Cambodians were fascinated by the controversial Sam Rainsy Party television advertisement aired this week and last, showing footage of the March 30, 1997, grenade attack.
But senior CPP members who saw the spot warned that such violent depictions are inflammatory and contrary to peaceful polls.
State-run TVK aired the five-minute spot Sunday and July 13. It depicts the grenade attack and the aftermath for the victims’ families. Four grenades were thrown by unknown attackers into a crowd of about 200 demonstrators and onlookers at a rally led by Sam Rainsy protesting alleged CPP-bias in the judiciary.
About 10 patrons and staff in a Kompong Cham town restaurant stopped everything last week to watch the video spot.
Meanwhile, in the capital, many residents said they had not seen the video. But those who had watched it supported the airing.
In Phnom Penh’s Phsar Thmei, shopper Lim Kim Suor, 20, said Thursday the grenade attack was real and deserves to be televised.
Bun Sokha, 46, a street vendor, said the TV spot could affect voters but doubted it would increase the level of violence as some CPP officials claim. “If someone wants to forget not only this killing but every other, it means they consider the life of a person to be worthless.”
CPP members said last week they do not protest the National Election Committee’s decision to allow the video to be shown. But Muth Khieu, an adviser to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the videotape encourages people to commit acts of violence.
“Hun Sen is trying to forget about the past and bring the country peace,” Muth Khieu said a day after the video was first aired. “To televise such video footage does not benefit the nation.
“Of course, [Sam Rainsy] takes advantage of the interest in [the grenade attack]. But it is his right.”
Oum Sarith, Cabinet chief for CPP President Chea Sim and a party reserve candidate in Kandal province, said the advertisement sullies what has otherwise been a good campaign atmosphere. “It is not a good sign for the election,” Oum Sarith said.
NEC President Chheng Phon wrote to Sam Rainsy after the tape was submitted earlier this month, pleading with him to consider withdrawing or editing the broadcast to make it less emotive.
(Reporting by Marc Levy, Khuy Sokhoeun, Jeff Smith and Kimsan Chantara)