Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Casinos given permission to hold cockfights despite ban



Casinos given permission to hold cockfights despite ban

People watch as two cocks engage in a fight at a village in Kampong Speu last year.
People watch as two cocks engage in a fight at a village in Kampong Speu last year. Heng Chivoan

Casinos given permission to hold cockfights despite ban

Casinos owned by ruling Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat have been granted top-level authorisation to run cockfighting tournaments despite a longstanding ban on the controversial bloodsport.

The tycoon owns two large casinos, in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces, where the fights will take place. He is also the leading “commercial ally” of several Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) units in those provinces.

Yong Phat requested permission to run a number of new gambling operations out of his casinos, including cockfighting, on September 4.

A letter in response from the Council of Ministers, signed by cabinet secretary Hing Thoreak Sy on September 15, said that Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2009 admonished for being a lover of the fights, had approved Yong Phat’s request after it had been reviewed by the premier a day earlier.

The letter went on to instruct Yong Phat to make arrangements with the Ministry of Economy and Finance before holding any bouts.

Phat Bun Hour, deputy general director of the Ly Yong Phat Company, said the fights will take place on the grounds of the casinos.

When asked about the apparent legal conflict, he referred questions to government officials.

“On this point you need to ask the government, because they have approved it now. There is no reason that we can’t do it, and yes, the cockfighting will take place on the grounds [of the casinos],” he said.

Cockfighting was prohibited nationwide in 2009, but the ban only seemed to serve to drive the betting rings underground. The phenomenon traces its roots in the Kingdom at least as far back as the 12th century.

People watch two cocks fight at a village in Kampong Speu late last year. In September, CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat was granted authorisation to hold cockfighting tournaments at his casinos.
People watch two cocks fight at a village in Kampong Speu late last year. In September, CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat was granted authorisation to hold cockfighting tournaments at his casinos. Heng Chivoan

Small-scale betting arenas are routinely broken up by law enforcement, despite many of the fights being organised with the knowledge and sometimes participation of high-level officials, police and military officers.

Mey Vann, director of the Finance Ministry’s department of industrial finance, said a lawyer working for Yong Phat was preparing to submit the documentation for final approval.

“The lawyer has made an appointment to meet me and submit the documents . . . When the formal request is filed to the ministry, our experts will examine the different aspects [of the proposal],” he said.

Ros Phirun, spokesman for the Finance Ministry’s gaming and casino department, and Ek Tha, a spokesman for Sok An, could not be reached.

Srey Naren, Oddar Meanchey provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, warned that if Cambodians are allowed to gamble on cockfighting they could “lose money and fall deeper into poverty, because casinos use special techniques to win”.

He added that thousands of dollars were sometimes wagered in a single fight in the province’s underground cockfighting rings, while Cambodians who were let into the casinos at the O’Smach crossing with Thailand had lost land and even their homes to the gambling industry before.

Cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan said that despite a ban on betting on the fights, the practice was allowed at casinos because the industry was regulated. “We made it legal at the casinos so that it is under control,” he said.

San Chey of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability said he was disappointed that the fights had been approved.

“The government has tried to ban gambling, including cockfighting and betting on football, but then gives licences for unlimited gambling,” he said. “If cockfights are illegal, how can the government allow them inside of a casino?”

Additional reporting by Cheng Sokhorng

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Phnom Penh underpass opens to ease traffic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced a temporary opening of the 488m underpass at the Chaom Chao roundabout in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, which was recently completed to connect traffic from National Road 4 to Russian Federation Blvd. The move is to reduce

  • ‘No chance Cambodia booted out of ASEAN’

    A group of former and current Cambodian diplomats on Tuesday fired back at retired Singaporean diplomat Bihalari Kausikan after he proposed that ASEAN dismiss Cambodia and Laos from the bloc. In an open letter, the Cambodian diplomats said Kausikan’s remarks were made from a

  • Woman seeks answers after arrest of American partner

    Filipina Lalaine de Guzman, 48, is demanding answers for the detention of her American partner by Cambodian immigration officers after he was arrested at their home almost 90 days ago. She said without an arrest warrant or proffering any criminal charges, Stephen Sidney Greatsinger, 56, is being detained

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital