Mystery attack in Cambodia

ABOUT two dozen gunmen on motorcycles, firing indiscriminately with automatic weapons and grenade launchers, shot up the Cambodian provincial capital of Siem Reap in the early hours of yesterday, two days before a visit by President Francois Mitterrand of France.

Two Cambodians were killed and 12 others, including a Portuguese tour guide and an Indian medical officer on United Nations duty, were wounded. An Australian soldier fired back, only the second time UN peace-keepers in Cambodia have done so, but apparently did not hit anyone.

The town is the base for tourists visiting the nearby Angkor Wat temple complex, the crowning monument of the 12th-century Khmer empire. A French embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh said that despite the attack Mr Mitterrand would go ahead with a visit tomorrow to Angkor Wat and a French Foreign Legion engineering detachment stationed in Siem Reap.

The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (Untac) said the gunmen wore a mixture of uniforms, and that it was not possible to apportion responsibility for the attack. The Phnom Penh government immediately blamed the Khmer Rouge, which condemned Mr Mitterrand's visit to Cambodia in a radio broadcast as a violation of international law. But the location and timing of the attack are suspect: despite the struggle for control between the two factions in the north of Siem Reap province, the capital is normally regarded as being firmly under government control. After the gunmen withdrew, government forces patrolled the area in armoured personnel carriers.

Untac has been unable to quell violence in many rural areas of Cambodia, but yesterday's rampage in one of the country's larger and more tranquil towns has no precedent since its peace-keeping mission began. Many new hotels and restaurants have opened up along Siem Reap's tree-lined streets to accommodate UN personnel and the influx of tourists, reassured by Untac's presence, who come to visit Angkor Wat. The attack took place near the French forces' quarters and the recently-renovated Grand Hotel, built in French colonial days, which was full of tour groups. One of their guides was wounded when he looked out of the window of his room.

Apart from accusing the Khmer Rouge, Phnom Penh will be able to use the incident to discredit the UN authority, which it regards with suspicion. It is expected to fare poorly in the UN-organised election in May.

Mr Mitterrand arrives in Phnom Penh today from Vietnam, where he urged the United States to lift its economic embargo, but also called on the country's Communist leaders to allow more political freedom. Yesterday he visited Dien Bien Phu, where French forces surrendered to Vietnamese insurgents in 1954 - a historic defeat which brought to an end more than a century of French involvement in Indo-China.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Finance / Accounts Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Locksmith / Engineer / Technician

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading Key Cutting equipm...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - B2B Sales & Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you great at forming strong...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss