Four South Asians running a bar and restaurant in the Boeng Kak lake backpacker area were arrested Saturday night in a case that a police official said was linked to “national security.”
Police refused to release the names or nationalities of the suspects on Sunday, saying that public disclosure could damage an ongoing investigation.
According to eyewitnesses, the four men were handcuffed and led out of their Shangrila restaurant Saturday evening.
“This is an issue of national security, so please allow us to continue doing our research on the case,” said Hy Prou, deputy municipal police chief in charge of the security information sector. He referred questions to Sau Phan, deputy national police chief, who could not be reached by phone.
Calls to Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak were also unsuccessful Sunday. Sok Phal, head of the ministry’s central security department, said he was overseas and could not comment.
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, National Police Director-General Hok Lundy and Municipal Police Chief Heng Pov also could not be reached Sunday or declined comment on the case.
The arrests were confirmed by deputy chief of the municipality’s foreigner police, So Vandy. He said the men were of three different nationalities, but refused to elaborate.
Boeng Kak lake residents said the men ran the Shangrila, which was shuttered on Sunday afternoon. Two of the men are believed to be Pakistani, they said.
The arrests—and the secrecy shrouding them—added to a tense atmosphere in the capital as police ratcheted up security for the opening day of an Asean summit this week and in the wake of an attack by terrorists in Indonesia.
Last week, Kep Chuktema pledged tight security for the summit after a car bomb rocked Jakarta on Thursday, killing nine people and injuring more than 170 others in a blast outside the Australian Embassy.
Authorities there have blamed the attack on Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist group whose alleged operations chief is known to have traveled in Phnom Penh and stayed in the Boeng Kak lake area. Hambali, an Indonesian also known as Riduan Isamuddin, was arrested in Thailand in August 2003, and is now in US custody at an undisclosed location.
(Additional reporting by Luke Reynolds)