A DVD distributed anonymously on Monday to several embassies and media organizations depicts a man confessing to involvement in the deadly 1997 grenade attack on an opposition party rally which left between 16 and 20 dead and 100 to 150 wounded.
In the video, allegedly filmed on May 29, 1998, in Phnom Penh, Chhay Vee, who allegedly threw the fourth and final grenade into the rally, says he was recruited for the attack by a friend who worked for Hing Bun Heang, the head of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit.
The friend, referred to only as Thoeun, appears in the footage seated next to Chhay Vee, who appears nervous, occasionally checking his watch and wringing his hands.
Hing Bun Heang on Wednesday denied the allegations made in the video recording and challenged those who were making the accusations to do so in court.
“Don’t believe them,” he said of the anonymous distributors.
“I am not worried. If they are brave, let them go to the court system,” he said by telephone.
In the video footage, Chhay Vee said he was initially given $1,000 for his involvement and was to be given $1,000 more upon completion of an unspecified mission. He said he did not know he would be throwing a grenade until he arrived, as instructed, behind Wat Botum at 8 am on March 30.
“You will not get the money until it explodes,” Chhay Vee said he was told by his handlers.
A motorbike taxi took Chhay Vee to the park between the National Museum and the Royal Palace. At a sign agreed upon in advance, a man dropping a piece of white paper, he threw his grenade from under a nearby tamarind tree into the protestors who had gathered at the park in front of the National Assembly.
Chhay Vee said he didn’t know any of the other attackers but saw the man called “Brazil,” as one of the suspected attackers has been referred to, throw his grenade.
Chhay Vee said after the incident that he worried he, too, might be killed and so never went to pick up the second $1,000.
Tioulong Saumura, opposition party leader Sam Rainsy’s wife, also appears in the video footage. And the voice of the man questioning Chay Vee is similar to that of Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party.
Eng Chhay Eang on Wednesday said the he could not confirm or deny that he and Tioulong Saumura were involved because he had not seen the DVD.
He also refused to confirm or deny whether the opposition was responsible for distributing the recording.
“I don’t know, I’m away,” he said.
But he asked what had become of Chhay Vee.
“Chhay Vee is missing since then,” he said. “Where is Chhay Vee?”
Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said Wednesday the release of the DVD may have coincided with an alleged recent visit by US Federal Bureau of Investigation officials to Cambodia.
The FBI became involved in the investigation of the grenade attack because a US citizen, Ron Abney, then of the International Republican Institute, was injured in the blasts.
The FBI was recently involved in investigations of Chhun Yasith, the US-based leader of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters who was recently indicted in the US for an attack in 2000 in Phnom Penh.
The probe, however, into what happened on March 30, 1997, officially remains inconclusive.
“The CFF happened more recently than the grenade attack,” Chea Vannath said. “But somehow it got solved faster,” she said.