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Grim legacy of the day of the grenades

Grim legacy of the day of the grenades

HOR Sinnath, asleep in her hospital bed with her parents by her side, wakes up at

the noise of arriving visitors and greets them with a weak smile.

"A friend of my daughter came from Phnom Penh and asked us to come to look after

our daughter," says her father Hor Srey, recalling how he learned that his daughter

was one of the many injured from the Mar 30 grenade attack.

He and his wife left their home in Kampot immediately. "We left our cooking

and didn't have time to bring along any clothes."

Sinnath has not been able to move or walk since she arrived at the hospital. "I

have no feeling in my lower body. From the navel down, I cannot feel anything,"

she says.

Sinnath, 38, is paralysed. Her spinal cord was severed by two pieces of shrapnel.

"I feel very heavy on both sides," she says. "I sometimes try to move

my legs and body but it is very painful in my back.

"My husband did not want me to go that morning, but my colleagues came to pick

me up. At that point, I did not know that it was for a demonstration," she says.

It is not the first time Sinnath, a garment factory worker, had attended a rally.

"I went first in December to ask for a better salary," she explains.

Previously, she had sewed clothes at her Phnom Penh home for years. "I used

to make 900 riels per pair of trousers and I could sew seven pairs a day." Four

weeks before the attack, she started to work in a factory for $27 a month.

Sinnath doesn't remember much. She cannot tell which grenade blast hit her but recalls:

"I was running away. That is why I was hit in the back and on my left leg. I

fell unconscious. When I woke up, I was still at the National Assembly, but I could

not feel my lower body."

She vaguely remembers how three children and a old woman helped her to the edge of

the sidewalk. She was eventually picked up by some soldiers and taken to Kossamak

Hospital.

"I did not feel pain. I was just bleeding. I was left there without any care

till [KNP leader Sam] Rainsy came and asked the doctors to look after me," she

says. Maybe she stayed there two or three hours, she cannot really say. "It

was a very long time".

After surgery, Sinnath stayed for one week in the intensive care ward before being

brought to the third floor of the main building.

Sinnath has five children. The oldest, aged 12, stays with his mother at the hospital.

"He is on holidays so there is not so much of a problem for him to stay,"

she says.

Her other children do not come. "It is not a place for the young children. In

an hospital, they could catch diseases and I do not want them to come," she

explains. Her ten year-old daughter is looking after her siblings. The youngest is

three-years-old.

Tun Nieng, Sinnath's husband, enters the room with some bread. He explains how he

found his wife on Mar 30.

"I was home that day when someone came to tell me that an attack occurred during

the demonstration. I knew that people were injured or killed so I rushed to the hospitals,"

he says.

He first went to Calmette, could not find his wife, and went to Kossamak.

"I saw her straight away. Her face was really pale and she could only speak

with a very weak voice. I could not speak, but she told me to look after the children,"

he says.

At the hospital, a routine has formed. Sinnath's husband sleeps in the ward and goes

out to sell bread at 4am. He comes back at the end of the day.

If Sinnath is permanently paralysed, her husband and parents - all of whom have some

kind of disability - will have difficulty lifting or moving her. Nieng has a disabled

right arm - "it is from an injection he got when he was a child," says

Sinnath. Her father lost his leg in a traffic accident 10 years ago and her mother

cannot use her wrist, broken in a fall in her house.

Sinnath is not sure whether she will ever able to walk again. Her doctors say that,

at this stage, they just don't know.

"I will try my best to walk again," she says. "If I can ever walk,

I will use my sewing machine to earn money for the children to study."

Human rights group Licadho, which is helping victims of the Mar 30 attack, says that

Sinnath urgently needs medical equipment including urinary catheters and bags, colostomony

bags, intravenous catheters and fluids.

According to Licadho, at least three people injured in the grenade blasts, including

Sinnath, are almost certain to suffer some permanent disability. Without on-going

medical and economic help, they are likely to face a lifetime of poverty and physical

hardship. One of them, also paralysed, is a 53-year-old housewife with six children.

At least another four people face "possible" permanent disability, including

two teenage boys, and it remains to be seen whether a host of other victims will

recover fully.

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