Eight people arrested in connection with a grenade explosion in *Phnom Penh earlier this month were presented to the media on Friday, accused of involvement in a plot to kill a man over a romantic rivalry.
Despite initially claiming that the September 6 blast—which injured at least three people—was politically motivated, officials announced on Wednesday that it was in fact linked to a “love affair” involving a Vietnamese man wound*ed by the explosion.
Eight people arrested over their suspected involvement in a grenade blast earlier this month are presented to the media at the Interior Ministry in Phnom Penh on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)On Friday, investigators said that a different man, Ea Lyhour, was the intended target.
Mr. Lyhour, who was not injured, declined to comment when approached by reporters at his motorbike accessory store on Street 163 in Chamkar Mon district, located meters from the blast site.
During a news conference at the Interior Ministry on Friday morning, police said the eight detainees were behind both the grenade explosion and a previous failed attempt to gun down Mr. Lyhour.
Speaking in front of the visibly distressed detainees, municipal police chief Chuon Sovann claimed that all eight had been part of the botched plot.
General Sovann described the following:
Days before the blast, Cambodian Sok Kimly, 41, identified as the ringleader, and two Vietnamese nationals, Chang Thi Ve and Le Dang Dong, hired Ni Soi Binh, also Vietnamese, to gun down Mr. Lyhour, but the hit was unsuccessful. Following that attempt, Ms. Kimly then asked a married couple, Bun Pheakdey and his wife Bou Sopheap, to arrange a gre*nade attack to kill Mr. Lyhour. The couple asked Sak Mab to carry out the attack.
Another man, Nou Samban, was also accused of being an accomplice. His alleged involvement was not disclosed.
“This was an attempted murder case, and the premeditated murder plan was an act of revenge,” Gen. Sovann said.
“Eight suspects will be sent to the court and are accused of attempted murder by shooting,” he said, declining to give further *details.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said the group was questioned by deputy prosecutor Hing Bunthorn.
By Friday evening, the court had decided to charge the three Vietnamese nationals with attempted murder and place them in provisional detention, Mr. Sopha*na said.
The others were returned to the custody of the Interior Ministry’s serious crimes department, he said.
After police went public with the claim that the blast was politically motivated, suspicions began growing on Facebook that authorities would use the incident as a pretext to tighten security ahead of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha’s trial three days later, during which hundreds of opposition supporters gathered in Phnom Penh.
Police made further attempts on Friday to distance themselves from their initial claim.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith, who initially said the explosion was the work of “a political group” that “intended to cause social turmoil,” denied ever making such a suggestion.
“We can recognize that the first conclusion was wrong but during the time I remember that I did not say that it was political,” he said.
“I just mentioned that we did not see any plan saying that it was revenge. I said maybe there were other problems, but I did not mention clearly that it was political.”
(Additional reporting by George Wright)
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