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
"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