An old hand grenade was found close to where Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, delivered speeches to more than one thousand supporters in Siem Reap yesterday, officials said yesterday.
Chea Henh, a provincial Cambodian Mine Action Centre official, said opposition supporters had discovered the American-made grenade close to the entrance gate of a pagoda, where the leaders were urging villagers to trek to Phnom Penh for more protests.
“It’s an old hand grenade … which could explode if somebody had thrown it,” Henh said shortly after the discovery, adding that it been taken to CMAC’s Siem Reap office for examination.
Later tests showed, however, that the bomb wasn’t able to explode because it lacked a detonator, Mean Sarun, provincial head of CMAC, said.
“I don’t think it was planted deliberately,” he said, before putting it on the ground and stepping on it in front of reporters. “The bomb is not new.”
“I think it has been buried underground for many years and people transported it to the pagoda with a lot of soil to be put around a fence.”
Earlier, CNRP lawmaker and spokesman Yim Sovann was concerned that the grenade had the potential to kill and injure people, urging authorities to rule out a deliberate “act of violence and intimidation” against the opposition party.
Either way, he said, opposition leaders had faced assassination attempts before and would not be deterred.
“We have to go forward with what we plan to do. Nothing will contain us.”
Tith Narong, Siem Reap city police chief, said the grenade could have been located on a nearby riverbank since the Lon Nol regime – 40 years ago.
“It’s a rusty hand grenade, so I don’t think it could explode,” he said.
Still, Sovann demanded authorities improve security for the CNRP’s days-long sit-in planned for Sunday, which he said would definitely take place.
“The CNRP and the [Phnom Penh] Municipality have agreed on some points. Others have been sent to the Ministry of Interior. But according to the law, we don’t need permission.”
Rainsy and Sokha yesterday encouraged villagers to travel to Phnom Penh for the Freedom Park protest. “You will all be invited to express your opinion on those days,” Sokha said.
Rainsy said the CNRP was robbed of one million votes at the July election and urged supporters to keep demanding that their voice be heard.
Cheam Yeap, senior CPP lawmaker, did not comment on the hand grenade, deeming it a matter for police, but said his party was concerned about violence at the CNRP’s sit-in.
“That’s why we don’t encourage demonstrations,” he said.
The government would take responsibility for ensuring public safety, however, but only during the permitted protesting times of 6am to 6pm.
Posting on her blog yesterday, CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the demonstration would have more of an “Occupy Freedom Park atmosphere with the space shared with civil society combined with music and the Gandhi film in the evening”.
If an anticipated meeting with the CPP and the King – since scheduled for Saturday – fails to reach a solution, “we will go back to the park”, she wrote.
The Ministry of Interior yesterday nixed the party’s plans to hold a three-day overnight protest in the capital, saying they could only rally on Sunday between 6am and 6pm as Grade 9 exams were taking place on Monday and Tuesday.
Sochua insisted that they were “not particularly interested in what the ministry has to say.… The people want three days and three nights.”