An unexploded 130mm artillery shell landed in a pond behind a village in Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkol Borei district on Wednesday after it was accidentally launched more than a kilometre away by villagers in a rice field, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre said yesterday.
Uch Own, explosive ordnance disposal chief at CMAC, told the Post that unknown villagers likely found the UXO in the ground, and were trying to burn the explosive inside the shell so they could keep the casing as scrap metal, when it unexpectedly launched.
“They probably had the projectile upside down on an angle with the fuse at the bottom,” he said.
“During burning, the main explosive would have come down and sealed off some of the fuse valve, generating pressure inside the projectile and pushing it to fly like a rocket.”
Because the valve was not completely blocked off, some pressure could escape, he added, which meant the shell did not explode at the scene or when it landed almost 1.6 kilometres away behind Russey Krork commune’s Chamka Tadauk village.
“This is not a common problem. People normally report UXO discoveries to the local authorities or police, who contact us … Everybody is lucky to be safe,” he said.
Siem Hak, a CMAC deputy provincial commander, said yesterday that his team and police were draining the pond before carefully removing the civil war era UXO – a task that should only be carried out be experts, he emphasised.
The villagers involved in the incident fled the scene and have not been located, he added.
May Sokha, Mongkol Borei district deputy police chief, said authorities reported the incident to CMAC immediately after the shell landed in the fishing pond around noon on Wednesday.
On May 11, a farmer in Oddar Meanchey’s Chongkal district found 14 UXOs while ploughing his rice field, which were collected by demining centre the Halo Trust.
According to CMAC, in the first three months of this year, the centre has collected and destroyed some 36,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance across the country.