Japanese Businessman Robbed, Killed in Phnom Penh

A visiting Japanese businessman was robbed and shot to death by two unidentified gunmen early Sunday morning in Phnom Penh outside his apartment building in Boeng Keng Kang I commune, district police said.

Kitakura Kosei, 44, was shot twice in the stomach at about 1:10 a.m. while scuffling with two gunmen attempting to rob him of a bag he was carrying, according to Sun Mengloeng, a security guard at Mariya apartments on Street 288, who witnessed the robbery and murder.

“After shooting [Kitakura Kosei], the two gunmen grabbed the victim’s money bag and escaped on their motorbike,” said Mr. Mengloeng, adding that a tuk-tuk driver who had tried to help Kitakura Kosei fend off the attackers was also shot in the hand.

Kitakura Kosei died in a tuk-tuk en route to Phnom Penh’s Preah Ket Mealea military hospital at about 1:30 a.m., according to Mr. Mengloeng, who added that Kitakura Kosei and his girlfriend had spent much of the night gambling at NagaWorld casino prior to going to the Heart of Darkness nightclub and then returning home.

Police on Sunday said they have questioned Mr. Mengloeng, the injured tuk-tuk driver, and Kitakura Kosei’s girlfriend, who was at the scene of the shooting, but declined to release their names or other details of the investigation.

Heang Tharet, deputy police chief of Chamkar Mon district, said that the investigation into the murder is being led by Hy Pru, the deputy municipal police chief in charge of crimes against foreign nationals.

“Now our police are cooperating with other municipal police to investigate the gunmen,” he said.

When asked whether police had confirmed that Kitakura Kosei was robbed of money he had won while gambling at NagaWorld, Interior Ministry spokesman Lieu­tenant General Khieu Sopheak declined to comment.

“[Cambodia] is a free country. He [Kitakura Kosei] can go wherever he wants to go,” he said. “It is not important where he came from, it is important who the killer is,” he added, explaining that information about where Kitakura Kosei was prior to his murder was “not for journalists.”

Sunday’s murder of Kitakura Kosei was quickly picked up by Japanese media, with news of the murder running as a top story on NHK television, Japan’s national public broadcaster. Kyodo news reported that Kitakura Kosei had been in Cambodia since Wednes­day and planned to establish a company here.

Kuro Niya, a counselor for the Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh, who is in charge of the investigation into Kitakura Kosei’s murder, confirmed that the Japanese national was killed early Sunday morning, but said that at the request of his family, the embassy could not provide details about Kitakura Kosei or the circumstances of his murder.

Mr. Niya said the Japanese Embassy is relying on Cambodia’s police force to track down the suspects involved with Kitakura Kosei’s murder.

“So far, the two robbers were not arrested. We sternly hope that they will be arrested and have asked Cambodian police to pursue them. But we have no concrete information about these two robbers,” he said.

Takaharu Mizukoshi, a business consultant with Forval Cambodia, a firm that advises a number of Japanese businesses in the country, said that the event has shocked the Japanese community here, who generally view Phnom Penh as a safe place to live, and after years of sitting back, are beginning to invest large amounts of cash in the country.

“It [the murder] is a big surprise because in many years we have not had an event like this,” he said.

“We would like to know why it happened: Is there any kind of argument or is it just a reaction during a robbery?” he asked.

Mr. Mizukoshi said that security is an increasing priority of his Japanese clients. “The attention being paid to security is higher and higher as the number of in­vestments from [Japanese] people is increasing,” he said.

Japanese investment has skyrocketed in Cambodia in recent years, with major investments in the country’s garment, banking and retail sectors.

Japanese investment in Cambodia reached $75 million in 2012, up from about $35 million in 2010, according to the Japanese Embassy.

Investment figures this year are expected to reach at least $300 million thanks to the $205-million Aeon Mall retail project in Phnom Penh.

While Sunday’s murder may raise concern among Japanese nationals currently living here, Hiroshi Suzuki, CEO of the Business Research Institute for Cambodia, said it was not likely to have a significant impact on Japanese investment in Cambodia.

“Safety is one of the most fundamental conditions for Japanese investment,” Mr. Suzuki said in an email.

“However, I do not think that only one event could provide serious impact to the decision of Japanese investment.”

Mr. Niya at the Japanese Embassy said that he hoped that Japanese nationals living in Cambodia would be better protected, but that they also need to be aware of the risks that exist in the country.

“We hope that Cambodian police will prevent this type of incident in the future. And on Japanese side, Japanese people should pay attention to [the] situation in Cambodia,” he said.

Kitakura Kosei’s murder is the second case in recent months in which a foreigner has been robbed after gambling at NagaWorld.

In December, the driver of a Chinese businessman was shot dead by armed robbers who stole about $18,000 worth of winnings from the Chinese national, who had returned home at about 4 a.m. after a night of gambling at NagaWorld.

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