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Gambling Crackdown Underway: Police Chief

Phnom Penh authorities have taken down 21 illegal slot machine operations in recent days, following a crackdown order by Prime Minister Hun Sen, a top police official said Monday.

"We will not allow them to do it, and we will raid any place we find defying the law," said Brig. Gen. Touch Naroth, chief of Phnom Penh police, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Many of the establishments had opened for Cambodian customers, despite a law banning gambling for nationals. Of the 21 operations, seven of them were completely illegal and 14 of them were operating in the wrong locations, Touch Naroth said.

Gambling establishments have blossomed around the capital, in cafes,hotels and restaurants, as well as private venues, some of them near schools, leading to worries about crime and instability. Earlier this month, Hun Sen ordered a crackdown.

Overall crime in Cambodia decreased 20 percent in the city in 2008,Touch Naroth said, but gambling operations remain a leading cause of criminal activity.

Police have set up tip boxes in every city commune, or sangkat, for residents to report violations of the gambling law or other crimes, he said. Concerned citizens can also call 012 999 999.

Touch Naroth said his department would not protect police personnelviolating the law, and measures would be doubly harsh against anyoneprotecting gambling.