Sixteen-year-old Boeun Soky’s downcast eyes were fixated on a sheaf of plastic-wrapped photos, which she distractedly shuffled as she sat in front of her family’s home in Kampong Thom’s Prasat Sambor district.
The young man in the photos was Soky’s fiance. The couple planned to marry in March, a plan that will now go unfulfilled after her husband-to-be was killed in a grenade attack on a neighbour’s pre-wedding party in Prasat Sambor district on Saturday night.
“One year,” she said in a strained voice – the amount of time the two were engaged.
According to police, 9 people were killed and 30 injured in the night-time attack, and a 24-year-old suspect who had an argument with the groom a few days before the party had been arrested.
“It is one of the most shocking events to ever happen in the province,” provincial military police commander Hang Thol said.
Provincial deputy police commissioner Ker Khannara, who investigated the case, declined to name the suspect, but said that he and the groom had been involved in an argument on Wednesday. Village authorities had mediated the dispute, Khannara said, but the suspect had been unsatisfied with the resolution.
“It is an attempted murder, because the attacker had a plan already,” Khannara said. “The groom and bride were also injured in the attack.”
Some of the wounded were being treated at the 515 Kampong Thom Clinic in Kampong Thom town, where they stretched out on sheets dotted with rust-coloured bloodstains as family members fussed over their blankets.
Outside, staffers mopped off the hospital’s ambulance gurneys.
Lying in her hospital bed on what was meant to be her wedding day, bride-to-be Phoeun Sophal, 20, said she was baffled by the motives behind the attack.
“I don’t know who did this to me, because my family never had any argument with the neighbours,” she said, her leg in a blood-stained plaster cast with a nearby X-ray showing a serious fracture.
Sitting beside his injured fiancee, would-be groom Chear Chak, 22, said that about 100 people had been dancing when the bomb went off. It was only after he located Sophal in the ensuing confusion that Chak realised he had been wounded himself. “After the bomb [detonated], I ran to carry my wife away, because she was injured on her right leg, and I didn’t know I was injured until I saw the blood on my hand,” he said.
Chak was also unsure of the reason for the attack, saying he was “heartbroken” but would reorganise his wedding “after we get better”.
Guest Morn Cithy, 27, lost her father in the attack, while her mother, two sisters and two brothers were all injured.
“I was the lucky one in my family to not get injured, because at that time, I was just standing and laughing at my father dancing,” she said.
Cithy said she was at a loss as to how to deal with the catastrophe. Unable to afford a funeral, she had to bury her father in the jungle late yesterday afternoon.
At the home where the celebration took place, there was little to indicate it had been the site of a bloody attack the evening before. Some decorations, trampled into the dirt, were the only sign there had been a party at all.
Standing under the raised house, Sophal’s mother, San Mom, 42, said chaos had erupted after the grenade went off, with partygoers running in all directions, searching for family members.
“After the sound of the bomb, a lot of people fell down, and a lot of people got injured,” she said. “I really pity my daughter, because I have only one daughter, and it was the first time that my family had to organise a marriage party, but she could not get married.
“You know, today a lot of guests came to attend her wedding, but all the guests became sad when they reached my house, because all they saw were the bodies,” she added.