Sam Rainsy on Friday accused forces within the Ministry of Interior of trying to assassinate him, while the ministry said the opposition leader’s actions resulted in the death of a news organization driver.
National Police Director Hok Lundy on TVK Friday afternoon blamed Sam Rainsy for the death of 45-year-old Kyodo News Service driver Sieng Sean, who was slain late Thursday when unknown assailants threw a grenade and fired four or five shots in front of the Ministry of Interior.
“Sam Rainsy caused national and international journalists to go to the ministry for a news conference,” Hok Lundy told Sieng Lapresse, undersecretary of state for Information. “If Sam Rainsy had not entered the Ministry of Interior, a grenade would not have been thrown.”
Sam Rainsy was conducting an interview with Japanese journalists at the gate just minutes before the blast and was allowed to re-enter the compound about 10 to 15 minutes earlier. He was staging a sleep-in to protect ballot bags from July’s election.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said at a press conference earlier Friday that Interior officials intended to press charges against Sam Rainsy for entering the compound after working hours without permission. “At this time we have no suspects yet and we cannot say it is linked to Sam Rainsy because we have no evidence. I would say that the incident occurred by chance,” Khieu Sopheak said.
Sam Rainsy, in a press conference later in the day, directly blamed a secret unit under Hok Lundy of trying to assassinate him. “They planned an attack because they realized that this would be an ideal moment; that shooting and throwing a grenade would be the right opportunity to get rid of me,” he said.
Ahmad Yahya, Funcinpec member of parliament, who also spoke at the press conference, accused unnamed leaders of trying to assassinate Sam Rainsy.
“The way the government acted last night shows that they want to scare, punish or kill Mr Sam Rainsy,” Ahmad Yahya said.
Rainsy accused Interior official Kim Samorn, deputy commander of special forces for the national police, of plotting to kill him.
Sam Rainsy said Kim Samorn’s first plan was to lock him out of the compound after the interview, then have the assailants drive by and kill him. After regaining entry by calling Interior co-Minister You Hockry, Kim Samorn was visibly angry, he said. The official then tried to lure him away “to speak privately,” Rainsy said.
“He wanted to kill me alone with a bullet of the same kind of gun and put my body in the place of the grenade attack,” Sam Rainsy alleged. “This attack was well-planned, with different scenarios to disguise my assassination.”
Kim Samorn could not be reached for comment Friday, but Khieu Sopheak emphatically refuted the charges.
“I would like to completely reject the allegation and say there was no plan to assassinate Sam Rainsy in the ministry compound. In the ministry, there is no special or secret units to do assassinations,” Khieu Sopheak said.
At a press briefing just after his release at 2 am Friday, Sam Rainsy called the grenade attack a second attempt on his life in 17 months, referring to the March 30, 1997, grenade attack as the first.
(Additional reporting by Kay Johnson and Khuy Sokhoeun)