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Betting on birds banned

Betting on birds banned

090401_05.jpg
090401_05.jpg

Prime Minister Hun Sen outlaws cockfighting and orders all such arenas

closed including one at the Takeo home of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN 

Spectators watch a cock fight in central Phnom Penh in March. The PM has just banned gambling at all such events.

THE prime minister's crackdown on gambling has now been extended to an event few believed possible: Cockfighting across the country has now been outlawed.

In a possible sign of bad blood, Prime Minister Hun Sen explicitly singled out Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, a known cockfighting aficionado, and warned him publicly of the ban.

"I am announcing today the closure of all cockfighting arenas including the cockfighting arena of Sok An in the Bati district of Takeo. It must close - it is absolutely obvious," Hun Sen said.

"It is said that Sok An opened a cockfighting arena - [and if] the deputy prime minister can indulge in cockfighting, then why can't others?

Now, I am ordering Sok An - do you hear? I tell [you] to close the Tonle Bati [arena] or I will bring in the armed forces to surround it," he told attendees with a laugh.

Hun Sen was speaking Tuesday during the inauguration of the 9-kilometre Hun Sen Quay in Preah Sihanouk province. The crackdown on cockfighting follows his earlier ban on slot machines, sports betting and all other forms of gambling in a reputed bid to reverse a decline in social morality.

The premier said he had continually been asked why gambling on cockfighting was still permitted when all other gambling had been outlawed.Consequently, the pursuit was now outlawed in all its forms no matter who was playing. Hun Sen emphasised that the playing of sports remained legal.

Hun Sen said that cockfighting was not meant to be about gambling but about raising better poultry: It required 10,000 chickens to get one good fighting cock, he said, and the rationale had been  to get improved breeding stock, not wagering money.

One regular attendee at Sok An's now-outlawed cockfighting events is Seng Savorn, the media official at the Council of Ministers. Seng Savorn said Tuesday that he had not yet heard about the closure.

"But if the prime minister orders it to be closed, it will be closed. No one dares to ignore the leader," he said.

Seng Savorn said Sok An's cockfighting arena was not large and said that money was not wagered at his events.

"[It is done in order] to select the best cocks - he arranges an annual cockfighting contest for the bird championship, and there are just a few cockfights each week," he said, adding that cockfighting has until now been shown weekly on CTN.

Hun Sen's decision gained support from the opposition.

"When people talk about cockfighting, they picture Sok An because he is so fond of this kind of game. That is why this is a good example to close the arena of a senior leader ... other arenas will follow," said SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, adding that the pursuit violated animal rights and was a serious sin for Buddhists.

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