Solemn gray clouds hovered above when some 300 people gathered in front of the National
Assembly to commemorate the victims of the grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy Party demonstration
on March 30, 1997.
Exactly three years after the incident, the harrowing ordeal was still fresh in the
minds of those who witnessed and survived it. Up to 20 people were killed and 150
wounded when unidentified attackers threw four hand grenades into a crowd of people
demonstrating peacefully against corruption in the justice system. The perpetrators
are still at large.
In honor of those who were killed or maimed in the attack, the Sam Rainsy Party holds
an annual ceremony at the scene of the crime.
While Rainsy spoke, relatives of the victims stood in front of him, holding up framed
photos of their dead sons, daughters, parents, aunts and nephews. Some wept. Others
just stared blankly out in front of them.
On the outskirts of the ceremony, by-passers, curious motodops and land-grab squatters
examined the large posters with blood-filled photos from the attack.
"They sent a lot of police here to protect us today. In 1997, they also sent
a lot of police," remarked SRP parliamentarian Yim Sovann ironically.
The air was thick with the smell of aftershave and incense burning at a gray stupa
inscribed with all the victims' names.
But the stupa almost didn't make it to the ceremony. When SRP officials were erecting
it the night before, Phnom Penh municipal police suddenly showed up and demanded
the monument be removed. When the SRP people refused, the police brought in a crane
to lift the stupa away.
After a lot of scrambling back and forth, intervention by Rainsy himself and calls
to Phnom Penh governor Chea Sophara, the monument was allowed to stay. But only until
midday on the day of the ceremony. Then it had to go.
Holding a stack of lit incense sticks in front of the stupa, Pao Heng, 53, cried
for her daughter, Yung Sok Nao. Nao was one of three young garment workers who died
in the attack. Her half-sister Yung Srey was another.
"Daughter, please live in a place of happiness," Heng prayed with tears
rolling down her cheeks.
In a wheel chair sat a skinny Ou Sina, her body still in pain after she was seriously
wounded by shrapnel from the grenades. Although Sina says she will never forget what
happened to her that day, she hasn't lost her spirit.
"I call for justice for the Cambodians and for an end to injustice," Sina
Sections of an FBI-report on the attack have been kept strictly confidential. Only
parts of its contents that drew no real conclusions have been reluctantly publicized.
Many believe that the truth behind the attack will never become public.