Chinese Nationals Leaving Cambodia in Droves After Gambling Ban

  • Around 10,000 more Chinese nationals are leaving the country
  • Ban follows an increase in violent crime involving gambling
  • Measure welcomed by the government of China
Black and white crowded city background.
A new directive banning online gambling in Cambodia has reportedly led to thousands of Chinese nationals leaving the country. [Image: Shutterstock]

Huge decline in numbers

It has been reported that thousands of Chinese nationals are leaving Cambodia after the government banned online gambling. Since the ban was introduced, 140,000 Chinese nationals have left, with only 130,000 arriving.

The new directive was initially passed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on August 18. It was introduced to stop all online and arcade gambling in the hope that the number of crimes committed would be reduced. The ban was welcomed by the Chinese government.

It comes after months of uncertainty over gambling in the kingdom, where online outlets were accused of rigging games so that they could extort money from those in debt.

Security concerns

In the directive, Hun Sen was quoted as saying:

Some foreigners have used this form of gambling to cheat victims inside and outside the country.”

Now, just a few weeks later, the deputy director of the General Administrative Department at the General Department of Immigration, Brigadier General Ath Bony, has said that high levels of Chinese nationals have been reported leaving the country in comparison to arriving.

In a statement, he said: “Normally, the number of Chinese people leaving and coming remain stable. Before, there were more arrivals than departures.”

Associated crimes

High profile cases have shone a light over the number of crimes associated with gambling in recent months.

Six Chinese nationals were arrested during a raid in Sihanoukville earlier this week. They were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping three people who owed gambling debts. The kidnappers planned to ask for money from the hostage’s family in China.

And in June, 12 Chinese nationals were charged with kidnapping after they ran a similar racket with three other nationals over gambling debts.

While gambling is illegal in mainland China, there were 163 licensed casinos in Cambodia, though they contribute little income to the state.

So far, the government has already deported more than 3,000 Chinese suspects. In a recent report, it was acknowledged that there are 250,000 Chinese nationals who live and work in Cambodia.

Clampdown on online gambling

Earlier this week, Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said:

“We don’t welcome online gamblers, but we welcome investors and tourists. Online gambling is useless to our nation. The good Chinese people are still here and they continue to invest here.”

The message from the Chinese government over the ban has been solidarity. “We believe it will help protect both Cambodian and Chinese people’s interests,” said Geng Shuang, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry. “China stands ready to work with Cambodia to take effective measures to deepen law enforcement and security cooperation.”

banning foreign nationals from 10 categories of work

While the outlawing of gambling has been credited with the impact of so many thousands leaving the country, there may also be another factor.

The Labour Ministry also announced last work that it was banning foreign nationals from 10 categories of work included in self-employment, including administration.

It has not yet been determined just how much revenue the directive will cost casinos in Cambodia.