Cambodia’s online gambling crackdown could claim a government minister, if allegations of his involvement in illegal operations can be corroborated.
On Monday, Sar Sokha, secretary of state at Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, vehemently denied online rumors that fingered himself and some other high-ranking government officials as being involved behind the scenes of Cambodia-based illegal online gambling operations.
Sokha (pictured) used his personal Facebook page to slam “some nefarious persons” and “a handful of opportunists” who were attempting “to smear my name” by circulating rumors of his involvement in online gambling. Sokha said “the accusations and rumors are tricks they are using to mislead the authorities and to protect their illegal businesses.”
Sokha said he “completely” denied the substance of the allegations and requested that the National Police and Military Police investigate those behind the allegations and “take the toughest action against” the rumormongers, whom he accused of trying to “cause social disorder.”
Sokha got some immediate support from the National Police, whose spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun said the allegations against the lawmaker were “ruining his reputation.” The general added that the authorities would both “investigate this matter and continue to crack down on illegal gambling.”
In August, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government wouldn’t issue any more online gambling permits while existing permits would only be valid until the end of 2019. This, along with a renewed effort to stamp out unauthorized gambling operations, has led to a flurry of Chinese nationals exiting Cambodia, while China’s government has urged other Asia-Pacific countries to follow Cambodia’s lead.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief Sar Thet said this wasn’t the first time that such rumors were spread regarding Sokha, but “he has nothing to do with it.” Thet added that the police had conducted previous online gambling crackdowns but had “never come across a case which boasted of having support from a certain power.”
Military Police Brigadier General Eng Hy wasn’t as emphatic about defending Sokha, saying only that the authorities would “implement the law and take action against any attempt to cause social insecurity. When there is a crime, we will conduct an investigation to address it.”