All Bets Are Off During Khmer New Year

Pouring cold water on traditional game-playing over the Khmer New Year, the government has ordered a nationwide ban on gambling during the holiday season, officials said Friday.

Claiming that street-side and village gambling cause various crimes over the new year, which runs from Tuesday through Thurs­day, all municipal and pro­vincial authorities have been ordered to wipe out unofficial betting, according to an official who cited a government directive.

Authorities “must guarantee to crack down on all robbery and other crimes, particularly to crack down on all illegal gambling which is the main reason for crimes committed when Cambodian people are celebrating the Khmer New Year,” the directive stated.

Provincial and Phnom Penh officials said Friday that they were taking the directive seriously.

“I have received the directive regarding cracking down on illegal gambling,” Heng Pov, deputy mu­nicipal police chief, said on Friday.

The directive, however, does not include the betting shops around the Phsar Thmei area, or the hugely popular Cambo-Six soccer betting outlets, as they are licensed by the government, Heng Pov said.

In Banteay Meanchey province, site of Poipet commune and several large casinos, Governor Thach Khorn said he had received the orders to tame new year gambling.

Orders have been sent to stop “illegal” gambling—which would not include the legal casinos—Thach Khorn said.

“Illegal gambling…effects security and public order,” he said.

Casinos were ordered removed from Phnom Penh in 1999 in a bid to end a crime wave, particularly kidnappings for ransom, which many linked to gambling debts.

Only the Naga Casino remains in the capital, but around 10 other casinos have been established on the border with Thailand to cater to mostly Thai gamblers.

International law enforcement officials have voiced concern about the thriving border casino sector, warning that such an industry provides a natural cover for organized crime, money laundering and drug and human trafficking.



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