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A police officer stands watch at the scene of a bomb explosion in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
A police officer stands watch at the scene of a bomb explosion in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Cour. Pha Lina

Bomb explodes at court

A bomb was detonated at the rear gate of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court early yesterday morning, blackening the walls and leaving a small patch of broken pavement but resulting in no injuries, police and court officials said.

Brigadier General Chuon Narin, deputy chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Police, said the bomb exploded at about 1:15am yesterday. It was planted outside the rear wall where the court leaves its trash.

“So far, we do not know the exact reason for planting this bomb and the explosion, nor have we identified the suspects who planted this bomb at the gate of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yet,” he said. “We now are still working, and researching it.”

Though the explosion came during a heated post-election atmosphere, Narin was quick to disavow any connection to ongoing tensions surrounding the disputed poll.

“According to the police’s assessment and pre-investigation, this bomb explosion was not related to politics but was probably related to the rancour of suspects who were not happy with the Phnom Penh court over its work or a decision ... so they planted the bomb at the court’s fence and exploded it in order to frighten or threaten the court [judges and prosecutors],” he said.

Court president Chiv Keng said that those responsible must be skilled because they planted the explosive out of view of security cameras. However, he added that the explosion had not disturbed the court’s work.

“Although there was a bomb explosion, the court worked and our judges conducted their work as usual,” he said.

Local resident Ma La, 58, whose fence is adjacent to the court’s, said she hadn’t seen anyone on the road when the bomb went off, and speculated that the bomb may have been set with a timer.

“I was very frightened when the bomb exploded in front of my house’s fence, because it was very loud,” she said. “I thought that there was rocket shelling, or fighting in Phnom Penh, and I didn’t dare come out from my house.

“But after police came to see it, I decided to come out from inside my house, and I saw my house’s fence was mangled, and other pieces of the bomb were in front of my house gate,” she added.

A bomb ripped through a piece of the Municipal Court’s exterior wall of brick.
A bomb ripped through a piece of the Municipal Court’s exterior wall of brick. Heng Chivoan

Pou Davy, deputy commander of the Phnom Penh Municipal Military Police, said the bomb fragments were gathered by Cambodian Mine Action Centre deminers and taken to CMAC headquarters for further examination.

“Until now, we do not know clearly about the type of bomb,” he said.

The incident was not the capital’s first experience with bombings, though it is the first in more than a decade. In 1997, unidentified assailants tossed four grenades into the midst of a rally being held by then-Khmer National Party leader Sam Rainsy, killing more than a dozen people and injuring scores more.

More recently, in 2001, at least three men were arrested in connection with two bombs that were set off in two different hotels on Monivong Boulevard. And in 2009, several members of the so-called Tiger Head movement were arrested and convicted on charges of plotting to detonate bombs at the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship Monument.

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