Authorities in Takeo and Kandal provinces have busted two large-scale cockfighting rings allegedly owned by Thai Phany, an in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The son-in-law of the premier’s older brother Hun San, Phany – who is known by the nickname “Thai Mab” – has repeatedly run into trouble with the law for running cockfighting operations around the country.
In an interview with government mouthpiece Fresh News yesterday, Hun Sen himself ordered the organisers of the Kandal operation to report to police immediately.
“If they do not show up for police, I will order the authorities to arrest them and punish them according to the law without leniency even though those are my nephews or nephews-in-law,” the premier said.
Fresh News reported last night that Phany had turned himself in, citing an unnamed Ministry of Interior official, but the news could not be independently verified as of press time.
In Takeo province’s Bati district on Sunday, a joint force of police, Military Police and soldiers raided, and razed, the cockfighting arena said to be owned by Phany, though there were no arrests.
Yesterday, in Kandal province’s Lvea Em district, more than 150 police and Military Police surrounded another cockfighting compound allegedly owned by Phany and detained nearly 200 people for questioning – though not Phany himself.
Kandal Provincial Governor Mao Phirun said Phany managed to escape after he “incidentally went outside” before police arrived.
According to Phirun, authorities decided to shut down the illegal cockfighting ring after Phany failed to heed several warnings to close it. However, he denied that the premier had ordered a coordinated crackdown on Phany and said he was not aware of the Takeo raid.
“It is not necessary for Samdech [Hun Sen] to say crack down or not,” Phirun said. “This is the duty of the authorities and there is nothing else.”
“Samdech is finding anybody who uses his name to violate the law. It cannot be like that. Samdech does not support such things,” he added.
Videos and photos of the Kandal raid posted online by police yesterday showed hundreds of fighting cocks in the stadium and dozens of impounded cars and motorbikes.
In Takeo, Bati District Governor Ouuk Vy said the large cockfighting operation was ordered closed by provincial authorities, but would not confirm whether Phany owned it.
However, locals who live near the cockfighting ring, located down a bumpy dirt road off of National Road 2 in Kandoeng commune, said yesterday that it is widely known to be owned by a relative of “Ta San”, a nickname for Hun San, the premier’s brother.
“The authorities tried to bring it down a few times, but it did not work because someone big was protecting them,” said villager Oun Lay Sim.
She and several other villagers said luxury cars would squeeze into parking spaces outside the small stadium as she and other residents sold cigarettes, noodles and mangoes to gamblers outside.
“Sometimes there were traffic jams – the cars could not move because there were so many of them,” she said.
Another villager who spoke on the condition of anonymity said bets on the matches started at $250 and went up to as much as $5,000.
The villager, who lives near the cockfighting ring, said a large number of fighting cocks were taken out of the compound on Saturday evening, a day before the crackdown.
Phan Sopheak, spokesman for the Takeo Provincial Court prosecutor, said no one was arrested in the Takeo raid “since they managed to run away”.
Phany’s father-in-law, Hun San, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Additional reporting by Daphne Chen