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Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia, has said allowing the construction of a spate of casinos on the border was part of a “secret strategy” to protect the country’s territory from its neighbours.
In a five hour speech addressing border demarcation issues with Vietnam, he told parliament: “I don’t like casinos, but the biggest goal for giving permission to build casinos is to protect the border.
“One can remove border markers, but one can’t remove five-storey hotels. Don’t be stupid,” he said, in response to opposition criticism that the gambling dens were harmful to the country.
Cambodia’s border with Vietnam and Thailand is dotted with dozens of casinos and accompanying hotels catering mostly to foreign gamblers since Cambodians are not legally allowed to gamble.
Poipet is a Cambodian town on the Cambodia/Thailand border. It is a key crossing point between the two countries, and also extremely popular as a gambling destination as gambling is popular, but illegal in Thailand.
There is a strip of casinos and hotels between the Cambodian and Thai passport control counters, enabling Thais to gamble in Cambodia without needing to go through Cambodian immigration. This casino strip area is a 'special zone' that prevents Cambodians from gambling. There is another border on the Cambodian side of this strip area that one needs to pass before being free to travel within the rest of the country.
Poipet is adjacent to the town of Aranya Pratet on the Thai side of the border. Its population has increased from 43,366 in the 1998 census to 89,549 in the 2008 census, making it the 4th most populous settlement in Cambodia just ahead of Sihanoukville and larger than its provincial capital Sisophon.
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