Denunciation Closes R’kiri Gaming Halls

Gambling halls in Ratanakkiri province are being shut down this week after local rights group Adhoc and a lawmaker raised an alert saying illegal gambling is harming the country.

Gambling—be it through card games, computer games, Youki, or unlicensed sports betting—has long been illegal in Cambodia, critics say, but it exists nonetheless, especially during the Khmer New Year holiday.

At least three Ratanakkiri gambling halls were shut down Tuesday, authorities said, after Adhoc asked for permission to hold 100-person protests outside the establishments.

“They are no more,” Bou Lum, deputy governor of Ratanakkiri province, confirmed Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Kum Sakhan, governor of Bokeo district in Ratanakkiri, said he ordered police to shut down gambling sites there that morning.

“No one allows them to open gambling” halls, Kum Sakhan said. “We prohibit gambling, pouring water and [throwing] powder at people while they are traveling during the New Year.”

Heng Bunthann, governor of Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadaw district, also said gambling halls there were shut down Wednesday morning.

Gambling triggers stealing, property loss and violence—in short, a crisis of society, said SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann, who slammed the existence of gambling halls in a Tuesday letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

In it, Yim Sovann wrote that he believes “rogue” Ratanakkiri officials are complacent or are being paid outright to allow illegal, out-in-the-open gambling halls.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong dismissed the SRP complaint, saying, “It’s a small thing.”

Adhoc decried the effects of gambling. People lose as much as $10,000 a night, said Pen Bonnar, Adhoc’s coordinator in Ratanakkiri. Sometimes there are serious consequences, he said.

“We have seen gambling in 2007 cause violence, robbery and killing,” he said. “We have to prevent it.”


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