Two Injured In Koh Kong Casino Siege

Koh Kong authorities are investigating a B-40 rocket attack Sun­day on the southwest prov­ince’s international casino, allegedly by soldiers, that left two people in­jured.

The attack on the Koh Kong International Casino, located near the Thai border in a special tour­ism zone, occurred early Sunday evening.

Provincial Deputy Governor Ung Van said Tuesday a group of eight soldiers fired six B-40 rockets and four rockets from an M-79 at the casino building from several hundred meters away.

But according to a Bangkok Post report Tuesday, a Thai truck driver saw only a few soldiers fire  three or four rockets from a hilltop bunker not far from the Cham Yeam customs post. The attackers then fled into the woods.

Although damage to the casino was minimal, a Thai Embassy official and Cambodian tourism official agreed that the incident could discourage tourists and investors from an area being groomed for development.

The lack of a rule of law has long been identified as an obstacle to development in Cambodia. In September, a B-40 rocket at­tack shattered the tranquility of the country’s major tourist area, Siem Reap.

The Koh Kong casino is part of an entertainment complex op­ened in early 1998 by Cambodian-born Thai businessman Ly Yung Phat. While it is located on the Cam­bodian side of the border, near the Cham Yeam border crossing, the customers are mainly gamblers from Thailand, where gambling is illegal. Koh Kong is one of two official international border crossings between Cambodia and Thailand.

According to the Bangkok Post, one rocket exploded in the sea near a pier and another landed in a pond.

Koh Kong Governor Rong Plamkesam said Tuesday the two victims were Cambodian employees of the casino, but The Bang­kok Post reported that one of the victims was a Thai gambler, who was hit in the stomach and right leg by rocket shrapnel.

Deputy Provincial Police Chief Tham Sann said his office is cooperating with military police to investigate the incident.

Koh Kong officials would not speculate on the motive behind the attack. A military analyst said Tuesday that while troops probably haven’t been paid in several months, a more likely motive was a business or gambling dispute.

The Post cited Thai sources as saying the attack was aimed at intimidating the casino’s operator, a Thai businessman named Pat Supapa.

A Thai Embassy official said Tuesday he was unaware of the attack but speculated that the troops may have been disgruntled gamblers who had lost mon­ey, despite the fact that Cambo­dians are banned from gambling on the premises.

While the attack may temporarily frighten off tourists, the em­bassy official suggested, professional gamblers from Thailand are unlikely to be deterred from visiting the casino.

Tourism Undersecretary of State Pou Sovachana agreed that if the area is not safe, it will not only discourage visitors but also investors looking at the sector.

But Interior Ministry spokes­man Khieu Sopheak said he did not believe the incident is an indication that security in that area is worsening, and that fewer crimes and violent acts will occur as the political situation stabilizes.

(Ad­di­tional reporting by Debra Boyce)


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