The shelling and small-arms fire attack that claimed the lives of two UNTAC electoral
employees in Siem Reap has presented UNTAC with the second of two "firsts"
to take place in recent weeks. The deaths of these two Cambodian women are the first
deaths resulting from a direct attack on UNTAC personnel. Previously, members of
the Bangladeshi Battalion and an electoral team were forced to evacuate Svay Leu
district in Siem Reap due to heavy shelling over Christmas and New Year's, in the
first direct atttack on an UNTAC position.
Both attacks resulted in the destruction of buildings used by UNTAC. Both attacks
occurred in the province of Siem Reap. That's where the similarities between these
two incidents end.
No group has been identified as the perpetrators of the more recent attack, which
took place in the village of Angkron and claimed the lives of the two electoral registrars
and a seven-year-old girl. Conflicting stories reported by the people at the scene
of the attack add to the confusion concerning the possible motives.
What is known for certain is that a group of assailants armed with AK-47's and B-40
rocket launchers intitiated a direct attack on UNTAC personnel. Witnesses reported
that the attackers, who were of "mixed" uniforms, first shot at the tents
that housed the electoral registrars, then proceeded across the street and fired
rockets at Japan House, the residence of five Japanese CivPol's, all of whom were
on leave in Bangkok at the time. That house was burned to the ground. The attackers
then passed the district electoral office and went to India House where some of them
entered and made off with a television, $1000 and a passport. An Indian CivPol was
grazed in the head by a bullet as he and four others fled the house.
A Ghanaian member of CivPol reported that he was alone in his bedroom in Ghana House
and was wounded as he held with both hands the latch of the door, in an effort to
bar the entrance of one of the gunmen. When the gunman shot at the lock, a bullet
blew off his right thumb, and penetrated deeper into his arm, and another bullet
passed through his left wrist.
The exact sequence of these events is not clear. Some, such as the destruction of
Japan House and the wounding of the Indian CivPol may have occured simultaneously.
No single witness was able to report on all of them.
The attack itself lasted approximately half an hour.
There were rumors that a Khmer woman was with Sgt. Adema, the Ghanaian CivPol, at
the time he was wounded. Adema insists that he was alone and denies that he, or any
other CivPol's, have Khmer girlfriends.
Another witness reported that before shooting at the tents that resulted in the deaths
of the two electoral registrars, the attackers demanded to see one of the female
electoral workers, and the Khmer landlord of the three CivPol residences. When neither
person was available, the shooting began.
"The incident at the village of Angkron was unmistakably, unequivocally, directed
toward UNTAC personnel and property," says Mr. Benny Widyono, the UNTAC Provincial
Director of Siem Reap. "They knew exactly where the UNTAC women slept, and the
residences of the CivPol's. In other words, they attacked the heart of the UNTAC
presence in that village." Widyono also noted that it was the first attack against
UNTAC to be carried out by foot soldiers, in an area considered to be controlled
"This sets that attack apart from the attack on Svay Leu, which fits more into
the pattern of your conventional cease-fire violation, whereby the DK initiated shelling,"
he added referring to the first direct attack against UNTAC. In this case, the identity
of the attackers was never a question.
CivPol, UNMO, and Bangla-deshi Battalion members were shelled in Svay Leu district.
Like all district captials, Svay Leu is un-der CPAF control. But areas to the north,
east, and west are NADK controlled, and the road leading from the south is heavily
Shelling began within two days of the arrival of the electoral team A total of 22
shells were fired over four days, forcing an evacuation of the electoral team. Nine
members of the team chose to return to Svay Leu district three days later, when even
more intense shelling forced a second evacuation.
"We were told that they had pushed the NADK 14-15 kilometers north of our office,
and that we would be out of the range of the shelling - which was not true, this
information from the CPAF general," says Goran Bauge, one of two Swedish district
electoral supervisors in Svay Leu, sent to initiate voter registration. "Then
we also said that when the first round was coming in then we should be evacuated
immediately. That didn't happen neither, so we had 74 shells in total, in which 3
According to Bauge, all 74 rounds fell within a 100 meter radius of the electoral
office in a four hour period, and were "meant to hurt." One shell hit the
new electoral office causing the roof to fall in destroying electoral kits and a
video camera, among other things.
"People had walked 5-10 kilometers just to register, and then when the shellng
started, everybody just fled," said Bauge. "Soon there was nobody left
in the village, except us, some CPAF soldiers, a few locals and the Bangbatt soldiers."
The electoral team had gathered their personal effects and was preparing to walk
out of range of the shelling when CPAF and NADK agreed to a one-hour long ceasefire
in which an evacuation could take place. A helicopter was forced to make two rapid
trips to Svay Leu from the district of Tayek within the hour, racing against both
the NADK deadline and nightfall. A total of 45 personnel, consisting of the nine
person electoral team, five CivPol's, four Military Observers, and 27 members of
Bangladeshi Battalion were safely evacuated.
Voter registration was subsequently ended in Svay Leu.
The significance of both precedent-setting attacks should not be underestimated.
For the first time, violence which had previously been directed toward opposition
political parties or toward the Vietnamese in Cambodia has been shifted towards UNTAC