Prime Minister Considers Legalising Gambling in Thailand

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he will consider legalising gambling in Thailand, a controversial subject that has been opposed for decades.

Most of Thailand’s recent COVID-19 cases have been linked to a number of illegal gambling dens, prompting suggestions that legalising gambling would be a more practical approach in containing the spread of COVID-19.

Gen Chan-o-cha recently admitted it was hard to curb gambling and is now said to be open to holding public discussions about the pros and cons of legalising gambling, even though he opposes it personally.

Gen Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as chairman of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), yesterday said it was time to begin discussing the possibility of legalising gambling in Thailand, according to CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin.

The PM said the key question was whether legalised gambling would be considered morally correct by most Thais since not everyone considered gambling acceptable.

On Thursday he approved the formation of a 15-member committee tasked with inspecting the handling of illegal border crossings by migrants, which is also believed to be a factor in the current spread of COVID-19.

The panel is headed by Pakdee Pothisiri, a former member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Gen Chan-o-cha has also approved the formation of a 10-member committee tasked with inspecting state officials’ investigations into cases of illegal gambling.

The two committees have been tasked with working until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and are required to report their findings to Gen Chan-o-cha every month.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday that the two committees would work with the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to track the money trail of both illegal activities.

“I believe these committees should be able to, to some extent, win the trust of the members of the public,” Mr Krea-ngam said.

“After all, locals are believed to know best about what’s going on in their communities, so they are being urged to cooperate with these authorities,” he added.

In addition, the Royal Thai Police said it will find out by Monday whether any police officers in the Bang Bua Thong district of Nonthaburi should be held responsible for allegedly turning a blind eye to an illegal gambling den that was raided on Thursday night.

More than 40 suspects were detained in the operation that was carried out by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD).

RTP spokesman Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepchamnong said the probe to identify the owners and masterminds behind illegal gambling dens in Rayong, Chon Buri, Chanthaburi and Trat provinces, which have become major COVID-19 clusters, will soon be completed.