The long search for justice was once again the theme of Monday’s ceremony commemorating the 12th anniversary of the deadly 1997 grenade attack on a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh.
SRP President Sam Rainsy said at the ceremony that despite the dozen intervening years since the attack he was more hopeful than before that the offenders would be arrested.
“We hope one day justice will come,” he said. “We demand justice for all.”
Shortly after the rally began March 30, 1997, unknown perpetrators lobbed four hand grenades into the throng, killing at least 16 demonstrators and injuring more than 150. Laborers, students, bystanders and a bodyguard of Sam Rainsy, who shielded him from the blast, were among the dead.
Also injured in the blast was Ron Abney, a US citizen and employee of the International Republican Institute. He was wounded in his leg and hip and, according to Sam Rainsy, recently underwent surgery for an ulcer on his injured limb.
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which began its own inquiry into the attack because Abney was harmed, was not able to reach a conclusion as to who was behind the brutal attack and had now closed its investigation.
“We extend our sympathies to the families of the victims of the attack and note with regret that the perpetrators of the attack have not been brought to justice,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail. “The victims and their families deserve justice and we urge the Cambodian government to make every effort to solve this case.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Cambodia authorities were still investigating the grenade attack but had made no arrests in the past 12 years.
On Monday, a crowd of about 150 people, many of them SPR members or family members of the dead, maimed and injured, sat by the memorial stupa erected in the park next to Wat Botum a short distance from where the grenades were thrown. A group of Buddhist monks chanted prayers for the dead while members of the audience placed offering at the foot of the monument.
Speaking before the gathered audience and onlookers, Ly Niry, 66, told of how shrapnel ripped through the body of her son, Cheath Dongdaravuth. A doctor and newspaper publisher, he died in a pool of his own blood, she said, as police prevented his younger brother from carrying him to a nearby hospital for treatment.
“I do not want compensation from the killers,” she said gripping the microphone, “but I want the government or the courts to sentence them.”