Recently law enforcement officers in Cambodia arrested 16 North Korean nationals for their involvement in an unlawful gambling operation with ties to China.

The North Koreans unidentified by Cambodian authorities, were working as information technology (IT) staffers for an unspecified Chinese online gambling outfit. Last year the Southeast Asian country, which borders Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, passed law prohibiting online gaming and on Jan. 1, that law went into effect.

Brigadier General Chea Kimsan said that using tourist visas, the North Koreans entered Cambodia and overstayed those permits, going on to work for the Chinese gaming company for over a year.

In an interview with The Khemer Times, Kimsan said, “.According to UN sanctions, North Korean nationals are not allowed to work in Cambodia but these 16 men used tourist visas and worked illegally for nearly a year in the Kingdom.”

Cambodia is a member of the United Nations (UN), which has imposed a range of sanctions against North Korea, including barring citizens from the country from working in other nations.

North Korea Gaming Connections

North Korea, governed with an iron fist by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, has some of the most rigorous anti-gambling laws in the world; however, that hasn’t prevented some of its citizens from earning hugely from the industry. North Korean coders, software programmers and web developers were estimated to have amassed $860 million for work done on gambling web sites around the world, as reported in 2016.

The totalitarian country’s other ties to legitimate gaming are looser. For instance, a rumor swirled in 2018 that Las Vegas Sands was mulling opening an integrated resort in the North Korean of Pyongyang, but the company later quashed that speculation.

Later that year, talk of a North Korea casino was again damped by China as Beijing sought to stem the tide of gambling dollars flowing to other countries in the region.

Casinos are still banned in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) but foreigners visiting the country can access Macau’s gaming properties owing to to twice weekly flights disclosed by North Korea’s state-owned Air Koryo airlines last year.

Cambodia Call

Even though the North Korean tech workers were arrested in Cambodia, they didn’t get any severe punishment.

Kimsan informed The Khemer Times that the crooks hadn’t committed any other crimes during their stay in Cambodia and were simply ordered to leave the country “on their own by Tuesday.”

Under the recently enacted law of the Cambodian government, formerly legal arcade and online gaming operators have until August to stop operations. In 1996, the country prohibited land-based gaming venues with punishments for associated offenses ranging from monetary fines to short prison spells.

Phnom Penh’s crackdown on gaming is believed to come at the behest of China after the latter’s foreign ministry last year called online gambling “the most dangerous tumor in modern society.”

Hud Wafiq Ganem is a gambling industry pioneer. He is the founder of and his yearly gambling industry predictions and analysis are respected and adhered to by veterans and novices alike.
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