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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Naga guards at center of shooting and abduction

Naga guards at center of shooting and abduction

T HE abduction of a senior Naga floating casino official last week followed a

clash between soldiers guarding the casino and local police officers.

The

kidnapping followed the shooting of a policeman and subsequent arrest of two

soldiers.

At press time, the two were still being detained by military

police - who were seeking a $5,000 payoff before they would release

them.

The abducted casino official, a Malaysian, had meanwhile been freed

and four men, one of them a military police commander, arrested.

Few of

the players involved are publicly talking about the events, and precisely what

happened remains unclear.

But according to interviews by the Post,

trouble erupted about 7:30pm on Tuesday Aug 15 while a group of policemen from

Chamkar Mon district were evicting vendors selling food near the casino's

carpark.

The head of the police, Captain Nib Vibo, said he and about 20

officers were "keeping order" near the carpark when they heard a gunshot

apparently aimed in their direction.

He said he went up to several Royal

Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldiers paid to protect the outside of the casino

to ask: "Who fired the gun?"

"Suddenly" about 15 other RCAF soldiers

appeared and began shooting at the police, he said. His deputy, Oum Sivann, was

shot in the leg.

Vibo said the other police retreated but he and Sivann

were caught and taken to the Naga security office by the soldiers.

He

alleged both he and Sivann were held for two hours and beaten with rifle butts.

He said he fell unconscious.

An RCAF officer outside the casino denied to

the Post that his men had fired the first shot, saying it had come from Vibo or

one of his men.

The officer, who would not be named, said he and other

soldiers on duty at the casino went to the scene when they were told that

policemen were trying to arrest another soldier.

He acknowledged the

soldiers opened fire toward the police, hitting Sivann.

But he denied

that the soldiers then beat up Vibo and Sivann. He said the pair were attacked

by the group of vendors who the police had been evicting before the shooting

happened.

Both he and Vibo agreed on what happened next. Several hundred

military police and Phnom Penh Municipality police turned up at the casino

demanding the release of Vibo and Sivann.

The pair were freed and taken

to Calmette hospital, and the military police and the police later arrested two

soldiers. The two were taken to the municipality's military police

headquarters.

Around 3 am the next morning, Malaysian Lim Kim Hock, the

casino's chief operating officer, and his bodyguard were kidnapped while driving

home.

"His car was stopped by a group of armed men as it was driving on

Preah Sihanouk Boulevard near the Lucky market," a senior Interior Ministry

policeman, who requested anonymity, told the Post.

He said a ransom note

demanding $400,000 for Hock's release was delivered to the casino.

"The

casino cooperated with us and paid them $50,000 but still they did not release

him. They said they needed $350,000 more," the officer said.

A taskforce

of Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry, municipal police and military police

officials later traced the kidnappers to a Kampong Speu village.

"We

tricked them by telling them we had received an extra $350,000 for them...then

we stormed the building."

Lim Kim Hock and his bodyguard were freed, and

four men arrested, two days after their kidnapping.

Mok Chito, chief of

the Phnom Penh police anti-crime department, said one of those arrested was a

military police commander from the southern Phnom Penh district of Meanchey. He

refused comment on whether the other three were policemen.

Meanwhile, the

two RCAF soldiers arrested by Phnom Penh military police were still being

detained.

A fee of $5000 had been asked for the release of the two,

according to Nib Vibo.

The money, asked for by a military police chief,

was to be compensation for him and his shot deputy.

However, an RCAF

soldier who works at the casino complained: "I don't understand why they ask for

a ransom...we are all a part of the Royal Cambodian Armed forces."

More

than 100 soldiers are paid $100 a month by Naga to guard the outside of its

casino, he said.

Casino managers and senior military police officials

refused all comment.

Naga is not the only casino to have suffered

security problems. There has been a spat of robberies of patrons near the rival

Holiday International casino recently.

A Taiwanese woman was shot and

robbed of around $25,000 in one incident. Security is understood to be beefed up

at the Holiday, with fears that an organized gang was targeting casino patrons

outside the premises.

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