troops evacuated the area, it was abandoned for many years, but was

later used during the UNTAC period as a hospital, storage area and radio depot.

Jean Pierre Billault, Siem Reap regional director of CIDEV, said it was extraordinary

that, given the level of activity above ground, none of the shells or munitions exploded

during UNTAC's stay on the site.

"If [UNTAC] only knew about the hell that they were living on top of at that

time," he said. "There was an enormous storage warehouse and there were

many heavy vehicles moving around applying great pressure on the ground. If there

had been any kind of fire, especially caused by gasoline,-there would have surely

been an explosion."

CIDEV has so far found roughly 1,500 US-made artillery shells and other munitions.

Billault said CIDEV uncovers an average of 150 munitions a day.

Billault said his greatest concern is that children might play in potentially dangerous

areas of the grounds at night.

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