Posted on: August 10, 2022, 08:00h. 

Last updated on: August 10, 2022, 03:34h.

A few days ago, Cambodian police raided what they determined to be an illegal online betting shop for cockfighting. During the event, an innocent village leader was killed in the event after ducking into the shop just to get out of the rain.

Cambodia military police
National Police Chief of Cambodia Neth Savoeun, left, and then-National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, right, at the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2018. Sao, now the head of the military police, is investigating the death of an unarmed man during a police illegal gambling raid. (Image: VOA Cambodia)

Soung Dorn was the deputy chief of the village of Rong in the Kampong Thom province. He took refuge in the café following a meeting on Sunday. While there, Cambodian military police launched their attack.

During that attack, at least one officer subdued Soung by clamping his arm over the man’s windpipe. Despite others in the shop trying to raise the alarm, Soung turned blue and stopped breathing. The police have promised to launch an investigation.

Family Calls For Answers

Soung’s death didn’t cause an uproar in Cambodia as other police-related deaths have elsewhere. However, it would have likely gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been for his daughter, Nearadey Din. She published the incident on Facebook before turning to RFA for additional exposure.

In her Facebook post, Nearadey lobbied for intervention from the highest level of Cambodia’s government. She has called on Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian Human Rights Commission to take action. That probably won’t happen, although they’ll closely monitor the situation. The head of the military police, General Sao Sokha, is investigating the matter and reportedly suspending the officers involved.

Sao, a former bodyguard of the prime minister and former National Military Police commander, told local media that he is establishing a commission to investigate the death. However, the depth of that investigation is questionable. A coroner listed Soung’s death as the result of a heart attack.

Nearadey dismissed that assessment, arguing that her father was in good health. She stated that he had no history of heart disease or any other signs that he was suffering from health issues.

Cambodia Faces Unstable Future

Illegal gambling remains a major issue in Cambodia. At one point, towns like Sihanoukville were poised to be “the next big thing” in global gaming. However, as quickly as new development began in 2017, it stopped two years later.

Sihanoukville and similar cities saw a massive influx of Chinese investors ready to get in on the growing popularity of online gambling. They began building shopping malls, offices, apartments, and more to support the growth. By 2019, $1.7 billion in foreign investments had arrived, mostly from China.

But China wasn’t happy with the investments, putting pressure on Cambodia to cut off online gambling. That led to the collapse of the gambling infrastructure. By 2020, foreign investment in Cambodia was less than one-tenth of what it was a year earlier, according to the World Bank.

Desperate to make a living as towns dried up, some investors turned to illegal gambling. It isn’t likely that foreign investors will return soon, especially given the current climate.

The government says it’s now cracking down on illegal gambling and other illicit activity.