On 18 August Hun Sen released a decree prohibiting the playing of arcades and online gambling in Cambodia. In particular, when it expires, the govt will stop granting fresh permits and will not renew existing permits.
It means that all internet or arcade games in Cambodia are expected to cease by August 2020. More surprisingly, he said that “Cambodia needed to develop the country base on natural and cultural heritage tourism but not based on an income from online gambling.”
Briefly, the state has just dedicated itself to a significant turnaround. Prior to this he was the biggest proponent of transferring the tourism industry of Cambodia to Chinese gamblers–at the cost of Western backpackers ‘ traditional tourism industry.
And it was the Government that applauded the conversion to a Southeast Asian Macao of Sihanoukville, a coastal town once famous with backpackers, and constantly brought about conflicts between the Chinese and its local people even though the regional governor expressed issues.
What led Hun Sen to this abrupt and complete reversal of opinion? The fingers will soon point to China, suggesting that Hun Sen’s move originated from Beijing, his patron and now the most faithful partner of Cambodia.
Chinese Foreign Minister in August defined internet gambling as “the most dangerous tumour of modern society,” as Hun Sen’s Public Security Minister has called for a solution to the “cross-border online gambling problem.” This step will make him say his choice is a’ win – win’ decision. If he was not in the past, he will now be considered as coming down hard on Cambodia’s chronic corruption.
The government’s issue is that it must now pursue a fresh strategy that opposes what it has been stating for years. Furthermore, the pace and suddenness of the choice implies that the state has had to criticize the online gambling sector more than if it had been a gradual and well-considered change of strategy.
Hun Sen has now said openly that he believes online gambling is a safety danger, disturbs social order and seeks a industry of tourism that is not dependent on Chinese gamblers.