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Minister of Interior Urges Continued Crackdown on Crime in Sihanoukville

The Minister of Interior has urged authorities to stamp out the crime that plagues Sihanoukville after stating the government has plowed billions of dollars into transforming it into an attractive tourist destination rather than a “haven for illegal gambling”
Suspects detained following raids in Preah Sihanouk province. Kiripost/supplied
Suspects detained following raids in Preah Sihanouk province. Kiripost/supplied

The Minister of Interior said the government has plowed billions of dollars into transforming Sihanoukville into an attractive tourism destination while attracting foreign investment as authorities continue to carry out raids for suspected kidnapping and trafficking.

On Monday, Sar Kheng made the statement at the Anti-Human Trafficking Instruction Meeting. He added, “The Royal Government has invested more than $200 million to create infrastructure in Sihanoukville, and the $2 billion investment in the expressway and National Road 4 upgrading is not intended to serve as a haven for illegal gambling but to attract proper investment, and the right tourists produce cash to help grow the entire country, not just Sihanoukville.”

“A criminal act of any sort of illegal gambling is a cancerous growth that will complicate social issues if not addressed together,” Kheng said, adding illegal gambling is the root cause of all forms of human trafficking that occur in Cambodia.

The Minister gave instructions to crack down on illegal gambling and criminal online gambling in villages, communes, and sangkats and report them to the Capital-Provincial Administration for crimes.

Kheng strongly advised that the ringleaders be investigated and punished severely and without exception for illegal gambling, that victims be rescued as soon as possible, and that extensive research be conducted to identify money laundering and other crimes, and to promptly shut down crime sites and illegal locations.

Am Sam Ath, operations director of Licadho, stated that the recent crackdown on gambling is on a large scale, but hopefully not for short-term activities as the country has laws to implement.

"Actually, the Village-Commune Safety Policy contains regulations for authorities to execute, but unless the Prime Minister said anything about it, the officer immediately implemented it," Sam Ath explained.

He added that the policy was established for officers to comply with and implement. He compared the procedure to light rain, not an occasional storm, and said illicit gaming has led to human trafficking crimes that has seen Cambodia placed in the top 2 to 3 of the international list of human trafficking.

"When police have cracked down on locations, authorities discovered that most venues or casinos are illegal, thus the Ministry of Finance should be more vigilant in determining which casinos have a license or not. This matter could have been handled from the start," Sam Ath said.

He added that the Government's governance has been inadequate, and corruption and gambling have mushroomed.

According to a press release issued by Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration, during a five-day operation from September 13 to 19, Provincial Unity Command discovered 141 illegal immigrants, including 130 Chinese and 11 Vietnamese, who were sent to the Investigation and Enforcement Department of the General Department of Immigration for deportation.

Authorities identified six offenses of illegal gambling, illegal force and torture, illegal possession of weapons, prostitution, human trafficking, and money laundering. It is consistent with the offenses of illegal gambling and the crime of prostitution and human trafficking.

Twenty-seven foreigners were questioned at the provincial police station. A total of 12 suspects, five victims, and 10 sex female workers were taken to the provincial police station for questioning. In addition, exhibits including four shotguns, 8,776 mobile phones, 804 desktops, 16 laptops, 36 passports, 12 storage devices, four handcuffs, eight electric batons, and two electric flashlights were confiscated, according to a statement from the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration.

"Cambodia must strengthen the mechanism of law enforcement, undertake anti-corruption activities, completely manage administration, and effective coordination within the region and internationally to reduce all illegal activity," Sam Ath said.