Ceremony Renews Questions Over Grenade Attack

Despite an 11-year lapse and a seemingly stalled investigation, the anniversary of the day grenades tore through a peaceful protest outside the National Assembly has prompted fresh calls for inquiry into who was responsible.

No perpetrators have been charged in the attack, which killed at least 16 and injured 200 on March 30, 1997. On Sunday, SRP President Sam Rainsy, who led the protest, expressed his regret that “in 11 years, the killers have not been identified.”

“I am saddened by the government’s inability,” he said, adding that it was high time the results of preliminary investigations were released.

“I do not only appeal to the [US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation] to reopen the investigation. I appeal to the FBI to reveal the previous investigation results—those results show 90 percent of the truth,” Sam Rainsy said at a memorial ceremony in the park across from Wat Botum, where the attack took place.

US national Ron Abney, then-resident director of the US-based International Republican Institute, was wounded in the attack, prompting the FBI to investigate. Three months after the attack, The Washington Post reported that the FBI had tentatively placed responsibility for the attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguards. Cambodian officials firmly deny the allegations.

Ron Abney issued a statement last week calling the investigation a “farce” and a “sham” masterminded by Hun Sen, whom he called the “ultimate puppeteer of all that goes on in Cambodia.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Sunday that the investigation is ongoing.

“The police are continuing the investigation. They have not closed the case yet,” he said, adding that initial investigations named a single suspect, “Brazil,” who he claimed was a Sam Rainsy bodyguard killed in a car crash.

US-based Human Rights Watch issued a lengthy statement Sunday saying the investigation had been “effectively abandoned” and calling for its revival.

“The FBI has damning evidence in its files that suggests that Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the attack…. Instead of trying to protect US relations with Cam­bodia, it should now finish what it started,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith dismissed the HRW report Sunday as “politically biased” and said he welcomed further investigation by the FBI.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said that without new evidence he saw no reason to reopen an investigation that was determined inconclusive years ago.

   (Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.