Casino patron's buried corpse found

Casino patron's buried corpse found

B32m debt dispute eyed as murder motive

The dead man reportedly owed 32 million baht to the owner of Pailin Flamingo Casino. (Photo via the casino's website)
The dead man reportedly owed 32 million baht to the owner of Pailin Flamingo Casino. (Photo via the casino's website)

Cambodian authorities have found the corpse of a Thai casino businessman who went missing from a casino in Cambodia since Feb 14 and is believed to have been killed over a debt dispute.

The body of Somnuek Charunchirathian, 57, was found buried near a local temple about five kilometres from Pailin Flamingo Casino, where he worked, in Pailin province in western Cambodia, the casino owner Warut Wannaiamphikun told reporters Sunday. Before the incident, Mr Warut said, Somnuek, also widely known as "Sia Tum", had met him and talked about a 32-million-baht debt his friend had borrowed from him, but allegedly did not pay back.

His friend is Somnuek's business partner who co-invested in a casino "brokerage" venture which invited customers to the casino, according to Mr Warut.

Thai authorities have been informed of Somnuek's death as they were searching for his whereabouts, in response to his wife's complaints made with two police stations near provinces bordering Cambodia.

Thai officers contacted Cambodian authorities to retrieve his body, which is being monitored by Cambodian security officers amid concerns over a reported attempt to destroy the corpse. 

Cambodian authorities are insisting on digging up the corpse today.

Pong Nam Ron police chief Pol Col Phasakon Khongkharat said Sunday officers from his station were ready to help Cambodian authorities handle the case as soon as they receive a request.

His unit earlier confirmed Somnuek's disappearance after his wife lodged a complaint.

She believed Pong Nam Ron police station could help search for her husband because Pong Nam Ron district is located opposite Pailin province.

However, because the investigation made little progress, his wife, who was concerned about possible dangers to her husband, decided to file a complaint with Khlong Luek station in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district, which also borders Cambodia.

The district is opposite a casino in the Cambodian city of Poipet where police investigators suspected Somnuek might have been taken, said Khlong Luek police officer Pol Lt Winyu Panyawiraphon.

His station helped locate the victim.

It asked for help from the Thai-Cambodian coordination office, and the Thai army's Burapha unit, which oversees the Thai-Cambodian border and immigration police at the Aranyaprathet border checkpoint. 

A casino compound in Poipet was the last place where Somnuek's mobile phone signal was detected, according to Col Niwat Hanprasop, head of the Phraya Tambon Administration Organisation in Sa kaeo.

Somnuek's wife had called him in the early hours of Feb 14 and an unidentified woman answered his phone. The woman told his wife that Somnuek could not answer the phone before another man told her to switch off the phone, Col Niwat said, quoting Somnuek's wife's account.

Earlier on the night of Feb 13, Somnuek left the Pailin Flamingo Casino alone on a motorcycle to have dinner at a nearby restaurant in Cambodia.

The victim told his associates a "close friend" ordered the food for him at the restaurant, Col Niwat said.

Later, two women met Somnuek at the restaurant and he was seen being taken into their green saloon car in what police believe was an abduction, according to Col Niwat.

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