Five Thais Rescued From Poipet Casino

One man allegedly held for more than eight months for using fake chips

Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Saturday charged six employees of Poipet City’s Star Vegas casino with illegal confinement for allegedly detaining five Thai citizens inside the casino complex, officials said yesterday. However, the casino owner was not arrested, nor was the casino closed.

One man, freed by police on Friday, was allegedly detained for eight months and 24 days after he was caught using fake chips while gambling at the casino, said deputy chief provincial prosecutor Ton Sihadegchak.

The four other illegal detainees were electricians hired by the casino who were allegedly confined for five days for stealing electrical cables, Mr Sihadegchak said.

“This is the first time that Star Vegas casino has confined a Thai citizen for a long time, eight months and 24 days, inside its own casino,” he said.

Four Cambodian security guards and two Thai security guards were placed in pretrial detention after being charged, he said. “We have sent all five Thai men back to their homeland.” Mr Sihadegchak said he could not recall the names of the victims or the suspects, but that the casino was still open for business.

Poipet City police chief Um Sophal said his police cooperated with the Interior Ministry’s internal security police to release the five illegally detained men and arrest the six workers on Friday.

“We rescued them and arrested six other men, including two Thai citizens, at the same time,” Mr Sophal said. “Star Vegas casino’s owner is a Thai citizen and did not understand our Cambo­dian law so confined the men illegally like this.”

Khun Bun Huon, deputy pro­vincial police chief, said the owner of Star Vegas casino had not been arrested, but he de­clined to elaborate or name the owner.

“Our investigative police will arrest some other suspects who were involved in the illegal confinement of these victims,” Mr Bun Huon said. “This case, in which casino security guards confined them, is the first time it has happened in our Poipet City,” he added, noting that previously police had rescued debtors from a Pailin casino detained in Ban­teay Meanchey province.

In 2004, Poipet’s Golden Crown casino detained 11 Cambodian employees in its hotel complex for more than a week as it investigated a possible cheating ring. Last year, four Bavet casino em­ployees were charged with al­legedly detaining, interrogating and beating two card dealers.

Rights advocates raised concern about the free rein given to casinos that made illegal detention possible.

Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that the nine casinos in Poipet City acted as if they were more powerful than the law, and it was hard to help victims confined to recoup debt. Star Ve­gas casino “now confined five Thai citizens in a room of their casino without telling Poipet City police and keeping them strictly hidden,” he added.

“It’s not surprising that the own­ers of casinos can hold pat­rons for perceived infringements for months on end and then scapegoat the workers if the casino’s abusive action comes to light,” said Phil Robertson, depu­ty director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, by e-mail. “In a country where official im­punity to abuse rights is common, the money and influence of the casinos reigns supreme.”

  (Additional reporting by Alice Foster)

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