Prime minister Hun Sen on Monday said he has forgiven those responsible for an attempt on his life 20 years ago, using the anniversary to further express his determination to prevent any “coup” or “colour revolution” from taking place in Cambodia.
Posting on his Facebook page, he said that Monday marked 20 years since an attempted assassination on him in Siem Reap province.
At 8:52am on September 24, 1998, Hun Sen said, an anti-tank rocket was fired at his motorcade but missed, hitting a villager’s house located on the other side of the road instead.
One villager was killed and another injured.
“If I had died back then, what would have happened after my death in Siem Reap town? After that, could the [civil] war have been ended through [Hun Sen’s] ‘win-win’ policy [that enabled the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders to defect to the government] if Hun Sen was dead?” he asked rhetorically."
“I have forgiven the people who attempted to murder me in Siem Reap. [But] you need to know that I am still the prime minister and I will not let you murder me and I will not let you attempt a coup or colour revolution,” he wrote.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the post showed the prime minister has strong morals in not seeking revenge on those who had tried to kill him.
“[Hun Sen] will not use personal issues to punish others. [Justice] will depend on Buddhism’s karma. [Hun Sen] forgives and will not hurt others."
“He is serious about the fate of the country. He will not let anything affect Cambodia [negatively] like previous generations. He will not allow [harm to Cambodia] at any cost or in any form,” Siphan said.
After the attack, the two main opposition leaders at the time, Prince Norodom Ranariddh of Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy of the Sam Rainsy Party left the country.
Spokespersons from their parties acknowledged that they were worried about accusations by the polinking the assassination plot to within their ranks, according to a contemporary New York Times article.
In the attack, an anti-tank rocket was fired at Hun Sen’s motorcade just minutes before the opening of the National Assembly and the ceremony to swear in its members.
‘A proper investigation’
At the time, many suspected that Hun Sen himself might have engineered the attack as an excuse to crack down on the opposition.
Social and political analyst Hang Vitou said that if the events of September 24, 1998, were indeed an assassination attempt on the prime minister then there should be an investigation even now, but he did not believe that this was the case.
“Personally, I am inclined not to believe that people attempted to assassinate Hun Sen."
“If people had tried to kill him, I think Hun Sen would not forget about it."
“If there had been a murder attempt, I believe that the armed forces or [the prime minister’s] bodyguards would have caught those responsible,” he claimed.
“But if it really was attempted murder then there should be a proper investigation. The case was not normal [and someone was killed],” he added.