Boatmen Summoned to Explain Settlement With Russians

The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court has summoned six men, alleged to have been the victims of a maritime attack by businessman Sergei Polonsky and two others, to explain why they dropped their complaint against the Russians, a lawyer said yesterday.

Mr. Polonsky, 40, and two other Russians are currently in detention, charged with intentional violence for attacking the workers on their boat with a knife and forcing them to jump overboard.

Ouch Sopheaktra, a lawyer representing the six men, said the investigating judge had called them for questioning today to explain why they had dropped the allegations.

“The judge wants to make a report on the reason for them receiving the compensation because we didn’t inform them about this agreement,” he said.

“I will bring the workers to the court [today] because the judge also needs to investigate whether the three Russians really committed violence against them.”

Last week, the Cambodian boatmen agreed to compensation totaling $20,000 and on Thursday, withdrew their complaint against the Russians.

Provincial deputy prosecutor You Tithwathanak said the charge against the Russians still stood, with or without the complaint of the workers.

Formerly the head of the massive real estate firm Mirax—since renamed Potok—Mr. Polonsky last year moved to Koh Dek Koul, a tiny private island off the coast of Sihanoukville, where he runs a luxury resort.

The Russian Interior Ministry has launched a fraud investigation into his company, and co-investors have called for him to be extradited to Russia over failed real estate projects.

Pheng Phoeun, manager at the Snake House Hotel and Restaurant—whose owners are partners of Mr. Polonsky in holding the long-term lease on the island—said the workers were employees of his establishment.

“The reason they removed the complaint is because my boss also has a share with three Russian people who invested in Koh Dek Koul,” he said.

Mr. Phoeun said that the workers would appear at the court today, but that they planned to move soon to work in different jobs, so may not be around for later hearings in the case.

Still in detention, the eccentric Mr. Polonsky has issued messages via social media, attempted to acquire electric fans for his fellow inmates, and even written to the King.

In a letter addressed to King Norodom Sihamoni, delivered on Friday, Mr. Polonsky attempted to bring the monarch’s attention to the “horrible conditions” of the Cambodian penal system.

He also said he had plans to build a “seven star hotel [and an] ecological conservation area on the beautiful archipelago near Sihanoukville.”

“I have great plans for Your Kingdom and if Your Royal Majesty allow me, I will bring large investments and management skills and bright people to help to Cambodians to create a better life [sic],” the letter said.

“When I am cleared from charged for crimes I have never committed I would ask your Royal Majesty to consider my application for a Cambodian citizenship. I would like to share a fate, glory, freedom and responsibilities of the Cambodian people.”

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