JAMES Grant didn’t see it coming. Literally. As he was walking in Daun Penh district with some friends one night last month, a chunk of rock “about the size of my fist” struck him in the back of the head, causing him to black out for a few seconds.
“It was me and three girls walking along the riverside. We were just talking, and all of a sudden something hit me in the back of the head,” he said. “It felt like someone just punched me.”
He said one of the girls saw that the rock had been thrown from “a gold 4x4 Lexus”.
“Because we were walking in a line, it bounced off my head, hit my friend’s stomach and then came across my other friend’s foot,” he said of the attack, which occurred on June 16.
“I went to bed, and woke up at 6 in the morning and was really violently sick. I had a killer migraine. It must’ve been some sort of concussion.”
Eight such attacks have been reported to the Post since April, all of them taking place along the riverfront. In each case, an expatriate claims to have been hit by a brick or a piece of rock thrown from an SUV or a truck.
“I heard through a friend that there were around seven or eight people [attacked] recently,” said Grant, a freelance photographer who occasionally contributes to the Post. He added that his assistant had recently dodged a brick attack near Kandal Market that was attempted in broad daylight.
Jess Truglia, a British national living in Phnom Penh, said she was attacked in a similar fashion in late May.
“I was leaving Metro to go to Riverhouse,” she said. “I began to cross the road and a car turned down, and a brick hit me in the back.”
She noted that the vehicle was a pickup truck, and that the projectile was actually “half a brick”.
“A friend of mine that it [also] happened to was at a cashpoint, and it definitely came from a car,” she said.
Neither Grant nor Truglia reported the incidents to police.
But Patrick Falby, a former Post reporter, said he went to police soon after being attacked July 13 on Street 178.
“A silver SUV, a Toyota I think, slowed down and I was hit in the jaw with a brick,” he said. “I reported it to police, they told me to write down exactly what happened, and I said, ‘This is happening a lot, so I’d be happy to pass on a few details.’ They said they’d look into it and get back to me, but they haven’t.”
Sok Chhorn, the police chief in Chey Chumneah commune, said police were still investigating Falby’s case.
“This has never happened before,” he said, and added: “We care very much about tourists’ security.”
He said bricks had reportedly also been thrown into houses in the area, and advised victims to report all such incidents to authorities.
“Please tell tourists who have been injured not to worry about this case – the police are working on it,” he said.
But Hun Sothy, the police chief in Daun Penh district, said he did not believe the victims’ accounts because he had yet to receive any reports detailing their cases. “I deploy police officers along the street at night to protect tourists, so I don’t think they have happened,” he said. “If there is a victim, they should file a complaint to a police official that is close to them.”
Chris Chipp, an independent security consultant, said no one he’d talked to had heard of any brick attacks, but urged foreign victims to report them to their embassies.
“The embassies can put the screws to the authorities and say, ‘Hey, this is happening to our people, what are you doing and what can be done about it?’” Chipp said.