Thailand Government Ramps Up Illegal Gambling Crackdown With Creation of Special Subcommittees

  • Illegal gambling dens are contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in Thailand
  • One committee will identify areas where illegal dens operate and who runs them
  • The second committee will look at long-term illegal gambling prevention
  • The final committee will follow the money trail
  • Thailand’s Prime Minister spoke about the possibility of legalizing gambling in the country
Playing cards, poker chips, and a gun
Three new subcommittees in Thailand are working on battling illegal gambling dens and their resulting contribution to the spread of COVID-19. [Image:]

Multi-tiered approach

Thailand officials believe that gambling dens have been contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in the country. To counter this, the chairperson of the main government panel on illegal gambling, Chanchao Chaiyanukij, has created three new subcommittees tasked with tackling the illicit activity.

One subcommittee will identify areas where illegal gambling dens are located, as well as figure out who is in charge of the operations. Another area of focus will be looking at the ways in which police, provincial governors, and local administrative organizations deal with illegal gambling. Pol Lt Gen Sarawut Kanphanit is the head of this subcommittee.

look at ways to put a stop to dens spreading COVID-19

Another subcommittee, led by Interior Ministry Inspector Phusit Somchit, is focusing on long-term strategies by which authorities can stamp out illegal gambling. It will also look at ways to put a stop to dens spreading COVID-19.

The third and final subcommittee will follow the money trail coming from the gambling dens. Department of Special Investigation deputy director-general Pol Col Akkharaphon Bunyopatsatam is in charge of this task.

Fighting COVID-19

When the three panels compile their findings, they will present them to the main government panel on illegal gambling. A “confidential” report will then be sent to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The country’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration will try to use the report’s findings to help curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Illegal gambling operations usually see many people packed into a small space and don’t adhere to any health and safety regulations. This type of environment can lead to the rapid spread of the virus.

A separate 15-member committee is looking into reports of alleged links between state officials and illegal border crossings that could be contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Former National Anti-Corruption Commission member Pakdee Pothisiri heads up this panel. Any officials who are under suspicion of facilitating illegal entry into Thailand or ignoring illegal gambling operations will be investigated.

Possible legalization of gambling

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been talking about potentially legalizing gambling in Thailand, something that has been strongly opposed for decades. He admitted that it is tough to deal with illegal gambling and that public discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of legalization could be warranted. 

The key question, according to the Prime Minister, is how most Thai people feel about the morality of gambling, noting that he, personally, is still against legalization.

Previous attempts at gambling expansion have been unsuccessful. Changing governments and parliamentary hurdles have been contributing factors. Currently, the only forms of legal gambling in Thailand are horse racing betting and the state lottery.

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