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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Wanted - grenade suspects unmasked

Wanted - grenade suspects unmasked

COMPOSITE sketches of suspects in the deadly March 30 grenade attack were issued

this week, while police officials from both of the ruling political parties claimed

progress toward identifying some of the alleged perpetrators of the massacre.

The sketches were drawn by a visiting United States Federal Bureau of Investigation

(FBI) sketch artist from eye-witness descriptions. For the past fortnight, Funcinpec

officials had been pushing for their public release, but faced initial reluctance

from their Cambodian People's Party (CPP) counterparts.

The joint Ministry of Interior commission set up to investigate the grenade attack

decided May 28 to issue the sketches. A ministry statement urged the public to help

the police find "the real terrorists" and promised confidentiality for

anyone who came forward with information.

The names and telephone numbers of five top officials - co-Ministers of Interior

Sar Kheng (012-833-333) and You Hockry (015-920-609), National Police Chief Hok Lundy

(015-831-468) and his deputy Yeng Marady (018-812-941) or the investigation team

head Teng Savong (015-831-112) - were provided for anyone who thought they recognized

the suspects.

Yeng Marady said that one of the men in the sketches was a grenade thrower, and the

other two were "protectors" or accomplices of the people who threw the

grenades. Eye-witnesses have said there were at least two grenade throwers on foot

and another two on a motorcycle.

A senior aide to Sar Kheng (CPP) said May 27 that some suspects in the grenade massacre

have already been identified and may be arrested soon.

"The investigation process is nearly complete and we are going to arrest the

suspects very soon," General Khieu Sopheak said. "We have got a lot of

positive information and this...will lead us to the suspects."

Sopheak - speaking the day before the sketches were released - suggested arrests

should be made before the FBI pictures were made public.

Sopheak said that "70 or 80 percent of the suspects" have been identified.

He would not say if they included people who may have ordered the attack but did

not actually take part in it.

Asked whether arrests were likely within a week or two, he replied: "Not a week

or two, not a month or two - the sooner the better."

Sar Kheng's co-Minister, You Hockry (Funcinpec), appeared less positive but agreed

that one or two suspects "may" be able to be identified.

"I think that a couple of persons may be identified physically," he said.

In particular, Hockry referred to one of the men in the FBI sketches, saying: "I

think there's one man who can recognize him [the suspect]. He knows who he is."

Hockry gave no indication that arrests were imminent. Even if the culprits were positively

identified, "suppose they are not here, suppose they have escaped - that's another

problem," he said.

At least 12 people died when four grenades were thrown at a Khmer Nation Party (KNP)

demonstration in the park opposite the National Assembly on the morning of Mar ch

30.

The FBI sent three agents to investigate because an American, Ron Abney, was injured

in the blasts. One agent, the sketch artist, was specifically requested by the co-Ministers

of Interior.

Funcinpec police officials have focused on a group of heavily-armed soldiers, part

of the bodyguard detail of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen (CPP), in the park at the

time of the attack.

Witnesses have said that at least two of the grenade throwers fled past the soldiers,

who prevented other people from chasing them. The suspects are said to have run toward

Wat Botum, behind which is a CPP compound.

Sources say the commander of the Hun Sen soldiers, General Huy Piseth, and his assistant,

Major Chhin Savann, were interviewed by police and FBI agents May 9. Four days later,

they returned, with four of the bodyguards, for more questioning.

According to Hockry, the soldiers initially said they were sent to the park after

the grenades went off but later acknowledged that they were there before the attack.

At least some of the soldiers who were interviewed said they saw the backs of the

suspects as they fled but did not see their faces, according to Hockry.

On May 27, an FBI agent and Cambodian police interviewed Srun Vong Vanna, a bodyguard

of KNP leader Sam Rainsy who has told journalists that the soldiers prevented him

from chasing the grenade throwers.

Vanna, who had earlier turned down requests to give evidence to the police unless

his safety was guaranteed, was taken to the massacre site by the police and the FBI

agent. He was seen gesticulating as he re-told the events of Mar 30.

A member of the ministry inquiry team, Sok Phal (CPP), confirmed that the soldiers

saw at least one suspect running into Wat Botum pagoda. "But I can't talk about

this," Phal added.

Neth Savoeun, chief of Phnom Penh Municipal police and an inquiry team member, said

he had no comment on the soldiers' testimony or on the FBI sketches.

Savoeun denied reports that the ministry had turned down FBI offers to provide to

provide lie detector machines for use on witnesses or suspects.

Rainsy - who escaped injury in the massacre and who has been implicitly accused by

CPP officials of having arranged the attack - said publicly that he will submit to

a lie detector test. He urged that other witnesses also be tested.

Hockry said the FBI had not spoken to him about lie detectors, adding: "If people

submit to the lie detector, it is good. But we cannot force people to submit."

Hockry also referred to reports that a photograph of some of the crowd at the KNP

demonstration, taken before the explosions, showed a man whom witnesses claimed had

later thrown one of the grenades.

There have been persistent rumors in Phnom Penh of such a photograph, but Hockry

said he had not seen it. If it existed, and witnesses could point out the grenade

thrower to police, it would be useful to the investigation, he said.

Sam Rainsy, meanwhile, left Cambodia after a meeting with First Prime Minister Prince

Norodom Ranariddh (Funcinpec) May 25. In a statement issued from Bangkok the next

day, Rainsy claimed that "there is enough evidence to prove that Hun Sen was

behind" the grenade attack.

Rainsy said that Ranariddh had given him a confidential report on the investigation

prepared by You Hockry. Rainsy claimed that extracts of the report included: "Eye-witnesses

pointed their fingers at the Second Prime Minister"; "Hun Sen's people

did not say the truth"; and "[A suspect] ran through [the] CPP compound

and headed towards Hun Sen's residence."

Rainsy also publicly claimed the report said that Teng Savong, the CPP general in

charge of the investigation, had admitted that "he knew who gave the order to

attack the protesters" but had declined to name the person because it was "too

dangerous".

Savong, contacted by telephone May 27, refused to hear or answer questions.

Hockry told the Post he had been submitting regular written briefings to Prince Ranariddh,

and the report cited by Rainsy appeared to be a compilation of these. "It should

not be given to Sam Rainsy," Hockry said, citing the confidentiality of witnesses.

Rainsy said from Bangkok that he would go to France and return to Cambodia before

the scheduled visit of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Phnom Penh in

late June.

In his May 26 communiqué, Rainsy urged the officials of foreign governments

"who have been praising Second Prime Minister Hun Sen for a long time for his

'insight' and 'determination'" not to hinder the work of the investigation team.

"In normal circumstances, Hun Sen would have been questioned by the police,"

Rainsy wrote. "No wonder he is trying to increase political and military tension

in Cambodia in order to divert public attention from his obvious involvement in the

mass killing which, in a democratic country, would bring an end to his political

career."

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