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Mine team continues search for one-tonne air bombs

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CMAC official inspecting a bomb found in the Bassac River on May 5. CMAC

Mine team continues search for one-tonne air bombs

Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) experts will continue to search for nine AN-M66 bombs and conduct a thorough study before defusing recently found bombs in the Chaktomuk River across from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on May 5.

CMAC director-general Heng Ratana said 11 AN-M66 or AN-M34 bombs may have been dropped in the Cambodian territory during the war between 1970 and 1975.

“Not all of the bombs exploded. I make it clear that during the war, we know that 11 bombs were dropped, but not just in the place. Do not get confused,” he said on May 9.

Although Ratana did not reveal where the bombs were dropped in Cambodia, he said the AN-M66 bomb found in the Chaktomuk River was the second of 11 bombs.

The bomb, found by Phnom Penh municipal workers while carrying out work on the riverbed near Sokha Hotel on the Chroy Changvar peninsula, was located about 3m deep in the muddy ground.

Suspecting that it was a bomb, they immediately reported to the authorities to inspect their finding and secure the site.

Accordingly, it was revealed that the US-manufactured bomb contained 500kg of explosives and weighed nearly 1,000kg in total.

Ratana said Cambodia was fortunate that the bomb did not explode. Had it gone off, it would have injured many people and caused serious damage to nearby properties including the Royal Palace.

“According to the risk level, [the bomb] would have caused an impact within a radius of 1,920m from where it fell,” he said.

As of May 9, the experts have yet to defuse the second AN-M66 bomb.

However, he noted that they have sufficient expertise on how to deal with the bomb, but will conduct a thorough study to ensure that safety measures are met.

“We need to study the technical details first because defusing such a large bomb is not only difficult but also dangerous. Some bombs can be [swiftly] defused while others have keys to remove without defusing them,” Ratana said.

If the bombs cannot be defused, the experts will employ other methods to destroy them in a controlled explosion.

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