US Businessman Ambushed, Beaten by Masked Sihanoukville Men

After a monthslong lull in violence in Sihanoukville, an attack by two masked men on Monday morning left an American guesthouse owner hospitalized with a shattered kneecap and bruises covering his body, according to the victim.

Joel Fry, 42, was driving his motorbike to work at about 10 a.m. behind his friend, Mike Keys, 64, on a road leading to Otres 2 beach when a silver SUV at the top of a hill struck Mr. Keys’ motorbike, knocking him over.

Assuming the collision was an accident, Mr. Fry said he had pulled up to the scene to try to help, only to be brutally assaulted.

“When I stopped my motorbike, the vehicle continued to run me over—knocked me off the bike. That’s when a big man got out with a black mask on and a baseball bat and proceeded to hit me 40 to 50 times,” he said, adding that the driver was also masked.

“These guys who had it planned for a while were waiting at the top of the hill for me,” he said. He said he believes the suspects had initially mistaken Mr. Keys for him.

Eventually, Mr. Fry said, two Cambodians driving past intervened, scaring off the assailants. While Mr. Keys was left with minor injuries, Mr. Fry said he was transported to Phnom Penh’s Khema Clinic, where he underwent surgery that same evening to repair his kneecap.

Mr. Fry said he believed the attack was instigated by Russian businessman Vladimir Palancica, 31, in order to deter him from demanding reimbursement for his investment in a planned electronic music festival that was canceled last year.

“I’ve got a long, long list of emails and text messages where he has threatened me with this exact situation. This time, I only had one knee broken,” he said, declining to share the messages due to what he said was an ongoing investigation by military police.

Deputy provincial military police commander Seng Phok said he was unaware of the case and that no complaint had been filed, while deputy provincial police chief Kol Phally confirmed that a complaint had been received by his office, but declined to comment further.

Mr. Palancica, the general manager of Lotus Tours, denied involvement in the matter, saying he had spent all day at work.

“First of all, I don’t have any business with him,” he said. “Second, I don’t have any people to send. Who can I send—my managers or my wife?”

The incident comes days after Mr. Palancica’s associate, deported Russian tycoon Sergei Polonsky, scored a legal victory in a real estate dispute with prominent Russian businessman Nikolai Doroshenko, who still lives in Sihanoukville.

Mr. Palancica said allegations that he was responsible for the attack on Mr. Fry were related to his relationship with Mr. Polonsky.

“This man is friends with Mr. Dorosheko, so I think they’re accusing me because I’m helping Polonsky,” he said, adding that he had already contacted his lawyer to file a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Fry.

Sihanoukville has been plagued by violence—often between foreign businessmen and their associates—in the past few years. In March, Interior Minister Sar Kheng sent a special team to address the situation following a drive-by shooting, stabbing, car explosion and casino brawl in the first few months of the year.

(Additional reporting by Phan Soumy)

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