A grenade that exploded in the middle of a busy street in Phnom Penh on Tuesday night was tossed by members of a “political group” attempting to sow discord, a senior police official said on Thursday—one day after investigators said they had no leads in the case.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said the blast that injured at least three people on Street 163 was the work of “anarchists” who “intended to cause social turmoil.”
“It was not terrorism, but…we think a group of people intended to cause trouble,” he said. “It was done by a political group.”
Lieutenant General Chantharith declined to say which political organization he believed was behind the explosion but said the conclusion was based on solid police work.
Security camera footage shared on social media this week shows the grenade appearing in the middle of the road as a line of motorbikes drive past. Seconds later, it explodes to the left of an SUV.
Lt. Gen. Chantharith said the police were now searching for two men who passed the SUV on motorbikes just before the explosion.
“We are seeking to arrest the two men who were on the motorbikes,” he said. “We are burning our hands and feet to crack this case.”
The spokesman also said that six people were injured in the blast—not three, as initially reported. An Indian man, a Vietnamese man and a Cambodian woman were treated for shrapnel wounds; at least two of them were released from the hospital on Wednesday.
The theory that the grenade was the work of a political organization comes amid claims by the government that the CNRP is a threat to national security and democracy.
Days after political analyst Kem Ley was shot dead in July, CPP-aligned media organizations blamed the opposition party for the murder. CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said at the time that he had received the same information, adding that it was in the CNRP’s interest for violence to occur that could then be blamed on the government.
Last month, government spokesman Phay Siphan accused the opposition of attempting to “disturb the public order” by backing the peaceful “Black Monday” campaign, whose participants have been calling for the release of officials and activists jailed in cases widely believed to be politically motivated.
CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang on Thursday rejected the prevailing police theory about the grenade blast—and suggested an alternate one.
“We should think about which political group has the weapons,” he said. “The political group that is fighting through nonviolence would have been unable to do that.”