Investigators are closer than ever to discovering the perpetrators of a deadly 1997 grenade attack near the National Assembly thanks to new evidence that has come forward, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said at a ceremony Saturday marking the attack’s fifth anniversary.
“Next year when we commemorate the sixth anniversary, I am hopeful that we will have more evidence of the attack. I cannot elaborate on the evidence, in order not to jeopardize the investigation, but people are now more willing to speak,” he said.
The evidence includes a series of videotapes made by the main suspect in the case, whom Sam Rainsy claimed was assassinated by someone who feared the suspect would reveal the mastermind behind the attack. Sam Rainsy did not elaborate on what the videotapes show.
Some 300 people at Saturday’s ceremony prayed with 100 monks at the stupa commemorating the attack’s victims, which is located about 60 meters from the actual attack site. The attack occurred across from the National Assembly.
Many said they came because they cannot forget what happened. On March 30, 1997, four grenades were tossed into a protest organized by Sam Rainsy’s Khmer Nation Party to call for higher wages in the garment factories and an end to judicial corruption. At least 19 people were killed and about 150 were wounded.
Among the wounded was US citizen Ron Abney, a circumstance the US Federal Bureau of Investigation used to open an investigation into the attack. Their report, issued 18 months later, was inconclusive.
Two men who confessed to throwing the grenades later recanted their statements and said they had been paid to fabricate a story indicting themselves. On Saturday, Sam Rainsy said both men are alive, but he has not seen them for many years.
Mourners Saturday included Naiy Sophea, 27, a worker at the Chin Nann factory in Dangkao district and a survivor of the attack. “It is a good idea to commemorate the dead, but I have little hope that the government will find the faces of the attackers,” she said.
Other survivors said they were simply pleased to see the turnout for the anniversary. “I am very happy that many people came and gathered here to make a ceremony to the deceased,” said Chim Samon, 27, a former Chin Nann garment factory worker.