Border areas around Cambodia casinos pose crime risk, Vietnam police general says

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Vietnamese police say they are still concerned about low security around gambling dens in Cambodia, although many gamblers are given up their habit recently.

A recent survey by the Crime Police Department of the Ministry of Public Security listed 52 casinos and 35 cockfighting grounds along the Vietnam and Cambodia border, from Gia Lai Province in the Central Highlands to Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta.

Most of them, set up since 2000, are operated by Chinese and Cambodian people, and mainly serve Vietnamese people as Cambodians are not allowed to gamble in their own country, just like in Vietnam.

But awareness campaigns have reduced these customers by more than half, forcing 11 casinos and an equal number of cockfighting grounds to close, while many others have reduced working hours to couple of days a week, said Colonel Ho Sy Tien, head of the department.

"There used to be around 6,000 people crossing the border to gamble on the weekend and holidays, now there're only around 2,500," Tien said.

"Although there have been good signs, the area always has high potential for crime that the authorities should not underestimate.

"The casinos gather professional and aggressive gamblers and ex-cons, thus causing a severe loss of security," he said.

Statistics by the authorities showed painful endings to the losers when the game became too serious and violent.

From last year, 22 people in Tay Ninh and Long An Provinces neighboring Ho Chi Minh City were kept hostage after losing, and two from Tay Ninh also had their fingers cut and sent to their families. Provincial police have proposed criminal charges in five such cases.

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In Kien Giang Province, 38 people have sold or mortgaged their houses and land to pay their debts, and two have committed suicide.

The department said it is going to enhance patrols by border guards and ensure stricter checking by customs officials.

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