If you live in Southeast Asia, you may want to brace yourself for a resumption of long-simmering hostilities between Vietnam and Cambodia. Last week, Vietnamese authorities arrested six people in connection with an online gambling ring in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon). The female ringleader (atta girl!), Lam Manh Nhi, was taken into custody on Wednesday, while her five accomplices were picked up the following day. Tuoi Tre News reported that the authorities first became aware of the outfit’s activities after noticing a large number of Vietnamese IP addresses were accessing a website connected with a casino in Cambodia.
Investigating further, police discovered that Nhi had installed parabolic antennas across southwestern Tay Ninh province to act as a relay system between her site, the as yet unidentified Cambodian casino and her Vietnamese clientele. Nhi also installed antennas in northern Quang Ninh province to beam the Cambodian casino signal to punters in China. Nhi had an online account with the casino, through which she processed deposits and withdrawals on behalf of her gambling clients.
The lack of accessible casinos in Vietnam is chiefly responsible for the proliferation of gaming joints along the Vietnamese/Cambodian border (although Cambodia’s PM would have you believe it’s all a matter of national security). An estimated 3,600 Vietnamese cross the border every day to visit these casinos, but the perils some gamblers have experienced along the way – plus the fact that this is revenue that is permanently leaving the country – has prompted calls from both foreign developers and local gambling advocates for the Vietnamese government to rethink its current plans to bar its citizens from accessing the casinos under development in Vietnam.
Seriously, how much would it gall you if your country approved the building of massive, gleaming entertainment complexes, only to tell you that entry was restricted to tourists and foreign ex-pats? An unnamed official from Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance, which is currently circulating a draft of the country’s casino legislation, told Nugoi-Viet.com he’d back the right of locals to enter Vietnamese casinos, provided “transparent mechanisms and proper policies” were in place. Pham Trung Luong, deputy director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, said the authorities “cannot just ban what they cannot control. Vietnamese people must have their rights; if they have legal income, why ban them from gambling?” Why, indeed?