Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Army chief's house bombed

Army chief's house bombed

Army chief's house bombed

MILITARY investigators say the July 26 grenade attack on the Phnom Penh home of Colonel

Ly Vanthang - Funcinpec's chief medical officer in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces

- was not a political assassination attempt, but they are not ruling out the chance

that the Khmer Rouge were behind it.

"There is no political motive to the attack," said Brigadier-General Van

Bunny, head of the Military Police High Command, of the attack in which Vanthang's

mother-in-law was killed.

However, police were not discounting Vanthang's reported suspicion that KR operatives

may have masterminded the attack or contracted a hit-man.

"Ly Vanthang informed the police that he feared reprisals from the Khmer Rouge,

because he said he had successfully appealed to many of its medical officers to defect

to RCAF," Bunny said.

"The Government has unanimously called on KR cadres to join RCAF and integrate

themselves into Cambodian civil society," he added, dismissing suggestions that

the attack was ordered from within the mainstream of Cambodian politics.

At press time, Vanthang was unavailable for comment, having flown to Bangkok on July

29 to oversee the surgical removal of shrapnel from his six-month old baby's legs.

At around midnight on Friday, July 26, a hand-grenade was lobbed through the barred,

ground-floor window of Vanthang's apartment, located in a military zone behind the

Ministry of Defense, as its 14 occupants - nine adults, and five children - slept,

according to accounts given to the Post by surviving family members.

The Plae Teab grenade - an army-issue grenade resembling the lumpy, green fruit sold

by street vendors - landed and exploded in the middle of the living room, where four

children and their grandmother were sleeping under a mosquito net.

The grandmother, Chhiv Kim Chy, 49, was pronounced dead at Calmette hospital at 2:30am,

after sustaining fatal wounds to the spleen and abdomen, relatives said.

Although no political motive has been established in the case, the attack occurred

a week before First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh aired his worries about

a possible descent into "political violence" in the run-up to the 1998

General Election.

"As one of the country's first citizens, I am shocked by this act of violence,"

said Ly Thuch, the spokesman for Ranariddh. "What did this old lady and children

do to deserve this?"

"This is blow to democracy in Cambodia," he added. "What will it be

like here when the election finally comes about?"

Although police are still after suspects, Brig-Gen Bunny said they had temporarily

detained a civilian who is still under surveillance.

According to Bunny, Sen Pasary, the director of a local construction company and

a neighbor of Van-thang's, was spotted leaving the compound five minutes before the

explosion occurred. He was detained the day after for 48 hours.

The sentry had seen Pasary returning home at 11:40pm, where he usually parks his

moto inside an apartment next to Vanthang's.

But on this night, Pasary drove back out a few minutes later.

On his way out, Pasary told the sentry the apartment grill was locked, so to avoid

waking its occupants, he would park the moto elsewhere, Bunny said.

Five minutes after Pasary passed the check-point on his way to the Ly Lai hotel -

located around the corner on Kampuchea Krom Blvd - the grenade ripped through Vanthang's

living room.

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