Poipet Gambling Falls as Thai Border Slows

Fewer Thai gamblers made their way to Poipet over the New Year’s holiday than in recent years, a Poipet border police official said Sunday.

Pich Saran, immigration police chief at the border checkpoint, said Thai border authorities have been very strict about checking identification cards. Thais were made to stand in long lines that moved slowly, he said.

“This was the way for them to prevent gambling in Cambodian casinos,” he said.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in December ordered video cameras installed at border crossings to discourage gamblers from playing in neighboring countries. Gambling is illegal in Thailand and government officials worry over the millions of dollars that Thais lose—often over long holiday weekends—in border casinos in Burma, Cambodia and Malay­sia.

Last week, Thaksin warned that government officials who crossed the border over the New Year’s holiday risked losing their jobs and their pensions.

About 600 to 700 Thais crossed into Poipet on Saturday and Sun­day, Pich Saran said. Earlier last week, 400 to 500 arrived each day, he said.

“We do not know about the Thai government policy, but we are surprised at how strict they have been over Christmas and New Year’s,” he said.

The Nation newspaper reported Friday that executives at two casinos in O’Smach commune, located in Oddar Meanchey pro­vince’s Samraong district, said the Thai checks were the cause of a 70 percent drop in Thai customers.

A Thai employee at one of the casinos, which are located across the border from Thailand’s Surin province, said she heard Thai workers could be laid off because of the decrease, the newspaper re­ported. Thai employees are also struggling to report to work be­cause of the slow lines at the border, the newspaper reported.

One Cambodian casino worker in Poipet said Thais are still working. About 30 percent of casino workers in Poipet are Thai, the worker said.

“But I am happy if they recruit more Thais to work,” the worker said.

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