T HE abduction of a senior Naga floating casino official last week followed a
clash between soldiers guarding the casino and local police officers.
kidnapping followed the shooting of a policeman and subsequent arrest of two
At press time, the two were still being detained by military
police - who were seeking a $5,000 payoff before they would release
The abducted casino official, a Malaysian, had meanwhile been freed
and four men, one of them a military police commander, arrested.
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
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.
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
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
Around 3 am the next morning, Malaysian Lim Kim Hock, the
casino's chief operating officer, and his bodyguard were kidnapped while driving
"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.
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.
of Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry, municipal police and military police
officials later traced the kidnappers to a Kampong Speu village.
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.
two RCAF soldiers arrested by Phnom Penh military police were still being
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."
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.