The owners of about a dozen illegal gambling dens in Bangkok pay regular bribes to a whole range of police, from area superintendents to high-ranking officers attached to the Royal Thai Police Office, Pol Lt-Col Santhana Prayoonrat, the disgraced Special Branch police officer, said in his recent testimony before the House Committee on Police Affairs.
Each den paid up to 10 million baht per month in cash in return for police turning a blind eye to their illicit businesses, he said.
Reacting to reporters’ questioning about widespread illegal Togel Hongkong gambling dens and kickbacks paid to the police for protection, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said senior police could not deny the existence of such dens, and that he would personally take action from the top down if no improvements were seen after repeated warnings.
But he conceded the problem would take time to solve as it had accumulated over a long period of time; he promised the situation would gradually get better.
On the issue of kickbacks to the highest level of police, Mr Thaksin conceded that most who demanded the kickbacks were local police, while only a few high-ranking officers at the top got their share. What made the problem insoluble for so long time was that high-ranking officers were too accommodating and understanding of the necessity for their subordinates to earn supplementary income.
National police chief Pol Gen Sant Sarutanont has since issued a directive to all police chiefs throughout the country to be diligent in suppressing illegal gambling dens. While admitting that gambling was only a petty crime, gambling dens were nevertheless rendezvous points for various criminals and, if left unchecked, would lead to more violent crime, he said, warning that officers would be severely punished and investigated for possible kickbacks if other police units were able to raid a gambling den in their jurisdiction.
Now that the prime minister and police chief have come out with direct warnings, it is expected local police precincts may send a signal to gambling den operators to lie low for a while and wait till the issue dies down before resuming their illegal operations.
This fact was admitted by Metropolitan Police chief Pol Lt-Gen Damrongsak Nilkuha, who said that gambling dens which were closed down often reopened, as the owners considered this to be nothing more than an occupational hazard. Many police raids on dens were arranged simply to garner credit for those conducting the operation.
The penchant of many Thais for gambling is hard to eradicate, judging from a study by Dr Pornsak Phongpaew, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, which revealed that there were numerous casinos and gambling dens along the 2,000-kilometre-long border which Thailand shares with its neighbours, and that Thai gamblers made up more than 90% of the clientele, spending some 200 billion baht a year on these casinos. Many major investors in these casinos were Thai. The study also revealed that Thailand was the only country in Asean without a legalised casino.
Since the profits were not shared by the government or Thai investors, the study concluded that the cross-border casinos and gambling establishments had an overall negative effect on the Thai economy. The fact that all illegal casinos _ whether along the border or in Bangkok and cities throughout Thailand _ have influential people as owners or co-investors, isn’t it time the government seriously considered legalising the establishments so that the state could tap into another source of much-needed revenue?
It would be a hypocrisy to claim that as Thailand is a Buddhist country it would be morally wrong to have a legalised casino; countries such as Malaysia and Burma, which don’t have the reputation of being the vice capital of the world, still allow legalised casinos.