Man Escaping the Rain in Cambodia Dies During Illegal Gambling Raid by Police

A few days ago, Cambodian police raided what they determined to be an illegal online betting shop for cockfighting. They now have to answer why they killed someone, an innocent man and local village leader who had ducked in just to get out of the rain.

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. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that 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 then stopped breathing. The police have promised to launch an investigation.

Family Wants Answers

Soung’s death didn’t cause an uproar in Cambodia like 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, as well as 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 looking into the matter and reportedly suspended the officers involved.

Sao, a former bodyguard of the prime minister and former National Military Police Commander, also 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 an issue in Cambodia. At one point, towns like Sihanoukville, now seemingly out of control, were going 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 others like it saw a massive influx of Chinese investors, all 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, mostly from China, arrived.

China wasn’t happy, putting pressure on Cambodia to cut off online gambling. It worked, too. Suddenly, the entire infrastructure began to collapse. However, many investors had poured everything they had into Cambodia.

As a result, 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. There were others involved, of course, who participated solely because they enjoy criminal activity.

Now, corruption is a way of life in places like Sihanoukville. Those who have money are swallowing up land and real estate from owners for pennies on the dollar.

However, there’s nothing to do with the real estate in the immediate future. It isn’t likely that foreign investors are going to return soon, especially given the current climate.

The government says it’s cracking down on illegal gambling and other illicit activity. Yet, some analysts wonder if it’s an unsurmountable uphill challenge with too many obstacles.

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