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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap ferry attacked by soldiers

Siem Reap ferry attacked by soldiers

A Golden Sea "fast boat" was fired on by military boats and ground troops

while it was traveling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh last week.

The Apr 27 attack occured about 11:45am as the boat was near Kompong Tralach District

in Kompong Chhnang province.

Initially, a couple of shots were fired in the distance from an AK-47 by an individual

soldier, according to an eye-witness. The boat started to slow down after the first

shots but then began to speed-up.

This response was met by further machine-gun gunfire - directly targeted at the boat

- from a military patrol boat which approached the scene.

Several uniformed soldiers chimed in by firing on the passenger boat with AK-47s

while running down a hill from the west bank of a seaside village. After escaping

the first attack, the Golden Sea vessel was met with further machine-gunfire from

another military patrol boat on the south-western shore.

During the attack, rooftop passenger scrambled for cover on the lip of the boat and

stuffed children down below through portals. No passengers were wounded, but many

reported that they could hear the bullets whizzing just above them as they were speeding

past the military assailants.

Several Khmer travelers believed that the attackers were attempting to stop the boat

so that they could rob the passengers and loot all of the cargo from the boat. Passengers

claimed that upon realizing this plot the boat's captain quickly tried to escape

the military by speeding away, which only prompted further gunfire.

"This is going to be very bad for the tourist industry," said a travel

agent from Siem Reap. "Cambodia has so much in the way of tourism to offer.

It's situations like this that will hurt the economy. This is one kind of indication

that things are getting really bad here."

Other passengers claim that the incident is symptomatic of military theft throughout

Cambodia. Many claim that Cambodia's soldiers have chosen to steal because they haven't

been paid for months.

According to Nhim Simon, a representative from the Malaysian-owned Golden Sea Shipping

Company, Ltd., this is the second time that their passenger boat has been attacked

by gunfire.

"This is a new check point but I also don't know why they fired on the boat.

Sometimes the police and military do stop the boats to take money from the passengers,"

he said.

Nhim Simon said that they were still going to sell boat tickets to Siem Reap travelers,

but conceded that he wasn't sure how he was going to prevent possible armed attacks

on his passengers.

Bert Hoak, of Bert's Books - a familiar among Siem Reap travelers - stated that

he will no longer sell boat tickets.

"We have now suspended selling all boat tickets and told people to travel by

plane," he said. "We can no longer sell the tickets until we have a clear

conscience that this won't happen again."

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