At a shophouse in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district yesterday, flies buzzed over a half-eaten spread on an outdoor dining table. Plates of rice and vegetables, duck eggs, glasses of red wine and an empty can of ABC stout had been left untouched since a grenade was lobbed at a family gathering here on Thursday evening, killing an 11-year-old boy.
Police investigators gathered yesterday morning, treading carefully around shards of broken glass and large streaks of dried blood. After evidence was gathered and police tape removed, curious onlookers moved in and began prowling around the grim scene.
Sin Sorn, 56, the presumed target, has multiple wives and works as a land broker, according to police, who said it was likely a revenge attack but could not pinpoint a clear motive.
According to witnesses and police, two men drove by on a red motorbike at about 6:45pm on Thursday and sped down the road past the building, in Khmuonh commune’s Sen Sok II village. On their way back, they paused to throw the grenade before riding off.
It exploded on the ground just metres from where Sorn and at least three others sat, but deflected off a large truck parked next to them. They survived, but Sorn’s 11-year-old son, Sin Dara, who was standing at the home’s entrance a little further away, was hit by several grenade fragments in the chest. He later died in hospital.
“[The truck] was a shield which saved these people [sitting at the table]. But, unfortunately, made it worse for the child because it diverted grenade fragments upwards in the direction of the house,” said James McCabe, operations director at Phnom Penh’s Child Protection Unit, which is assisting police with the investigation.
Lim Sophal, a neighbour, said she heard the grenade go off and ran to the scene. “I saw the child and the others were all lying on the floor covered with blood,” she said. “They are very nice people and have lived here for less than a year.”
Four people – Sorn; his business partner Yaing Sopheak, 28; Chea Sok, 30, a cousin; and Chhan Nuth, his 13-year-old grandson – have all been hospitalised with serious injuries. Hak Seng Eang, 47, who runs a coffee shop opposite the house, was hit by a fragment in the arm.
Sen Sok district police chief Mak Hong said victims and witnesses were being interviewed.
While he initially said that two suspects in their mid-twenties had been brought into the police station for questioning, he later denied this, saying they were still being sought.
Sorn’s daughter and the house owner, Sin Seav, said at Calmette Hospital that she could not guess why her family had been attacked.“I never heard my dad talking about any business disputes. He doesn’t talk to us much.”
Reporting by Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, Kevin Ponniah, Koam Chanrasmey and Tat Oudom