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Ire over bloodbath suspects

Ire over bloodbath suspects

S URVIVORS of a bloody raid on a Vietnamese fishing village in which at least 13

were killed and 27 injured are angry police have released fishermen suspected of

carrying out the massacre.

Three days after the attack, the provincial

military arrested six fishermen and a businessman, all Cambodians. They were

found in forest land about five km from the scene of the killings at Piem So

village, 35 km southeast of Phnom Penh.

One of the villagers, who did not

want to be named, said he believed the fishermen were behind the massacre, in

which a 23-day-old baby had an arm blown off by a bullet which killed its

mother.

The villager said:"They used to come to our village and gamble.

When they lost money they used to threaten us saying they would come back and

kill us."

One of the fishermen was suspected of being linked to the Khmer

Rouge, said a police source, though it was unclear what involvement the

guerrilla faction had in the raid. Several similar indiscriminate raids were

carried out by the faction last year in the run-up to the elections.

The

raiders sprayed bullets and tossed grenades on the villagers as families

gathered together to relax on a Saturday evening.

Chin Narong, the

second-in-charge of the provincial military command, said there was some

evidence against the fishermen but the investigation was continuing.

"We

have found guns illegally belonging to the group: two AK-47's and an M-16, as

well as a case of bullets and two radio communication devices."

Narong

said he released the suspects after 48 hours, which made the villagers very

angry.

He said six of the group, from Kompong Cham and Prey Veng, were

hired to fish the lake near Piem So by a businessman who rented the lake from

the provincial governor.

A spokesman for Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign

Affairs said the attack was "obviously aimed at inciting national hatred and

sabotaging traditional friendship between the peoples of Vietnam and

Cambodia.

"We request the Royal Government to take prompt measures to

safeguard the lives of Vietnamese residents."

Amnesty International in

condemning the raid said they were worried the government was doing little to

protect ethnic Vietnamese from such attacks, and called on the government to

improve their security.

In a statement, Amnesty said: "The Constitution,

adopted in October 1993, provides no protection to members of the community who

are not of Khmer origin."

Young Dient, a survivor of the raid, angrily

said: "The gunmen just killed us like animals." His daughter aged 11 and son

aged seven were injured when a grenade exploded outside their house.

"Another grenade was thrown at a small video theater and hit a woman

blocking the front entrance exploding on impact killing her.

"When the

residents learned that the attackers were trying to kill them some ran into the

river near the village, others ran to the forest, and some hid under beds and

fishing equipment.

"The attack may have been pre-planned as the four

Cambodian residents of the village suffered no injury."

He added that

the attackers would not have come from far away: "You see, the slaughter was

performed as if they knew our habits very well. They fired right where we were

gathering."

He said the gunmen covered their faces with kramas and

walked in the dark, away from the glare of kerosene lamps lighting the village.

The ethnic Vietnamese residents complained that they had no security for

the village.

A villager, who requested anonymity, said: "A militia man

only arrived on the scene two hours after being informed of the

attack.

"The local authority used to allow us to carry guns for

protection, but after the elections last year the authority banned us using

them, "

Le Thy Chan, 23, told the Post how he survived the raid: "I was

very lucky, bullets just missed me.

"Then I lay on the ground pretending

to be dead. The gunman passed over me and thought I had already been shot."

A witness told the Post how Nguyen Van Ty, the head of the village, ran

up to a gunman and said: "Please! Please stop! We are innocent. We used to eat

and drink together. Why do you kill us?

"But he did not listen to Ty's

begging and silenced him with AK-47 bullets."

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