Police Identify Suspect in Racially Motivated Riverfront Attacks

Police have identified the grandson of a high-ranking government official as a suspect involved in a recent spate of incidents where bricks have been thrown at foreigners in the vicinity of Phnom Penh’s popular riverfront, a municipal police official said yesterday.

Mom Sitha, director of the foreigner bureau of the municipal police, said yesterday that police were getting closer to catching the suspect who has injured several people so far.

“We have found out what the suspect looks like…. We believe it is the grandson of a high-ranking government official,” Mr Sitha said.

Mr Sitha declined to name the suspect yesterday, but said police were doing everything they could to try and catch him.

“Foreigners, please do not worry right now because our police are deployed everywhere in the areas…on the riverside,” he said.

“We are watching to try and get evidence of the suspect [committing these acts]. Police are deployed from the Royal Palace until the night market [at the corner of St 110 and Sisowath Quay].”

While only one person has lodged a formal complaint with police after having been hit by a brick, several others in recent months have reported being injured or experiencing near misses from projectiles. In most of the reported cases, foreigners recalled seeing an SUV or a pick-up truck drive away from the scene after the attack.

The identification of a relative of a government official as a suspect mirrors the suspect in a spate of similar unsolved attacks in 2004. That year several Westerners walking along the riverside were targeted by a person using a high-powered slingshot to shoot marbles and ball bearings. One tourist reportedly lost an eye in one of the daylight attacks.

Police said at the time that their main suspect was the son of a high-ranking official, who had previously had an argument with a foreigner. No one was ever reported to have been arrested over the slingshot attacks.

Business owners along the riverside said yesterday they believed the area was generally safe after dark, and that theft was a bigger problem than random, racially-charged violence.

Rachana Chim, managing director of the Sisowath Quay-based Mekong Imperial International Travel and Tours, said yesterday that he had not heard about the recent attacks on foreigners.

“About two to three months ago there were many robberies along the riverside, but I have not heard about any bricks being thrown,” Mr Chim said.

“If these attacks are happening then the government should do something about it to ensure the safety along the river.”

The owner of a popular riverside eatery, who declined to be named for fear of retribution, said he had heard about the attacks and believed it was obvious who was behind them.

“I would think that probably 90 percent of those engaged in this type of activity would be the young children from wealthy families who think they are above the law,” he said.

 

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