The Cambodian Mine Action Centre and Kampong Cham provincial police yesterday started an operation to locate any UXOs left in a former weapons depot which was buried in land near the provincial police headquarters.
Provincial officials said that the depot was abandoned and buried in the 1990s and the area is now needed to construct a new building for the police headquarters.
They said that CMAC officials yesterday started checking the area for any exploded ordnance buried there.
Brigadier General Min Sokunvibol, provincial deputy police chief in charge of the explosive weapon management bureau, yesterday declined to comment on the operation in detail, fearing that it may cause public concern.
“It is still not known if or how many weapons are buried down there because we are still checking the area,” he said. “There was a munitions storage facility there during the war and it was buried after an explosion took place.”
Brig Gen Sokunvibol said that the police needed to use the land and requested the CMAC to check it for UXOs.
“It is still in the study phase and the operation is going to take time, so we don’t want to publicise the matter and cause any unnecessary panic among the people,” he said, adding that details will be made public once the operation ends.
A CMAC representative based in Tboung Khmum province who requested anonymity said yesterday that they received a request from the Kampong Cham provincial police to help get detailed information about the depot because those who knew details about it have died.
“We are still trying to find out how many weapons were stored there and police told us that the depot had exploded in 1991, killing a guard,” he said. “Now the police need to construct a new building and are not sure if there are any active ordnance buried at the site.”
The CMAC official said that they have already identified the spot where police buried the depot after the explosion.
Meanwhile, General Meas Sophea, senior minister in charge of a special mission on unexploded ordnance, on Tuesday visited the border provinces of Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey to oversee demining work being carried out by Halo Trust.
Halo Trust reported that from January to November, its deminers contributed to clearing and destroying 5,337 UXOs, including 1,783 anti-personnel mines, 45 anti-tank mines and 3,509 shells.
General Sophea could not be reached for comments.