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Paris attacks felt in Kingdom

Police officers walk past flowers, notes and candles yesterday at a memorial site outside of Le Petit Cambodge for victims of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
Police officers walk past flowers, notes and candles yesterday at a memorial site outside of Le Petit Cambodge for victims of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. AFP

Paris attacks felt in Kingdom

On Saturday morning, flowers were piled high on the shuttered storefronts of Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in Paris.

The Cambodian eatery, popular with young clients in the hip 10th arrondissement, was the site of a bloodbath on Friday which killed 14 people, one of six sites in a series of massacres which left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured across the French capital.

“There were repeated blasts of machine gun fire, they were shooting,” said Keo Vuddhi, the cousin of Le Petit Cambodge’s owner.

Although the elderly Vuddhi was not at the scene during the shootings, he was in immediate contact with his family following the attack.

“It’s always packed with young people, I think the terrorists took advantage of that,” he said, adding that one employee was injured.

Islamist group Islamic State has claimed the Paris attacks, which saw masked men gun down civilians with automatic weapons in a chain of massacres and suicide bombings across Paris.

The coordinated attacks on Friday reverberated thousands of kilometres away in Cambodia, partly due to the killings at Le Petit Cambodge, although local officials announced that no Cambodians were hurt in that particular shooting.

Foreign affairs spokesman Chum Sounry said that no Cambodians were injured or killed at the restaurant, although he could not yet confirm whether there were Cambodian casualties in the other attacks that rocked that city.

Both of Cambodia’s political parties were quick to express sorrow at the act.

In a letter addressed to French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Hun Sen of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party expressed “shock and consternation”, while the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party also issued a statement condemning the “cruel attacks”.

In the wake of the massacres, scores of Cambodian Facebook users changed their profile pictures to the French tricolour, a show of support appreciated by some in France’s 80,000-strong Cambodian community.

“We received a lot of support from our compatriots in Cambodia who put up the French flags,” said Hy Panhavuth, 48, a taxi driver and municipal councillor in Paris.

“The question we ask, though, is why did they attack a Cambodian restaurant?”

The attack on Le Petit Cambodge appears to have been more of a function of its location in the fashionable 10th arrondissement, where it stood across the street from an inexpensive hotel bar named Le Carillon that also saw many killed. Many of those killed were young and from diverse backgrounds.

For some French nationals in Phnom Penh, the event was brutally personal.

Celine So, a marketing consultant with Khmer roots currently living in Phnom Penh, realised on Saturday morning that Hodda Saadi, a friend who ran the Belle Equipe bar, a locale where 19 were killed, was one of the victims that night.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Saadi was celebrating her birthday with her sister, who was also killed. “Her sister came especially from Dakar for her birthday. They met a Kalashnikov [instead].”

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