A Khmer-language newspaper claimed Saturday that 50 Khmer Rouge armed with grenades and assault rifles were to “join” Sunday’s demonstration.
But no terrorists appeared, and government officials on Sunday called the report false. The Sam Rainsy Party accused the pro-CPP Chakraval (Universe) newspaper of trying to keep Cambodians from attending.
Chakraval reported on Saturday that the 50 terrorists had been sent to the capital by rebel leader Ta Mok, but that seven had been arrested at a hotel on the city’s outskirts.
“The intelligence office confiscated from them 15 Russian-made grenades and two AK guns,” the article said. “The government hides these news in order not to cause the Phnom Penh people to be troubled.”
The newspaper was circulated free in many of the city’s markets Saturday, including the Olympic market near the demonstration.
In a statement issued Saturday, the Sam Rainsy Party said the story was designed either to scare Cambodians or give the “regime” a cover story for an attack of its own.
“Ta Mok does not have a reason to support or oppose [Sunday’s] protest. Only those who want to perpetuate a fraud would cause trouble,” the statement read. Three government officials including Lour Ramin, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorist department, also denied the Chakraval report.
Keo Sophon, publisher of Chakraval, stood by the report, saying it came from a “terrorist source” he couldn’t disclose.
“I published this article because, firstly, I wanted the authorities to be aware and prevent problems from occurring as in the grenade attack in 1997 [that killed at least 17 and injured more than 100] and, secondly, I wanted the demonstrators who joined Mr Sam Rainsy to be careful with themselves, to protect themselves.”
(Additional reporting by Jeff Smith)