Two Explosive Devices Discovered, Disposed of Safely in Phnom Penh

The planting of two improvised explosive devices in Phnom Penh on Friday morning was likely intended to strike fear into supporters of the political opposition, a senior CNRP official claimed, adding that the incident would not derail plans for Sunday’s demonstration.

At around 10:45 a.m., Cam­bodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) staff safely detonated one of the devices, which was placed several meters back from the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road to the National Assembly’s main entrance.

A second device, consisting of three M-79 rifle-launched grenades held together with black tape and red wire, was found near the Mahatma Gandhi statue at Naga Bridge on Norodom Boulevard. After inspection by CMAC officials, the shells were carried away by hand and placed in the back of a CMAC vehicle for safe disposal elsewhere.

No one was hurt or any property damaged by either device, which appeared to be of a make­shift nature and intended more to sow fear than to inflict injuries or cause structural damage.

Police and military officials said they had no suspects or motive behind the planting of the de­vices, though the discovery comes just ahead of the CNRP’s three days of demonstrations, which are scheduled to begin in Phnom Penh on Sunday.

“We are investigating this case. But we do not know who committed this crime,” said Major General Y Sokkhy, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism department. “We are collecting evidence as we cannot identify who is responsible,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Sokkhy, however, was quick to speculate that the devices were not planted to intimidate supporters.

“I don’t think that this case is only to scare the demonstrators, but it can make all the people scared,” he said.

Yim Sovann, CNRP spokesman, said that only people with power could be behind the planting of the two devices, which he said were obviously intended to intimidate opposition supporters.

“Even though it is threatening like this, we will still hold our demonstration,” he said.

Long Ry, newly elected CNRP lawmaker and head of the opposition party’s security, said the devices were obviously intended to scare and not maim or kill.

The “intention is to frighten rather than to kill and it is not the first time that this has happened. The plotters do not want the protest to take place,” Mr. Ry said.

“We are not concerned [as a party]. But people coming from the countryside [to the protest] might worry because they have witnessed such things happen during the Khmer Rouge,” he said.

“It is entirely the intention to frighten people by creating noise [of an explosion].”

Tension is again increasing ahead of Sunday’s planned, three-day protest vigil following Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s written warning that protesters can only demonstrate for one day at Freedom Park, and are prohibited from staying over­night in the area.

CNRP officials and independent legal experts have said the Constitution ensures the right to protest peacefully and that the government has no legal authority to set narrow conditions on the opposition protest to demand an independent investigation of the July 28 election result.

Chamkar Mon district police chief Ouch Sokhon said that police were alerted to the device opposite the Assembly building by a street scavenger who found it and notified authorities at 8 a.m. Mr. Sokhon, however, did not provide the name or age of the person who had tipped off the police.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said the devices appeared to be aimed at frightening opposition demonstrators.

“We see that this case is similar to cases that happened in previous times,” he said, referring to other devices safely disposed of but blamed on little-known anti-government groups.

“Please, authorities, investigate this case and find the real perpetrators…please don’t accuse the people who did not committee this crime.”

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