Gambling addiction on the rise

Civil servants have been advised to avoid the evils of gambling, with a warning their employment could be terminated, as a study points to a rising addiction to gambling among their ranks, particularly teachers.

Pongtorn Chantharatsami, manager of the Information Centre for Gambling Control Policy, under the Sodsri-Saridwongsa Foundation, said a study over the past five years had shown significant numbers of gamblers, particularly civil servants, live in border provinces.

The study concluded that many government employees, especially teachers, in Buri Ram, Si Sa Ket, Sa Kaeo, Surin, Prachin Buri and Nakhon Ratchasima frequently travel to casinos in Cambodia through the checkpoint in Aranyaprathet district, Sa Kaeo.

A sign outside a Buddhist temple says people who are addicted to gambling risk losing everything. (Photo by Pattarachai Preechapanich)

He said gambling had a wide and serious impact on the addict's family.

In the worst cases, the teachers' families were torn apart and some had their teaching certification withdrawn, which meant the end of their career.

The centre's field study in Surin province found that a major cause of civil servants facing severe disciplinary punishment was a consequence of gambling on football results, or other numbers, or playing in casinos just over the border.

The governor of Surin province had to instruct all government agencies to watch for and forbid officials and employees from  travelling to any casinos, and not to gamble in any way.

A field trip to Chiang Rai revealed that many civil servants support gambling by taking bribes to make it easier for people to travel to casinos in the Golden Triangle, across the border in Myanmar and Laos.

He said civil servants could face disciplinary punishment even if they do not actually gamble themselves. Their involvement in the gambling sector in any way was sufficient to warrant termination of their employment.

"For instance, a policeman or a teacher may be sacked if they are found in a gambling house. This small mistake may cost them their future, so the best way is to avoid putting themselves at risk and stay well clear of gambling circles," Mr Pongtorn said.

Justice Ministry statistics show that in 2012 there were 49,572 convictions under the Gambling Act, ranking only behind drug and traffic offences. Offenders under this act face a maximum sentence of  three years imprisonment and/or a 5,000 baht fine. 

Rattapong Sonsuphap, a lecturer at Rangsit University, said his research showed that illegal casinos in Thailand continue to exist because of an "exchange of benefits" between government officials and the owners. 

He said there were about 189 illegal casinos operating in Thailand in 2011, up by 52% from 124 in 2010. Each province had at least one or two large gambling houses.

Related search: thailand, border casino, gambling, teacher, civil servants, Information Centre for Gambling Control Policy

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