Two men said Monday they were part of a conspiracy led by opposition leader Sam Rainsy to blame the government for a deadly 1997 grenade attack, while Sam Rainsy said the government was afraid of what he knew.
Chhay Vy and Chum Bunthoeun said at a press conference at the Ministry of Information that they were promised $10,000 by Sam Rainsy Party members to confess to US and UN officials that they took part in the attack and to blame it on the government.
The Ministry of Interior filed court papers Saturday seeking unspecified charges against Sam Rainsy in connection with the March 30, 1997 grenade attack that left at least 17 dead and scores injured.
The charges did not specifically charge Sam Rainsy with the attack, but accused the dissident of conspiring with others to blame the government.
The pair both said they were not in Phnom Penh at the time. Chhay Vy, a former RCAF paratrooper, said he was in Battambang province, and Chum Bunthoeun, a civilian, said he was in Kompong Cham province. They said they confessed because they never received the $10,000.
The charges allege that Chhay Vy was taken to Bangkok by Sam Rainsy Party members and gave a false story to foreign investigators that he was involved in the attack.
The government is claiming that Chhay Vy was coached by Sam Rainsy Party members and that he was not in Phnom Penh at the time of the attack.
Sam Rainsy responded at a press conference Monday and said Second Prime Minister Hun Sen had brought the charges because of pressure from speeches he had made at the sit-in across from the National Assembly: “He knows over the last year I’ve been gathering information and evidence and I’ve been in touch with many groups.”
He told reporters to ask the Ministry of Interior for pictures of Chhay Vy and to compare them to FBI sketches of suspects.
Sam Rainsy admitted he had seen Chhay Vy, but wouldn’t say when and where: “[Hun Sen] did not know what I did with Chhay Vy, and who I brought Chhay Vy to meet,” he said, adding that he was concerned for Chhay Vy’s safety.
(Additional reporting by Catherine Philp)