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Tycoon’s vessel, two others razed

Police and locals inspect the wreckage of a torched boat yesterday at a dock in Preah Sihanouk after it caught fire
Police and locals inspect the wreckage of a torched boat yesterday at a dock in Preah Sihanouk after it caught fire late on Sunday night. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Tycoon’s vessel, two others razed

Three boats in Sihanoukville’s port – including one belonging to tycoon Kith Meng – were engulfed in flames on Sunday night in a fire police suspect was caused by arson.

At about 11pm on Sunday, a docked tourist boat that makes trips to Koh Rong island caught fire, according to Sihanoukville police. Flames quickly spread from the three-storey vessel to two adjacent, luxury speed boats: one owned by a German resident police identified only as Robert, and the other by Royal Group chairman Kith Meng, officials said.

The fire department sent seven trucks to quell the blaze, which completely destroyed the three vessels.

“It was difficult to control the fire and stop it, because there was so much wind,” said Pin Siphyra, deputy chief of the Preah Sihanouk province fire department. “We estimated the total cost of damage was $1,000,000,” he added.

The two guards on duty at the time of the fire told police that no one had come or gone from the port, and insisted that the flames were caused by an electrical fire started by a malfunctioning battery on the tourist boat. Police are continuing to investigate and suspect arson.

Phearum, a Sihanoukville resident and passerby, said he witnessed the conflagration.

“Luckily, no one was injured, because it happened at night and in a quiet place,” he said.

Meng declined yesterday to comment on the incident.

One of Cambodia’s richest men, the land concessionaire’s Royal Group has invested in several controversial projects, including the Lower Sesan II Hydropower Dam.

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