Senate President Chea Sim’s helicopter had to be diverted from Poipet to Banteay Meanchey town Saturday after two bombs exploded at the Golden Crown Casino in Poipet.
Three security guards were wounded in the explosions, one seriously, O’Chrou District Deputy Police Chief Meng Boeun said.
Banteay Meanchey provincial Governor Thach Khorn said the explosions were not related to Chea Sim’s visit. Authorities suspect a business dispute, perhaps between rival casinos.
But one police source said it is too soon to say if the bombings might be related to Chea Sim’s visit, given the timing.
“It is very strange, as the explosion came at the time his delegation was arriving at the airport,” the source said. “Right now, it is too early to make a conclusion. We are investigating.”
Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reported the explosions sent members of a controversial Thai family scrambling back across the border. The paper reported influential politician Yubamrung Chalerm and his family were staying at the Princess Hotel and Casino.
Yubamrung’s son, Duangchalerm, is wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of a Thai police officer Oct 29 in a Bangkok bar. He has disappeared from Thailand, and Thai police officials have speculated he may be hiding in Cambodia.
It was unclear why Chea Sim’s helicopter was planning to stop in Poipet. His cabinet chief, Chea Son, said he was not scheduled to stop in Poipet Saturday, but was planning to attend a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday at Wat Chas Buddhist High School in Banteay Meanchey town.
Thach Khorn said Chea Sim stayed in Banteay Meanchey town Saturday night. Chea Son said Chea Sim met with political activists and talked about the Feb 3 commune council elections.
A police officer who did not want to be identified said that on Friday, a small helicopter carrying an advance team landed in Poipet to prepare for Chea Sim’s Saturday visit.
“I was told to provide security for a delegation led by Chea Sim who would arrive Saturday morning,” the police official said. “We were to stand in the vicinity of the Golden Crown and Star Vegas casinos.”
According to the Bangkok Post, the first of two bombs exploded at about 8:30 am, blowing out about 10 windows, but causing no injuries. The second bomb, discovered by a guard about 15 minutes later atop the hotel’s electricity supply, exploded as guards were trying to remove it.
Bo Remee, a 22-year-old guard, was wounded in the right eye by shrapnel, the newspaper said. Chief security guard Hong Wan, 29, lost his right hand and suffered serious wounds to his right hip and eye. The wounded were sent to Aranyaprathet Hospital in Sae Kaeo, Thailand.