Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

DNA Test Confirms One Cambodian Died in Poipet Casino Fire, But More Still Missing

Keo Vandy holds a copy of her missing husband’s identification as she waits to hear news near Trach pagoda in Poipet on December 30, 2022. (CamboJA / Jack Brook)
Keo Vandy holds a copy of her missing husband’s identification as she waits to hear news near Trach pagoda in Poipet on December 30, 2022. (CamboJA / Jack Brook)

DNA testing last week revealed one Cambodian died in the December Poipet casino fire, Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities told CamboJA Monday.

“Now results have confirmed one [dead] man of Cambodian nationality, and we have already handed the corpse to his family to hold a traditional ceremony,” Banteay Meanchey deputy provincial governor, Ngor Meng Chruon said.

DNA results for one corpse remain pending and two others were confirmed as Thai with the bodies transferred to their families, Banteay Meanchey authorities said. 

But at least two Cambodian families say they still lack confirmation of two relatives’ deaths in the blaze, which would allow them to gain both closure and government financial support. 

At least 27 people died in the fire at the Grand Diamond City Hotel and casino in Banteay Meanchey province near the Thai border on 28 December last year.

The Cambodian victim was identified as a man named Keo Visoth, who worked as a cleaner at the casino. Visoth’s family received his body on Wednesday last week.

“We have provided as support some money and go higher [we] are waiting for the company to resolve the compensation according to the Labor Law,” Meng Chruon said.

Chruon hung up the phone when CamboJA asked about the remaining Cambodian families with missing relatives who worked at the casino. Ministry of Labor spokesperson Heng Sour did not respond to request for comment.

Visoth’s wife, Keo Vandy, said authorities donated 5 million riel to her family to support a funeral ceremony.

Vandy, 32, said her husband was a legal worker but she had not yet received National Society Security Fund compensation or for her husband’s motorcycle destroyed by the fire.

Months after the fire, other families appear to lack closure and the possibility to receive state benefits aligned with Cambodian labor law.

Som Sony told CamboJA in late January that her sister Oeur Thy, a casino employee, had been missing since the night of the fire. Sony could not be reached for comment.

When CamboJA reporters contacted Grand Diamond City through its Facebook page, an automated message responded that the page was closed for “maintenance.”

“Authorities have come to our homes and provided some gifts and told us that they don’t know yet whether she died or not and [told us to] wait DNA results,” said Heang Bunnoeun, who believes his missing sister-in-law, Oeur Thy, died in the casino.

An unidentified Grand Diamond City representative gave Thy’s family around $750 as compensation for funeral expenses and three months of support for her children, Bunnoeun told CamboJA in January.

Bunnoeun said that authorities have since provided food and water, along with 200,000 riel or about $50. But it has not been enough to make up for the lost income of Thy, a 41 year old widowed mother of seven who had worked as a cleaner at the casino.

They have told him, for months, to wait for the DNA test results. 

“I have no hope she survived because one corpse remains unidentified, and I am waiting the official result [DNA]” Bunnoeun said.