Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on Cambodians to avoid placing bets on the Fifa World Cup after praising the performance of Japan in the tournament.
Speaking during the opening of a Japan-funded port in Sihanoukville, Hun Sen told the Japanese ambassador to Cambodia that he was backing the team and had placed a “joke bet” on every Japanese match with his friends, adding that he had won most of his wagers so far.
“I think I have won [bets on] eight matches so far,” he said. “I sometimes make bets with people abroad. We exchange messages, but we don’t bet money, it’s just joke betting.”
“Last night, I placed a bet on the Japan team, which I always do because we are both Asian. We need to help each other, win or lose.”
Japan remains an important source of finance for Cambodia and is one of only a small number of wealthy nations that has not pulled its support for the general election in July over increasing political repression.
Hun Sen went on to appeal to Cambodians not to place real bets on World Cup games as the tournament was proving to be “unpredictable” and they could lose money.
“Don’t bet. Do not place bets during this World Cup season. In some countries, as far as I know, some people have committed suicide after losing a match,” he said.
The Fifa World Cup opened on June 14 with 32 national teams from around the world taking part.
Japan has so far earned four points from its first two games, putting the team in first place in Group H.
Gambling is prohibited under Cambodian law, but illegal gambling operations and online betting mean Cambodians still have access to place bets on the tournament.
Meas Nee, a social analyst, said the rise in gambling operations around the World Cup was a cause for concern.
“Every time the government [makes anti-gambling] appeals it seems to be ineffective,” he said. “I would like the government in the future to make it clear with conditions, otherwise nothing will change.”