Police have two suspects in connection with three TNT bombs found Friday on Russian Boulevard in Phnom Penh, government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Sunday.
“We have suspects. They planted the bombs because they wanted to threaten participants of the January 7 celebration,” Khieu Kanharith said at a news conference, referring to the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Khieu Kanharith would not reveal the names of the suspects and said no arrests had been made.
A street sweeper found one of the devices—an aerosol can containing TNT and rigged with timers—Friday afternoon in plain sight in the public gardens fronting the Defense Ministry’s main entrance, officials said Friday. Security guards found two similar devices at a building site near the TV3 studios.
Deminers from RCAF and Cambodia Mine Action Center detonated the bombs on-site later that afternoon as police and military officers held back crowds and diverted traffic around the major thoroughfare.
Deputy national police chief Sok Phal declined to say why the two men have not yet been arrested.
“Police have two suspects and are still investigating them,” he said.
However, a national police official, who asked not to be named, said the suspects that Khieu Kanharith referred to have already been detained, but police now believe them to be innocent.
Police arrested the men after spotting them Friday afternoon near the bomb site after authorities cordoned off the area, he said.
“They were suspected and arrested when they took photos from the top of a building after CMAC exploded the TNT,” he said.
Upon questioning it became clear the men were simply innocent bystanders, he said.
“They will be released soon,” he said.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said his organization is investigating the bombing case but could make no conclusions at this time because the government has released very little information.
The recent incident comes a year and half after a failed bombing plot at the Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument in Phnom Penh, where three “fertilizer bombs” were discovered and safely detonated. Police arrested five Khmer Krom men over the July 2007 attempt.
In August 2008, the men were convicted and sentenced to between 15 and 17 years in prison. The five testified that they were tortured into falsely confessing and were not in Phnom Penh on the day of the incident.