A Tragedy of No Importance, by Rich Garella and Eric Pape
viewed on - about - e-mail - print all




RAINSY PUSHED Han Mony’s corpse off him. Recalling war films he had seen as a child, he stayed low and crawled away under the smoke.

“We missed the target,” he heard someone say. As he crept, blinded by the smoke and missing his glasses, the third grenade went off ahead of him, and then the fourth. Rainsy’s bodyguards shouted to him that government soldiers were closing in. He went limp and his bodyguards carried him away.

When Rainsy reached his house he held an impromptu press conference, telling reporters that the attack was an assault on democracy and the 1998 elections. Hun Sen, he insisted, “will be arrested and sentenced one day.”[s]

Hun Sen’s top aide, Om Yentieng, had a different take. It was obvious, he said, that Rainsy ordered the attack on himself—after all, Yentieng cynically pointed out, he had escaped unscathed.[n]

That evening Hun Sen threatened to “drag the demonstration’s mastermind by the neck to court.”[s] Members of the opposition, he said later, “are not afraid to do anything, even acts that will lead to bloodshed, because they need to paint their faces with the blood of innocent people, victims they create, in order to get pity from others.”[s]


Body of victim
at Kossamak Hospital

Pity, however, was in short supply. Less than ten hours after the attack, the first (and apparently last) Southeast Asian Biennial Film Festival opened at the Royal Palace. Foreign dignitaries, directors, starlets, film jurists, government officials, and members of the royal family arrived at the Throne Hall in dinner jackets and flowing silk.

Pretty young girls cast jasmine petals at their feet, and waiters poured Chateau Noaillac, Medoc, 1993. Guests dined on symphonie de canard landais en quatuor, pavé de saumon confit sur chiffonnade d’épinard au beurre, and mignon de boeuf en spirale de pancetta aux nuances balsamiques.

As the orchestra played, some of the visitors commented that the attack was especially unfortunate, because the film festival might have presented a positive image of Cambodia, one not seen since decades earlier, before the American bombing, the civil war, and the rise of the Khmer Rouge.[n]

previous top next

A Tragedy of No Importance, by Rich Garella and Eric Pape
viewed on - about - e-mail - print all