Le Petit Cambodge, a popular Paris restaurant, was among the sites of Friday’s terrorist attacks, sending a chill through Cambodian communities in France and at home as news of the attacks spread.
Ung Chansophea, a journalist who once studied in Paris, told VOA Khmer the restaurant is often so crowded one must wait in line for a table. “This is a very popular restaurant in Paris,” she said. “Most of the guests are either French or European tourists.”
In one of many near-miss stories, Agathe Moreaux, a French student, told Globalnews.ca that she had left her name at Le Petit Cambodge to be called for a table and had gone with friends for a beer to wait.
Not long after, gunmen opened fire on the restaurant, part of coordinated attacks by supporters of the Islamic State that left 129 people dead. Among those, up to 18 people were killed at or near Le Petit Cambodge. It is unclear whether any Cambodians, who have a large diaspora population in France, were among those killed in the attack.
Leak Sakhann, who has been driving a taxi in Paris for more than 30 years, told VOA Khmer the restaurant is not far from the Bataclan, a music venue that was targeted by attackers. “It’s not far from that place,” he said. “The restaurant is only about 500 meters away from the Bataclan, where 80 people were killed.”
Men Sothavarin, a French-Cambodian lawmaker for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, told VOA Khmer that news of the attack was worrisome for some in Cambodia. He was “immediately shocked,” he said. “We have relatives over there. We texted messages, because some of us went missing, like my niece, who was missing from 3 pm, because the roads were blocked.”
The attacks prompted an international outpouring of sympathy for France and increased pressure on Western countries to deal with the Islamic State, which has carved out territory in Syria and Iraq in a campaign to enact a fanatical view of Islam. At least 23 suspected militant have been arrested in raids across France, BBC reported Monday.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen joined other world leaders in condemning Friday’s attacks and issuing support for the families of victims. “Cambodia stands with the French people and government and other countries to prevent and completely abolish all kinds of terrorism, which are against humanity,” Hun Sen said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Sok Khemara, Phnom Penh.