Cambodia’s Efforts to Combat Illegal Casinos and Human Trafficking Show Positive Results

Posted on: August 15, 2023, 07:40h. 

Last updated on: August 15, 2023, 07:40h.

The presence of illegal casinos and online gambling operators in Cambodia has been directly linked to an increase in crime in the country, including human trafficking and torture. Following global public outcry, the country promised to crack down on the illegal operations, and its efforts are reportedly working.

The Cambodia city of Sihanoukville under construction
The Cambodia city of Sihanoukville under construction. Cambodia continues to fight illegal gambling and human trafficking. (Image: Vann Soben)


Years ago, it appeared as though the Cambodian city of Sihanoukville was going to be the next big hot spot for casinos. As quickly as it began to emerge, though, it floundered. What followed in its wake was an environment of almost complete lawlessness that controlled the city, as well as Poipet and others.

Amid repeated kidnappings, tortures and human trafficking that allegedly had tens of thousands of victims, Cambodia took action. The government’s latest figures indicate a significant decrease in human trafficking cases, which corresponds to a reduction in illegal gambling in the country.

Cleaning Up Cambodia’s Image

The figures, according to media outlet Khmer Times, show that there had been a total of 1,036 human trafficking cases reported online as of last week. The data is compiled from different online sources where anyone can submit a complaint.

Almost all of the cases involve foreigners. Of these, there were 989 investigations that led to the arrest of 338 people and the closure of five businesses. 47 cases are still open, and another 338 have been officially closed.

Cambodia’s Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior and NCCT Vice Chair Chou Bun Eng spoke of the ongoing battle with Khmer Times. She said that the state-led investigation into human trafficking is “far less serious” than what has been reported by international media outlets.

Eng downplayed the atrocities, explaining that many of the human trafficking victims were members of international crime groups. She added that Cambodia’s “success lies in the fact that there are very few complaints right now, even zero in some weeks.”

In 2021, according to the NCCT, investigators had to solve 359 human trafficking cases; the US State Department’s data, citing official Cambodian government information, showed 364. Last year, according to the group, the figure dropped to 166.

Cambodia’s government is undergoing a transition following recent political upheaval. As it does, human rights groups are optimistic the new political figures will continue to lead the initiatives established by their predecessors.

Not Everyone Is On Board

Cambodia is reportedly making a concerted effort to clean up its image, but it’s apparent that not everyone in the country agrees. Billboard officials just had to remove in Poipet are a prime example.

Right in front of the Poipet Customs and Excise Office, online gambling billboards suddenly appeared recently. Their location seems to be a slap in the face of the government. In addition, according to Poipet officials, no one requested a permit to install the billboards, as required by law.

It’s obvious that several entities had to be involved – the online gambling platform, the designers and the installers, at a minimum. Apparently, they all supported the installation, despite online gaming being illegal in the country.

The billboards only remained in place for two days before the city ordered them to be taken down. An investigation is now underway to determine who helped facilitate the installation.


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