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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hotel bomb suspects in sight

Hotel bomb suspects in sight

Police are seeking two suspects in connection with twin bomb blasts that rocked

two Phnom Penh hotels on July 4 killing three and slightly injuring eight

others.

An injured guest is helped from the Hotel Favour soon after the second blast

Monivong Boulevard's Hong Kong Hotel and Hotel Favour were each

targeted by separate explosions that occurred one hour apart, each blast

reportedly preceded by demands for cash.

But a hotel proprietor and Phnom

Penh Municipal Police are now denying that extortion was the motive for the

attacks.

"The point of the explosion was not extortion," said Favour

Hotel owner Cham Thav Kimlong, who is also the First Deputy Governor (Fun) of

Kampong Cham province.

Kimlong told the Post that he could not rule out

a political motivation for the bombing which killed his brother-in-law, Kim Meng

Leang, and his wife's cousin, Kim Huot, both aged 30. Hotel maid Chhun Sakhon

was the third fatality.

Moung Khim, First Deputy of Phnom Penh Municipal

Police, also dismissed as a "cover story" the reported extortion theory for the

explosions but refused to speculate on the bombers' true motivations.

"We

have some leads to investigate... [and] we will make a public announcement when

we've completed [investigating] the case in the near future," Khim said.

According to Khim, suspected perpetrators of the attacks include a

Cambodian man going by the name of Kert Sothy, who witnesses say checked into

room 410 of the Favour Hotel on July 3. The suspect reportedly left the hotel at

8:00 am Wednesday morning after asking staff not to clean his room.

A

second suspect under the name "Phim Phally" had stayed in room 108 at the Hong

Kong Hotel just six doors away on the same evening.

After "Sothy" checked

out, the cleaner reported a bag had been left in the room.

Smoke billows from the Hotel Favour moments after the blast.

At 9:41 am,

police received two phone calls spaced about four minutes apart in which an

unidentified individual warned that a bomb would explode at 11:00 am in room 108

at Hong Kong Hotel.

At 11:00am an explosion rocked the hotel, blowing out

its first two stories, injuring five people and shattering much of the glass

facade.

A third call came shortly before midday warning of a bomb in the

nearby Favour Hotel and demanding $200,000.

After receiving the call,

victims Meng Leang, Huot and Sakhon then went to investigate the mysterious bag.

All three were killed instantly by a blast in the room moments

later.

Police later recovered a silver-plated K-54 handgun from the room

and have recorded the mobile phone numbers of the two threatening phone

callers.

Police said lack of time had prevented bomb disposal experts

from being called in to deal with the second explosive device.

 

In August, 1999, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) was called to defuse

a bomb outside the Hong Kong Hotel.

CMAC Director General Khem Sophoan

said after the latest incident: "We would be happy to be involved [in this

case], but we've had no request from the Government or municipal police so

far."

A grief-stricken Kimlong expressed sorrow for the three

deaths.

"We are very sorry for them, they should not have been killed in

foolish events like this... Our country is in peace. This event should not

happen," he said.

The blasts spread rubble and broken glass across a

large section of Monivong Boulevard near Street 200 north of Sihanouk Boulevard

and police at the scene say the area will remain closed to traffic for three

days.

Nearby businesses along the affected section of thoroughfare are complaining

of lost customers and power blackouts that have cut their normal trade in

half.

But not everybody is upset about the blasts.

Coconut milk

vendor Pov Li was beaming from the increased income she skimmed from hordes of

curious onlookers who descended on the scene after the

explosions.

"Yesterday [July 4] was the best day for my business," Li

said.

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