Letter to the Editor: 1998 Ministry Attack an ‘Assassination Attempt’

In “From the Archives” dated August 4, The Cambodia Daily reminded its readers of an event that took place 19 years ago but still reflects the present political situation in Cambodia. The August 21, 1998 article titled “Attack at Interior Leaves 1 Dead; Rainsy Shaken” covers three points that, in my eyes, are more topical than ever.

—Letter to the Editor—

Firstly, violence continues to characterize Cambodian politics under the Hun Sen regime as evidenced by the murder in broad daylight of political analyst Kem Ley only last year.

Secondly, elections remain problematic with voting, counting and reporting irregularities leading to protests on a regular basis since 1998.

Thirdly, as the main leader or a symbolic figure of the opposition, I remain a target of the ruling CPP, which has been persistently trying to get rid of me by any means.

The August 20, 1998 incident outside the Interior Ministry was another assassination attempt on me, closely following the deadly March 30, 1997 grenade attack.

Had I not unexpectedly interrupted my makeshift press conference and moved away from the ministry gate only a few minutes before the described assault I would have probably been killed with possibly many other people, in particular journalists who were interviewing me about my presence that night in the ministry compound.

Because I wanted to show the journalists the conditions under which my supporters and I were “guarding” the ballot bags stored in the building of the National Election Committee (NEC) inside the ministry to prevent those bags from being tampered with, I avoided a group of policemen who tried to prevent me from re-entering the ministry and forced my way through the gate and back to the NEC building accompanied by the newsmen.

I think those journalists saved my life because a few minutes after the assault at the ministry gate, a group of heavily armed soldiers rushed from the same gate and were prepared to kill me following their failed attempt just a few minutes before.

But they apparently hesitated to do so in the presence of the journalists.

Then they separated me from the journalists and brutally pushed me to a remote and dark end of the large ministry compound where they talked among themselves about how to “dispose of his body.” Then there seemed to be orders and counter-orders resulting in an apparent confusion that only exacerbated my anguish.

The rest of the story of that night is correctly told in The Cambodia Daily’s article published the following morning.

Sam Rainsy

Former SRP and CNRP president

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