Cambodian government shuts down illegal casinos

Cambodia casino crackdown
Sar Kheng, Cambodia’s long-serving Minister of Interior, has initiated a nationwide crackdown on illegal gambling.

The Cambodian government continues to make good on its promise to rid the country of illegal gambling, human trafficking and other criminal activities as it goes on an eight-day crackdown on unlicensed casinos all across the country.

Reports have it that over 90% of illegal casinos have been put out of business, with 13,000 people arrested due to these enforcement activities. The government is hoping these actions will help clean up the country and consequently revitalize its ailing tourism sector.

On September 14, the Minister of Interior, Sar Kheng, chose Sok Phal, one of the secretaries of state in the Ministry of Interior, to oversee a working group to take on suppressing illegal gambling in the country, and since then it has been full speed ahead. While having a meeting in Sihoukanville on September 30, Phal informed the Preah Sihanouk Province Governor, Kuoch Chamroeun, that their activities have seen local enforcement closing down these illegal gambling dens in villages, communes and districts.

In his update, he added that the operation has detained over 1,000 foreign nationals from 10 countries suspected to be involved in human trafficking, prostitution, online gambling and breaching immigration laws. He assured the public that the intense crackdown will carry on till July 1, 2023.

“We all know that we have busted hundreds of places, and now gambling has died out, with more than 90 percent of illegal dens closed down. Despite this, there are still a few locations running their businesses, so we will cooperate with the authorities of Preah Sihanouk and other provinces to shut them down,” Phal said.

“The working group will continue to inspect all locations suspected of unlicensed use and take strict legal action against business owners in any place crimes are discovered.”

Phal is not the only crusader on the war against crime, as local authorities across the country have intensified their efforts. For instance, on October 1, the deputy governor of Svay Rieng Province led a team to inspect a place called Bak Sey Keila inside the New World Casino in Bavet City after receiving information that the venue hosted cockfighting games and online poker, and allowed Cambodians to gamble. In Banteay Meanchey, 80 dens were raided; in Oddar Meanchey, gambling dens have started closing down voluntarily; and the list goes on.

However, the war on crime is not only limited to illegal casinos, as the government is also frowning on illegal pawnshops. According to Phnom Penh’s Deputy Governor, Khliang Huot: “Illegal pawnshops are a source of crime, gambling and affect the livelihoods of low-income people.”

He further stated the government will be shutting down all pawnshops accepting stolen goods and items with insufficient documentation in Toul Kork’s Khang Romsev and other locations.

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