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'Fun' day turns fatal

'Fun' day turns fatal

ROS Kea did not have any plans for Mar 30. He could have played football with his

friends at Mohamontrey pagoda or he could have helped his brother who is a monk.

He could have just hung around as he usually did.

But that day a classmate at the pagoda invited him to a Khmer Nation Party (KNP)

demonstration. He was given 3,000 riels - by an older student who lived at the pagoda,

other children say - to hold a banner during the rally. Seven other children from

the pagoda also took up the offer.

They left the pagoda at 7:30 for the front of the National Assembly. "It was

fun," said one of the other kids of the prospect of going to a protest.

The fun turned ugly. Of the seven from the pagoda only one escaped injury. Ros Kea

was next to the blast and was badly hurt in the legs and back.

"A car came to pick us up. I saw Ros Kea in the same car, but he was really

weak," says 15-year old Kieu Kieng Sothea, now at Kossamak hospital, who suffered

leg injuries in the grenade explosions.

By the time the car arrived at the hospital, Ros Kea had died.

"He was very calm and so many people at the pagoda liked him," says Choeun

Sareth, 17, who also stays at the pagoda and was injured.

Kea was 12-years-old. His brother Ros Sain brought him from Kampong Cham last July

to study. "My parents are farmers and there are eight children in our family.

The school is very far from home so coming here was a good opportunity to study,"

says Sain.

The two brothers stayed in the same house next to the pagoda with two monks and some

children from the school.

At the pagoda, Sain helped his brother with his studies. Kea was doing his best,

but generally preferred playing football to hitting the textbooks.

Sain did not know that his brother was going to the demonstration. "Usually

he doesn't go out often. That day he followed his friends without knowing where they

were going," he says.

At 11 am, news spread in the pagoda that seven students had been injured and one

killed. Sain did not know who died. Sothea, the boy who saw Kea dying in the car,

had sent a messenger to the pagoda.

When Sain arrived at Kossamak, he saw his dead brother.

Their mother in Kampong Cham was alerted and came to Phnom Penh for the funeral,

held in the wat where Kea used to play and study.

As for Sothea, life is dull at Kossamak Hospital. He is bored of lying in bed without

any visitors. Despite his injuries, he hops around the corridors, looking for a bit

of fun.

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