The Australian national killed last week in an explosion on a military base in Kampong Speu province was not a demining trainer as initially reported, but a tourist visiting the base to shoot weapons.
Sam Sak, chief of the provincial penal police bureau, said after the incident on Thursday afternoon that the Australian man killed at the ACO tank headquarters in Phnom Sruoch district’s Moha Saing commune was a demining trainer.
The killed Australian trainer was identified as Aarou Sweeibu, 40. A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officer also killed in the explosion was named as Lieutenant Colonel Kuy Mok, 52.
Another Australian injured was identified as Dra Dvey, 41. Two other Cambodian military officers – Long Vuthy, 50, and Sok Sarith, 48 – also sustained injuries.
Mr Sak and Defence Ministry spokesman General Chhum Sucheat initially reported that the killed Australian was at the base training officers in mine clearance.
But Australian officials have since contradicted the reports and the provincial governor, and Gen Sucheat, revised their claims.
Patricia Smith, a media officer with Australia’s Department of Defence, said that no Australian military officers were involved in a mine clearance exercise on the ACO tank headquarters, where there is also a shooting range.
“This accident did not occur as part of a military training exercise, and no Australian Defence Force personnel were involved,” she said.
Matthew Crowe, a media officer with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that the department was providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian man killed and another man injured at the headquarters.
“Due to privacy obligations we are unable to provide further information,” he said. Provincial Governor Vei Samnang corroborated what Australian officials said, noting that the explosion was not caused by any training exercise.
“They are tourists,” he said. “They aren’t soldiers who were assigned to a training exercise.”
Mr Samnang claimed the Australian men were visiting friends at the base.
“They know each other and they came to shoot for fun,” he said. “They saw a mine left abandoned during the war and they picked it up, triggering the explosion.”
Gen Sucheat said the incident claimed the lives of two people at the shooting range on the ACO military base.
“They did not contact us. They just came and visited,” he said of the Australians. “They aren’t involved with our unit, but their friends [Cambodian military officers] work there.”
“They are friends with our military officers and they brought them to visit the base,” he said, adding that lots of UXOs were left at the shooting range.