Cheering from a small crowded shop, waving wildly with bunches of money clutched in their fists, they shout; “Fight! Fight! Come on fight! Who bet, who bet… blue ten over five…”
The group of men are watching boxing on a small television at the back of a Phnom Penh coffee shop.
Many would argue boxing is the most famous sport in Cambodia. Just look at the number of cafes and restaurants brimming with shouting men when a boxing match is being broadcast on television.
Although gambling is illegal for Cambodian citizens, many still bet openly.
A gambler who did not want to be named told Lift that while initially he only liked to watch, he was soon sucked into betting.
“After I saw them betting it seemed like a happy game so I decided to play with them,” he said.
Many are worried gambling could be seen as contagious, and if it continues to increase in Cambodia then the youth may perceive it as the norm.
Chan Phallkun, a student from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said gambling seemed like a tradition in the cafes.
“It is not surprising to me when I see such kinds of those bad actions.”
Sok Pheng, 15, said his father enjoyed gambling and was losing much of the family’s hard earned money.
“Dad likes to play gambling. When he watches boxing and my mother calls him to do things he always refuses. He used to ask money from my mother to bet on boxing. Sometimes he used to argue with mum about money.”
Gambling on boxing can also lead to gambling on other things, like football, cock-fighting and card games.
In Cambodia, we have a proverb saying, “teachers are second parents.”
Among 21 youths who Lift interviewed and who come from different high schools in Cambodia, 11 students said they had witnessed their teachers gambling on football, boxing, volleyball, cards and cock-fighting.
Pech Bolene, president at the Westline School and Northline School, said teachers were role-models and that gambling at the workplace was a serious issue.
“This action can encourage students directly or indirectly to do those bad activities, which will result in bad effects in the future.
“If there was such a case like this in my school, we would end the contract of that teacher.
“School has rules, society has laws. Therefore, those who commit those bad activities will face the laws accordingly,” he said.
Touch Chiva, a program manager of children’s justice at Legal Aid Cambodia, said if caught gambling one could face time in jail.
“It is a small case and is considered in civil laws which has a small punishment but the gamblers will be possibly punished by sending into jail and forced to pay money too,” he said.
According to Cambodian Law in Article 4, anyone who is caught doing gambling will be punished with fines from 10,000 riel to 50,000 riel and could even be kept in prison from one week to one month.
For those who owned illegal gambling venues, Mr. Touch Chiva said, the punishment would be much more severe.