A day after three bombs failed to detonate at the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument in Phnom Penh on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said that police were making progress but stressed that the inquiry was in its early stages.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Monday that authorities had uncovered leads into the failed bombing but declined to give details.
“We have already traced the activities and a light has been given to us,” Khieu Sopheak said.
“Right now, the investigation is in progress,” he added.
Nov Lakena, director of the Interior Ministry’s antiterrorism department, said the investigation was being led by Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth, who could not be reached for comment.
The detonator of one of the three “fertilizer bombs” exploded at the monument shortly after 5 am Sunday. Bomb disposal experts dealt with the remaining two devices and there were no injuries and no apparent damage to the monument, a tribute to the military defeat of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 by Vietnamese-backed forces.
Heng Ratana, deputy director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, which neutralized the devices Sunday, said that bomb fragments were still being analyzed. Preliminary findings, however, indicated the bombs were fairly sophisticated.
“It looked professional in certain parts, not in all parts,” he said. “Of course the people needed to have some kind of training,” he added.
There was a high degree of probability that the explosives, which weighed around 60 kg, would have destroyed the monument had they been successfully detonated, Heng Ratana said, though he added that he could not be certain of this.
Bombs made from diesel and fertilizer were last used in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, who used the mixture in improvised devices in the late 1990s, he said.
Sam Khandy, a 28-year-old scavenger who lives in the park where the monument is located, claimed Monday that he was questioned Sunday by Interior Ministry officials.
Sam Khandy said he told the police that two masked men shouted at him early Sunday morning when he approached plastic containers they had left by the monument.
Staff of the rights group Adhoc said Monday they were interviewing Sam Khandy as part of an effort to monitor events stemming from the blasts.
During Sunday’s questioning, police showed Sam Khandy and four other witnesses a sketch depicting a man they said was a suspect, Sam Khandy said in an interview at Adhoc headquarters.
Sam Khandy also claimed that an acquaintance had Monday given police two SIM cards from mobile phones that were reportedly stolen from the bombers who, according to Sam Khandy, were allegedly attacked by hoodlums in the park after planting the devices. Officials could not be contacted to corroborate Sam Khandy’s claims.
Sunday’s failed bombing was not the first attack on the monument.
The Khmer Rouge in May of 1997 announced plans to destroy all such monuments, and a month later a bomb in Sihanoukville damaged much of that city’s Vietnam friendship monument.
Protestors at an August 1998 opposition party rally took sledgehammers to the monument in Phnom Penh, smashing the stone faces of Khmer and Vietnamese soldiers before protest leaders persuaded them to stop.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam on Monday declined to comment on the attempted bombing pending the outcome of the investigation.
“I think now we will have no action because the investigating is ongoing by the local authorities,” he said. “We have no evidence to prove who did the action.”