A US national wounded in the 1997 grenade attack has returned to Cambodia, calling opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s decision to drop a lawsuit linking Prime Minister Hun Sen to the violence “a very mature thing.”
Ron Abney, a staunch critic of Hun Sen and a former country director for the US-backed International Republican Institute, also defended his recent decision to drop a suit of his own against the premier.
“It’s a personal thing…I felt that the timing was right,” Abney said in a telephone interview Monday. “You can’t ever put behind you what happened that day. I still walk with a limp.”
Abney said Sam Rainsy’s decision had not compromised the opposition leader’s integrity, but he would not discuss the matter further.
“I would never comment on that. This guy is a hero in this country and a very close friend of mine,” Abney said. “I know what’s in his heart and it’s not selling out,” he added.
Abney arrived in Cambodia on Saturday to work with the IRI, where he is a consultant on opposition party decentralization.
Abney called decentralization “critical for Sam Rainsy in the  election,” but would not go into detail or comment further on his consulting work. He said he planned to stay in Cambodia until the end of the month.
In March 1997, Abney, then country director of IRI, was among the 120 people wounded when four grenades were thrown into a peaceful opposition demonstration in front of the National Assembly. More than a dozen people were killed. No one has ever been brought to justice for the attack.
In September, while Hun Sen was in the US to address the UN General Assembly, Abney, Sam Rainsy and two others filed a lawsuit in a federal court in New York, linking the grenade attack to the prime minister and his bodyguard unit.
Abney told friends and colleagues in an e-mail last week that he had dropped the suit in part because he wanted to help protect opposition officials and rights workers, given the current political climate.