Kampong Chhnang Volleyball Betting Closed After Hun Sen’s Diktat

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Police take down a volleyball net in Kampong Chhnang over suspected illegal gambling, on October 26, 2022. (Bun Thorn Lay)
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Kampong Chhnang authorities shut down a volleyball court because of alleged gambling on the games, with one official saying it was part of an online gambling crackdown ordered by Hun Sen that was meant to target scam operations.

Provincial police officers took down the net at the volleyball court in Samakki Meanchey district, after the court owner had been warned a month ago about gambling on the premises, said district governor Chhoun Channa.

He said residents in the area had complained about players — some of whom were from outside the province — betting on volleyball games they were playing, alleging that these bets sometimes reached as high as $1,000.

“It is not illegal to just play the game. But it is more than that. They bet for $1,000 or more,” he said.

Channa said no one was arrested and that the operation was part of a directive given by Hun Sen to crack down on illegal online gambling — instructions given months after reports emerged of multiple scam compounds across the country, employing forced labor, torture and illegal detention.

“We have started cracking down on all illegal gambling, including lottery, cock fighting rings and other online betting games in our community after the prime minister ordered it last month. We will continue doing that,” he said.

Cambodia was downgraded in the U.S. State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons” report in July, leading to a barrage of law enforcement activity to inspect and shut down compounds, as well as arrest, deport or set free workers from these sites. 

The government has continued to classify the crackdown as one against online gambling, without acknowledging online scams, such as cryptocurrency and investments fraud and “pig-butchering” schemes that have globally defrauded people of billions of dollars.

Police dismantle a volleyball net in Kampong Chhnang over suspected illegal gambling, on October 26, 2022. (Bun Thorn Lay)
Police dismantle a volleyball net in Kampong Chhnang over suspected illegal gambling, on October 26, 2022. (Bun Thorn Lay)

The shutting down of the volleyball court was criticized online, with one post detailing the events getting more than 1,000 comments and close to 25,000 shares.

“Do not be a mess, my country. They took down the volleyball court. Thanks for implementing the law,” said Bun Thorn Lay, who posted the viral post on Facebook.

Keo Navy, 40, owns the court and denied the authorities’ allegations, telling VOD there were many courts in the area but offices had only shut down her premises. Navy said even if players — who were mostly from the working class — were wagering money on their games, it was only small amounts.

“There is no such [thing as] big bets happening here. There are only construction and factory workers who come to play during the weekend. They do not have that much money to bet. Probably $2.5 to $5 only,” she said. 

She had opened the court three months ago and it was a critical source of income for her family, Navy said. “But now,” she said, “the authorities have asked me to temporarily close until further notice.”

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