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Boon Ma fires off complaint to RAC

Boon Ma fires off complaint to RAC

THENG Boon Ma, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and possibly Cambodia's wealthiest

businessman, is unrepentent about shooting out a tire of a Royal Air Cambodge (RAC)

plane.

"There is nothing for me to be afraid of," Boon Ma said after First Prime

Minister Norodom Ranariddh criticized him.

"I know the Prince was angry and I was wrong, but those people [at RAC] are

so insolent. I want to ask why he let's those kind of people work there. If they

were my employees, I would have shot them in the head."

The shooting occured in the early evening of Apr 7 after an RAC Boeing 737 with an

angry Boon Ma aboard landed at Pochentong airport from Hong Kong. Boon Ma was met

by his bodyguards.

"I asked my bodyguards if they brought any guns with them. They said 'the guns

are in the car's trunk'. I told them to go get one, I'm going to shoot the tires

of this plane," Boon Ma recounted.

Given a pistol, he shot out the tire on the front left-hand wheel.

"I am sorry that it was dark, otherwise I could have shot out all the tires,"

he said.

Boon Ma - who partly owns the new Inter-Contintental Hotel which aims to take a slice

of the tourist and business travellers market in Cambodia - explained that he was

angry because of RAC's poor service over a long period of time.

In February, the airline had lost a suitcase of his containing items worth more than

$2,000, but offered him only $260 in compensation. His anger was compounded by two

incidents last year - one was when a flight left without him after he had checked

in five minutes before departure and another was when he and other passengers were

made to wait for hours in Bangkok airport without RAC explaining that the plane had

technical problems.

In an Apr 10 press statement on the shooting incident, RAC noted that "prominent

Cambodian businessman" Theng Boon Ma had been on the April 7 flight from Hong

Kong.

"He was the only passenger in the business class section," the statement

read. "Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, the passenger disembarked, proceeded normally

to the arrival hall and afterwards came back to the aircraft with a handgun in his

hand.

"He walked up to the aircraft nose wheel, fired a single shot...and then walked

away. There were witnesses to this incident but no one dared to stop the person as

he was holding a gun and escorted by bodyguards."

RAC said other passengers were still disembarking at the time, and the crew was in

the plane. The ground engineering staff noticed "a shot, a strong smell of sulfide

and the hissing sound of escaping air..."

The statement said RAC was not aware of any reason "why Mr Theng Boon Ma behaved

in such a manner".

In regard to the $260 given for the luggage lost in February, RAC said the compesnation

was made "according to international practice, and this was accepted by the

passenger".

RAC said the damaged tire and wheel had been given to the Ministry of Interior, and

"RAC management is leaving it to the appropriate Ministry to take the necessary

action against the responsible person".

A furious Ranariddh, speaking the morning after the shoooting, said the incident

added indignity to the Kingdom's reputation, already marred by a grenade attack and

a marijuana seizue.

"We never have seen this anywhere in the world except in Cambodia. That man

doesn't have any right to bring his bodyguard into the airport and shoot the tire

of the aircraft," Ranariddh, speaking outside the Chamcarmon Palace, said.

As he was railing against the "completely anarchic" situation in Cambodia,

shots rang out across the street in what police later said was a local dispute.

"You See!" Ranariddh said as he left.

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