Police arrested three men in Siem Reap town Sunday night for allegedly planting high-explosive TNT time bombs in the heart of the city, where an Asean ministerial meeting was being held, officials said.
Three plastic ice buckets—each packed with 1 kg of TNT and nails and rigged with timing devices—were discovered in a brothel and on a nearby road in Siem Reap town, police said Monday.
None of the bombs detonated, and three suspects were apprehended shortly after planting the bombs in the same brothel they had visited earlier, Nuon Bophal, Siem Reap province police chief, said on Monday.
Sun Vannak, 28, a farmer and Prich Pory, 21, a former soldier and now a taxi driver, and Van Chamrong, 22, who works at the Siem Reap taxi stand, have been arrested and are being questioned, police said. The men were apprehended through careful police work and surveillance, officials said.
Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said police are still trying to ascertain a motive for the attempted bombings.
“We do not know who they are, and we do not yet make a conclusion,” Sar Kheng said by telephone.
“But, this is not a normal [event] because they tried to make insecurity,” he said.
Reuters news agency reported on Monday the bombs were hidden in rubbish in two locations in a local red-light district about 500 meters from the Angkor Century Hotel, where rural development ministers and officials of the 10 Asean nations were
attending a conference on poverty.
Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered the closing speech at the conference on Monday.
Minister of Rural Development Ly Thuch said late Monday that those attending the conference were unaware of the discovery of the bombs or the arrests of the three men.
Sar Kheng said security now will be increased in Siem Reap town but that police were already on high alert in recent months to ensure the safety of foreign tourists.
Siem Reap Governor Chap Nhalivuth said on Monday the explosive devices were defused by bomb-disposal experts from the Cambodian Mine Action Center.
Chap Nhalivuth said he did not know why the bombs were planted, but the incident was unlikely to have a negative effect on the province’s tourism industry, as most visitors in the town were unaware it took place, he said.
“We have done this job good…police have resolved all the problems,” he said.
Police officials said on condition of anonymity that investigators are looking at a local political link rather than international terrorism.
The three suspects were allegededly given money by ringleaders and promised motorcycles after the attack was carried out, said a police official.
“We know the people who hired them,” the official said. “We believe many people were behind this, and they are politicians.”
A military police official said the planned explosions were aimed at causing terror and scaring tourist from visiting the Angkor Wat complex.
“They are people who are against the government,” said the military police officer.
The Interior Ministry has increased security at hotels, restaurants and bars in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap following the Bali bombing in October, and Cambodia’s hosting of the 8th Asean Summit in November.
Security jitters rippled late in October when military police in Banteay Meanchey province discovered TNT powder and detonators in a vehicle headed toward Siem Reap. Investigators said those explosives were not intended for use in a bomb, but most likely for used in blast fishing.
(Additional reporting Kevin Doyle)