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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SRP to mark bloody attack

SRP to mark bloody attack

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090327_05.jpg

Opposition representatives say 1997 grenade attack will be marked with a commemorative ceremony at the site of the bloodshed Monday morning.

Photo by:

TRACEY SHELTON    

SRP leader Sam Rainsy at a memorial last year for victims of the 1997 grenade attack. On Monday, the SRP will mark the 12th anniversary of the attack, for which no one has yet been brought to justice.

THE opposition Sam Rainsy Party is to hold a memorial Monday to mark the 12th anniversary of the 1997 grenade attacks that left at least 16 dead and more than 100 injured at a peaceful rally in Phnom Penh.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary General Ke Sovannroth said the event would help highlight the fact that more than a decade since the attack, the Cambodian government has made no progress in bringing its perpetrators to justice.

"Twelve years on, no one has been tried for their crimes against [the SRP's] peaceful demonstration, and the government has never identified the perpetrators or found justice for the victims," she said.

Ke Sovannroth said the commemorative rally, to be held at the memorial stupa marking the place where the attack took place, would include victims of the attacks and their families.

On March 30, 1997, a crowd of about 200 supporters of the opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP), led by former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, gathered in the public park across the street from the then National Assembly to denounce the corruption and lack of independence of the judicial system.

In a coordinated attack, four grenades were thrown into the crowd, killing protesters and bystanders, including children, and blowing limbs off

street vendors.

After the first grenade exploded, Sam Rainsy's bodyguard, Han Muny, threw himself on top of his leader. He took the full force of a subsequent grenade and died at the scene. Rainsy escaped with a minor leg injury.

The KNP had received official permission from both the Ministry of the Interior and the Phnom Penh Municipality to hold a peaceful demonstration on the day of the attack.

Sustained impunity

Sam Rainsy, now president of the SRP, said that the attackers, like the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, had enjoyed total impunity for their actions.

"The leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime killed millions of Cambodian people and the tribunal has still not found justice for the victims," he said, adding that there was little hope of bringing the perpetrators of the grenade attack to justice.

"But we will not forget it. We will hold memorials every year in order to ensure that justice is done," he added.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that three suspects were identified by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which reported that one died and one disappeared during the factional fighting of July 1997, while another remained on the run from authorities.

"The FBI is still helping us, and we have never closed the case," he said. "As long as we can wait, we will try to shine a light on the perpetrators."

But Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that the government had no real commitment to bringing the perpetrators to justice because the victims were largely supporters of the SRP.

He added that the government's behaviour had also done nothing to pry apart the legal impunity that still plagues Cambodian society.

"We found that few crimes against the opposition have seen the perpetrators brought to justice," he said. 

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