NAKHON RATCHASIMA — An army spokesman on Wednesday urged people to stop foraging for scrap metal on land reserved for live-fire weapons drills following the death of a scavenger in the northeast earlier this week.
Scavenging on military weapons ranges is blamed for deaths nearly every year, including that of a 54-year-old Korat man who became the latest to die on Sunday.
An army spokesman for a provincial army unit said that despite efforts to clear the restricted area of unexploded munitions after each drill, some inevitably remain on the field.
“I’d like to warn the public not to take the risk by entering the area,” Col. Yanyong Saenghard of the 2nd Region Army told reporters Wednesday. “There have been many cases of explosives that still function, which lead to the fatalities reported in the news.”
Saithong Arjsoongnoen, a resident of Pak Thong Chai district, died in an explosion at his home Sunday. Police said they found traces of a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, at the site, while his family said the man routinely scoured a nearby range for unexploded ordnance.
Sorasat Panichapakmonchai said his brother Saithong was among a group of locals who made a living by selling scrap metal, especially copper, retrieved from the army site.
He said Saithong had been in the business 20 years and was sometimes injured when things he scavenged would explode. In fact, Sorasat said, his brother only had two fingers left on one of his hands.
Col. Yanyong said the army clearly put up signs warning people not to enter the area, but such warnings don’t work.
“Most of them sneak in at night. So, soldiers can’t properly monitor the area,” the colonel said. “The firing area is large, in the thousands of rai.”
In February 2016, three people were killed and two injured as they tried to dismantle an artillery shell salvaged from a range in Lobburi province.
A month later, a 12-year-old boy died in Sukhothai province when a hand grenade recovered from the annual Cobra Gold exercises exploded. Two of his friends, 12 and 15, were also wounded.