A proposed casino development on Cambodia’s border with Thailand sparked a confrontation between the two nations’ armed forces. The Bangkok Post reported that the flare-up started last week after Cambodian authorities moved backhoes into an area near the Chong Am Ma border crossing.
The area is sandwiched between Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province and Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. The demarcation line between the two countries has been a matter of dispute for decades and Thai authorities believe any unilateral attempt to develop the real estate would effectively be changing the facts on the ground to Cambodia’s advantage.
The Thais believed a Sept. 27 meeting between the two provincial governors had determined that the proposed hotel and casino project would be relocated in order to avoid such a confrontation. When the backhoes arrived last week accompanied by Cambodian military personnel, Thai authorities responded by closing the border crossing and beefing up their own military presence.
The tension was diffused after the Cambodian authorities agreed to stop the digging and offered to talk with their Thai counterparts about reopening the border. Cambodia has numerous small casinos along its borders, like those in Poipet, most of which rely on a steady influx of Thai visitors who aren’t legally allowed to gamble in their home country. When Thailand underwent its political unrest last summer, the flow of Thais crossing the border slowed to a crawl, which put a noticeable crimp into the border casinos’ revenues.
A little further west in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, seven South Korean nationals were arrested last week for running an illegal online gambling operation. Police raided a villa in Svay Dangkum and Siem Reap police chief Chea Kimsan told the Phnom Penh Post they found “the online gambling website displayed on their computer screens.” Police confiscated 25 computers, 26 bank books and various other tools of the trade. Online gambling is illegal in Cambodia but the country has been making noises about legalizing online sports betting.