China and Southeast Asian neighbors need to strengthen joint law enforcement

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/25 20:28:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

Cambodia's recent crackdown on online gambling has seen thousands of Chinese nationals leave Sihanoukville, a coastal city in Cambodia rife with illegal online gambling, over past weeks.

On August 18, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the ban on online gambling, which will shut down all related businesses by the end of 2019. The move comes at a time when the local government is increasingly aware of the deleterious impacts of the chaotic gambling industry on economic development and public security. Hoping to take a shortcut to wealth, many people were allured to engage in the illegal online gambling industry in Sihanoukville in recent years. Thus, many social problems like illegal gambling, extortion and online cheating are rife in the city, seriously impacting local stability and local people's lives.

Yet, it should be noted that the Cambodian government's crackdown on online gambling is not specifically directed at the Chinese community, but aims to root out illegal economic activities and criminal offences. The Sino-Cambodian relationship has seen no substantial change, as both sides are trying to eliminate those that undermine the healthy development of their economies and societies. After all, the so-called exodus of Chinese nationals is only a small issue for the Sino-Cambodian relationship.

China is currently Cambodia's largest investor, with Chinese-funded companies making increased investments in the latter's infrastructure construction, power generation, agriculture, tourism development, special economic zones and telecommunications, boosting the development of the Cambodian economy. 

But China's government strongly opposes Chinese companies that are involved in the gaming industry in Cambodia, as gambling and gaming are illegal in the Chinese mainland.

In fact, the Chinese authorities have been joining hands with Southeast Asian countries to strengthen joint law enforcement and step up the crackdown on criminal activities like cross-border internet fraud and illegal online gambling. Due to the crackdown on fraud, online gambling and other illegal industries in China, many criminals have turned to Southeast Asian countries with relatively loose regulations. 

While restarting their illegal businesses in countries like the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar, these criminal gangs mainly target Chinese citizens by swindling their money or inducing them into online gambling. Such cross-border scams have not only harmed such individuals' interests, but have also posed a threat to social development and public security.

It was in March this year that China and Cambodia launched the Year of Law Enforcement Cooperation, which opened a new chapter for bilateral law enforcement cooperation. Both sides have regularly carried out joint operations against crimes like illegal online gambling and telecom fraud. According to a report by, as of the end of August, nearly 1,000 Chinese nationals had been arrested in Cambodia, with 335 suspected of online gambling and 155 suspected of telecom fraud. Specifically, on August 15, the Cambodian police arrested 127 Chinese nationals in Sihanoukville.

The Chinese government has always insisted on compliance with laws and regulations of local countries when it comes to Chinese companies or individuals going abroad for business or work. China does not support companies' or individuals' involvement in illegal business in foreign countries.

In addition to Cambodia, the Philippines and Myanmar, Laos and other Southeast Asian countries have been working closely with the Chinese government to crack down on overseas internet crimes. 

For instance, on September 16, the Philippine immigration bureau arrested 324 Chinese nationals suspected of involvement in illegal online gambling and other crimes. This came after 277 Chinese citizens were busted in a raid concerning an online scam on September 11.

Despite fruitful results, given the years of development of such criminal gangs, more efforts are still needed from joint law enforcement from China and Southeast Asian countries for the long-term benefits of local economies.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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