Marking seven years since grenades were lobbed into a crowd of peaceful protesters in Phnom Penh, a tearful Sam Rainsy again pleaded for justice Tuesday at a ceremony near the site of the attack.
“Although the attack was intended to kill me, I do not want revenge. I appeal, on behalf of the victims, to those who committed this attack to stop their violence,” the opposition leader said. “If they stop killing people, I will forgive what has happened here.”
Some 150 monks and more than 400 supporters attended the Buddhist ceremony near the National Assembly to commemorate the deaths of at least 16 people and the more than 120 injured in the March 30, 1997, attack on an anti-corruption rally, led by Sam Rainsy. Sam Rainsy has repeatedly said that Prime Minister Hun Sen and his elite bodyguard corps were behind the grenade attack, and that they helped the unidentified attackers escape.
Hun Sen and other CPP leaders have denied responsibility and pegged the opposition leader for masterminding the attack.
Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh and royalist Women’s Affairs Minister Mu Sochua attended the ceremony, as did Kem Sokha, Cambodian Center for Human Rights head. No CPP leaders attended.
In a short speech, Sam Rainsy praised the victims for their courage. “I can never forget the grenade attack, but these sacrifices will lead the country to democracy and give the country a life of freedom,” Sam Rainsy said.
His talk followed a speech by Sar Cheat, the father of a 13-year-old girl killed by the grenade blasts.
This month, a bipartisan group of high-profile US senators urged the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to resume its probe, which has remained open but essentially inactive since May 1997. A US citizen injured in the blast—Ron Abney, then country director of the International Republican Institute—led to the FBI’s involvement in the controversial investigation.