Hun Sen reveals casinos are 'essential to defence'
While Phuket rattles with rumour and debate over whether the complex on Koh Rang Noi is, or is not intended to be a casino, Cambodia’s maverick Prime Minister Hun Sen has come up with a novel take on the usefulness of gambling houses.
Monday 20 August 2012, 06:51AM
Allowing the construction of a spate of border casinos is part of a “secret strategy”, he said, to protect the country’s territory from its neighbours.
“I don’t like casinos, but the biggest goal for giving permission to build casinos is to protect the border,” he told the Cambodian parliament during a five-hour speech addressing border demarcation issues with Vietnam.
“One can remove border markers, but one can’t remove five-storey hotels. Don’t be stupid,” Hun Sen said, in response to opposition criticism that the gambling dens were harmful to the country. Cambodia’s borders with Vietnam and Thailand are dotted with dozens of casinos and accompanying hotels, catering mostly to foreign gamblers – including thousands of Thais – since Cambodians are not legally allowed to gamble.
“You force me to talk about it. This should be a secret strategy to protect the nation,” the strongman premier said in typically feisty fashion.
Hun Sen used the marathon address, which was broadcast live on television, to deny long-standing claims from the main opposition party that his government was allowing Vietnam to encroach on Cambodian territory.
Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border in September 2006 after decades of territorial disputes stemming from French colonial times. According to Hun Sen some 700 kilometres have been demarcated so far.
Meanwhile, the dispute over land around the Khao Phra Viharn temple complex on the Thai-Cambodian border, also dating from French imperial days.