Poipet Casino Reignites During Demolition, Still No Cambodian Bodies Identified

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Fire can be seen in a window at the Grand Diamond City Casino on January 24, 2023. (Mekong News)
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The burnt-out shell of Poipet’s Grand Diamond casino once again lit up in flames nearly a month after a deadly fire killed at least 28, as Cambodian families still await identification of lost relatives.

A huge fire engulfed the casino ahead of the new year, trapping workers and tourists in the compound near the Thai border. Some jumped off the building to their deaths, while those who made it out spoke of a lack of fire alarms, sprinklers and blocked exits — and of company equipment being removed ahead of them.

At least three Cambodian families say their relatives have been missing since the fire, but authorities have not identified any Cambodian victims among 28 bodies recovered. They have called off the search for more bodies, instead beginning a demolition of the structures.

Banteay Meanchey deputy provincial governor Ngor Meng Chruon said DNA testing had identified two of the remaining unidentified bodies as Thai today. There were only two unidentified bodies remaining, Meng Chruon said.

“We’re waiting for the DNA results whether they are Cambodian or Thai,” he said.

Meng Chruon added that the rapid demolition of the casino was being pushed by the company, and authorities were only facilitating the operation. “The decision is the company’s,” he said.

Provincial police chief Sith Luos said he was aware of three Cambodian families missing their relatives, but authorities were first waiting for DNA results.

“The DNA testing is conducted in Thailand. When the results come out, we will act and conduct further investigations. Since there have not yet been results, we cannot make any conclusions. … The bodies are entirely burned and it is impossible to make any conclusions.”

Provincial police deputy Bun Pheng said there was welding work happening in the casino around 10 a.m. Tuesday when another fire ignited. Videos posted to social media showed smoke rising from the building and flames through broken windows.

Pheng said the fire was put out by the workers.

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