Hun Sen says not to make wrongful arrests or demand bribes
PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday warned against placing bets on the upcoming FIFA 2010 World Cup, though he also told police to refrain from making wrongful arrests or demanding bribes during gambling raids.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, the premier emphasised that the tournament – which begins in South Africa on Friday night and runs through July 11 – should be enjoyed merely as spectacle.
“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal for people not to bet, but to watch the World Cup for fun,” he said. “Don’t make the year of the World
Cup the year of lost money. The winners are in other countries, but the Cambodian people here are the losers.”
He said police should make sure that all people rounded up in raids have actually been gambling, rather than reflexively arresting entire groups gathered to watch football matches. He also warned against the collection of bribes, saying, “It is not good for us to do.”
In February of last year, Hun Sen abruptly ordered the closure of the country’s sports betting outlets and slot-machine parlours, saying they had been responsible for a decline in national morals. Cambo Six, a Hong Kong-owned sports betting agency, was among the largest targets of the crackdown.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Wednesday that both Cambodians and foreigners would be subject to arrest if caught gambling. “Both Cambodian people and foreigners have to respect the laws of the Kingdom, and I will not allow the opening of places for football betting,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak echoed this statement, saying the gambling ban “would continue”.
“It has been banned for over a year now. The last one was Cambo Six,” he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, director of legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, noted that gambling is only legal at venues that have been officially licenced.
“The casino must be commercially licenced with the government,” he said.
Philomena Chan, director of marketing and communications for NagaWorld Hotel and Casino, said Wednesday that management there had no plans to permit betting on World Cup matches, though she said the casino would screen the matches and organise World Cup-themed raffles.
“For the time being, we do not have that [gambling] activity,” she said.
YOUR SAY: WORLD CUP GAMBLING BAN
Heng Yun, 47
“I am very happy that the premier has allowed us to watch the World Cup this year. But I am very disappointed because I cannot bet on the matches.”
Pao Samnang, 18
Student, Cambodia Baptist Bible College
“Watching the World Cup will make me feel very excited, but I do not support anyone who wants to bet on the matches. We can watch the World Cup on television, but don’t place wagers if you love your lives.”
Saom Chan, 30
“I think that not just me but everyone in the world is very happy to be watching the World Cup. But betting on football is not good. It can cause people to lose their money.”