Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Court considers PM's complicity in '97 attack

Court considers PM's complicity in '97 attack

Court considers PM's complicity in '97 attack

The lawyer for Sam Rainsy has criticized the Supreme Court for failing to conduct

a thorough investigation into Rainsy's claim that the Prime Minister was behind the

1997 grenade attack that killed at least 16 people.

"The government has no intention to conduct an investigation into whether Hun

Sen was behind the attack," said Som Chandina, Rainsy's lawyer after the September

7 hearing.

The five Supreme Court judges refused requests from the court's prosecutor and defense

lawyer to dismiss the charge, saying they would consider the case and deliver their

verdict September 14, the day Sam Rainsy is expected to return from his self-imposed

exile.

Despite the case being dismissed in the Phnom Penh municipal court and the Appeal

Court, the Supreme Court refused to accept pieces of evidence, including two contradictory

confessions by an alleged grenade thrower.

Both Chandina and Hun Sen's lawyer, Ka Savuth, asked the court to consider two interviews

with Chhay Vee, recorded at different times, but the judges would not accept the

tapes and DVD.

"If the perpetrators were arrested and they pointed out a conspirator, that

is the legal procedure for the investigation," said Choun Sunleng, vice prosecutor

of the Supreme Court. "The court has no idea how to find Chhay Vee, because

the court has no magic eyes or magic hand."

In one of the taped confessions, Vee told the Prime Minister's advisor Om Yientieng

that he was hired by the opposition to dress up in the uniform of Hun Sen's bodyguards

and throw a grenade at Rainsy.

The other confession shows Vee and another alleged thrower, Chum Buntheoun, discussing

the planning of the grenade attack with Rainsy's wife, Tioulong Saumura.

The attack occurred on March 30, 1997. Four grenades were thrown into a peaceful

demonstration, killing at least 16 and injuring dozens of others.

A declassified FBI report into the incident, which injured American citizen Ron Abney,

did not make a conclusion as to who was responsible, but pointed to the involvement

of Hun Sen's bodyguards.

A staff report to the committee on foreign relations of the United States Senate

written by James Doran went further, saying "the evidence of Hun Sen's complicity

is overwhelming."

However, Sunleng said that no evidence has ever identified a specific person, but

only that Hun Sen's bodyguards were suspected, adding that anybody could wear uniforms

of the elite troops.

"The FBI report cannot force the court to charge the premier because there is

no legal ground to believe [their investigation]," Sunleng said.

Chandina presented the FBI report and stories published by the Washington Post and

United Press International as evidence.

"Even if there is no official document, it is information for the court and

the authorities to use for an investigation," Chandina said.

The date of the verdict has intensified speculation around the return of Rainsy,

who has two defamation suits pending against him, but SRP's chief of cabinet, Sam

Rithy Duong Hak, played down the concerns.

"I think that if the government respects the law, there is no reason to arrest

Sam Rainsy, because the case against him is a civil action," Hak said.

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