A Cambodian casino narrowly escaped disaster after an alert gambler noticed something odd during his trip to the loo.
On Sunday evening, members of the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) successfully detonated a bomb discovered in the washroom of the Golden Crown Casino in Poipet. The bomb was discovered by a gambler who noticed a suspect Styrofoam box inside the casino’s washroom.
Following his discovery, the gambler alerted casino security staff, who gingerly moved the package outside to the casino’s parking lot. The authorities were called and the package’s contents were confirmed to contain an explosive device connected to a timer, leading police to order the evacuation of the casino and the surrounding area.
Reports from the scene vary, but it appears that the CMAC – who have vast experience clearing the country of the land mines, grenades and cluster bombs left behind during the country’s long periods of violent conflict – was responsible for the forced detonation of the device.
Some local media reports indicate that police detained a 39-year-old man for questioning, while other reports claim that police found a total of five explosive devices on the casino property. All that’s known for sure is that no one was harmed by the controlled explosion and that Poipet’s casino industry dodged a serious public relations bullet.
Authorities have so far kept queit about possible motives for planting the bomb(s). The Golden Crown is owned by Kok An, a senator with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, an advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen and one of the country’s richest individuals.
This isn’t the first time that the Golden Crown has dealt with such disruptions. In 2002, the casino was the site of several bombings that led to the discovery of other unexploded devices. A surveillance camera picked up two men planting one of the bombs but they were never apprehended and their motives remain unclear.
In the 2002 case, Banteay Meanchey Governor Thach Korn claimed the working theory was that the bombs were the result of “a business argument, because some Thai businessmen have a share in some casinos in Poipet.” Poipet is located on the border with Thailand, from which the casinos draw the bulk of their customers.
Cambodia’s casino sector underwent significant growth in 2018, with 52 new licenses issued. Many of these licenses are issued for the purpose of offering online gambling to customers based outside Cambodia, as the country prohibits local residents from accessing most land-based and online gambling operations.