Some Say Feud, Others Say Politics
Shattering the uneasy calm of the first 10 days of the official campaign period, an explosion ripped through a park in central Phnom Penh on Monday night, killing a young woman and wounding eight others, police and hospital officials said.
The device that detonated was likely a grenade, but that had not yet been determined by authorities, according to So Sokha, security chief of Tonle Bassac sub-district of Chamkar Mon district.
“It seems that someone threw a grenade into a crowd,” So Sokha said at 8:15 pm, less than 15 minutes after the explosion startled evening strollers at the nearby Hun Sen Park.
Policemen fired shots into the air to control excited crowds. The explosion occurred less than 15 meters from a merry-go-round in an amusement park frequented by children. But all the injured were adults.
Chan Pich Reasey, a 19-year-old who was visiting the park to play with her niece and nephew, died soon after arriving at Calmette Hospital, medical officials said.
The condition of Ney Puth Mony, 32, was serious, and police feared for his life. He was receiving treatment for a head wound at Calmette. Nhep Touch, his brother-in-law, said Ney Puth Mony had taken his children to play at the park.
Four others, including one woman, were still receiving treatment at Calmette late Monday night. Three others were wounded but did not seek medical treatment, police said.
A 21-year-old witness, Ly Sovan Sokhet, standing by the merry-go-round at the time of the blast, said he saw four men get into a dispute with a woman and walk away shortly before the explosion. But he could not be sure that was related to the violence. “It might have been them,” he said.
A Tonle Bassac sub-district police officer said two grenades were thrown from a motorbike and speculated that the attack was politically motivated.
“The attack aims to undermine the election process,” he said, asking not to be named.
Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, said by telephone from Battambang town Monday night that he was saddened by the blast, which he also could not label as political or not.
“I’m not surprised by this kind of attack,” Khieu Sopheak said. “It is normal that we cannot prevent this kind of violence from happening. We do our best. This is not like an election campaign in a developed Western country. In developing countries this is not abnormal.”
Prak Sokhonn, adviser to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, at first believed the act was political when initial reports he received indicated children were among the wounded.
Later, however, he tempered his response, saying that an investigation would determine the circumstances of the attack.
“We’ve tried our best to keep the security for this period of campaigning,” Prak Sokhonn said. “We feel very sorry that someone would do this sort of act. But we do not yet know the reason, or if this was a dispute between men.”
(Additional reporting by Chris Decherd)