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One Australian, one Cambodian killed in explosion at military base

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People transport a stretcher into Kampong Speu Provincial Hospital after a bomb exploded at a military base, killing an Australian and a Cambodian. Supplied

One Australian, one Cambodian killed in explosion at military base

Updated: 5:20pm, Friday 16 March 2018

An Australian tourist and a Cambodian soldier were killed in an explosion on Thursday afternoon at an army base in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province.

The Australian, whom the government initially identified as a technical demining expert in his 40s, and Cambodian soldier Koy Mok, 52, were killed in the blast, which occurred at a shooting range within the base of a military “ACO” armoured vehicle unit in Phnom Sruoch district.

Early reports from Kampong Speu Provincial Governor Vy Samnang suggested the casualties were shooting guns at targets when they noticed something on the ground. Samnang said they went to pick up the object – a Russian-made bomb – which then exploded.

A Phnom Sruoch district police report said the tragedy occurred at around 1:15pm at the base in Maha Saing commune during a joint military training exercise focused on researching and digging up landmines. However, this was refuted on Friday, first by Australian authorities and then by the provincial governor.

The report said Mok was the one to unearth and pick up the unexploded ordinance.

Two other Cambodian soldiers, Sok Sarith, 48, and Long Vuthy, 50, received minor injuries in the blast, as did another Australian tourist. The trio was treated at Kampong Speu Provincial Hospital. The Post is withholding the names of the Australian casualties until their families are notified.

O Vann Then, the director of the provincial Health Department, said the three injured people had received “light injuries” to their hands.

“The body of the Cambodian soldier has already been taken out by family, while the Australian body is still at the hospital waiting to be taken by the Australian Embassy,” Vann Then said.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Friday said it was providing consular services to the family of the dead tourist, but would not comment further due to privacy concerns.

The Post had sought to confirm on Thursday that the deceased was working with one of the major demining groups, including Halo Trust, Norwegian People’s Aid, Mines Advisory Group or the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, but none knew the men.

The deaths are the first reported fatalities from unexploded bombs or landmines in Cambodia so far this year.

Additional reporting by Niem Chheng and Erin Handley

This version updates the story to correct initial reports from Cambodian police and military officials that falsely claimed the tourists were Australian military trainers and edits to conform. It also updates with comments from the Australian foreign affairs department.

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