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Grenade arrests claimed 'political'

POLICE have identified suspects alleged to have tossed a grenade into a gambling

hall in Kampot, killing six and wounding 31 people, but a political dispute might

occur if they are arrested, according to the province's first deputy governor.

"We have found the suspects but we cannot arrest them. They are in a unit in

one side of another political party," said Tit Ream (CPP). He declined to name

the party.

The Kampot police chief, Seng Sokun, also a CPP member, confirmed that he had sent

a "document" about the suspects to the local court. He would not give further

details, or say whether the suspects would be arrested.

"There are some people getting involved with the story...they are deeply involved,"

said the police chief. "I cannot say now, it is secret."

Tit Ream said that "someone is behind" the suspects, and that provincial

authorities have to work steadily and carefully in order to solve the problem. Authorities

were keen to avoid accusations of political motivations in any arrests that might

be made, he said.

The grenade exploded in a gambling establishment where a crowd of people were playing

the game "Yuki" Feb 9.

Police chief Sokun said he believed the incident happened because of a dispute over

the result of a game of Yuki, and "is not related to any other thing".

But he confirmed that there had also been an argument between the owner of the gambling

hall and the owner of another gaming establishment nearby. The second establishment

had been almost empty, while the first one was full.

The owners of the two halls apparently exchanged "play words", as Sokun

put it, and the one whose hall was empty became angry. The explosion happened soon

after.

A human rights worker said it was rumored that two senior Funcinpec officers dressed

in camouflage approached a gambling table in the hall and threw a grenade. But he

said that he did not believe those reports.

The incident seems to strike a blow against some provincial officials who have received

bribes from the gambling den owner, creating a sense of anarchy in the town, the

rights worker claimed. "How can these people operate their games in the center

of town if they have not received permission from any provincial authority?"

Uk Kim Sith, prosecutor of Kampot provincial court, said he was aware of the grenade

attack but had not received any documents from the police. The court could do nothing

with the case unless the police, or the families of the deceased, made a complaint

to the court, he said.

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