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Mine found near Angkor Wat

A Cambodian Mine Action Centre member lays sandbags around a Russian-made anti-personnel mine yesterday morning near Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.
A Cambodian Mine Action Centre member lays sandbags around a Russian-made anti-personnel mine yesterday morning near Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Mine found near Angkor Wat

A Russian-made anti-personnel mine was found less than 100 metres away from the ticket booths of the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Riep province yesterday, though authorities said it posed no threat to the public.

According to Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana, the Soviet OZM-4 mine is a war relic from the 1980s that lacked the ability to detonate in the state it was found.

“It could not explode unless we attached a strong wire tether to the small lifting charge of the mine and then someone stepped on the wire,” he said yesterday.

Another demining expert who had seen the device but spoke on condition of anonymity concurred that the device could not have been detonated, but added that its “new” appearance meant it was unlikely to have spent years in exposed conditions or to have been missed during clearance operations.

The mine was discovered at about 7am along Charles de Gaulle road by a tuk-tuk driver, who had reportedly parked to wait for some of his passengers as they bought tickets to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site.

According to an eyewitness who declined to be named, the driver saw the mine on the edge of a forested area and immediately called in police.

The device was removed by CMAC and taken to their Siem Riep offices for examination.

While no explanation was given for the mine’s provenance, Ratana said it may have been discovered by local villagers and left there to be found.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith yesterday said that despite the device’s location, it had not been planted with the intention of targeting tourists and had no connection to the bomb blast in downtown Bangkok that killed at least 20 people on Monday.

“There is no suspicion that it’s related to the bomb in Bangkok, but we will continue our investigation to make sure that there is no connection,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Apsara Authority, which manages the park, sought to reassure visitors that the device posed no risk to them.

“The place where the mine was discovered is outside the Angkor Park,” said spokesperson Choa Sun Kiriya.

“We are always careful to make sure that our tourists are safe when they are in Siem Reap,” she said.

Kiriya added that while Monday’s blast in neighbouring Thailand would likely have some effect on tourist numbers, it would not be overly damaging for the nation’s premier attraction.

“We have tourism traffic from Vietnam, Singapore and other destinations, not only from Thailand,” she said.

Her words came as authorities in Cambodia pledged to ramp up security at tourist sites in the country, amid widespread fears in Thailand that Monday’s blast could be the beginning of a campaign to derail that country’s substantial tourism sector.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

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