Thais split over proposal to legalise casinos

BANGKOK - A controversial proposal to allow legal casinos in Thailand has seen mixed reactions - as supporters highlight the huge revenue they would generate, and critics call them immoral and the begetters of social and crime-related problems.

National police chief Somyot Poompanmoung, who strongly supports the idea, on Thursday offered suggestions on how to manage the revenue, including tax revenue, that would flow from casinos. He also floated ideas about how to run casinos so restrictions could be enforced efficiently.

Even National Reform Council (NRC) members are split over the issue. A group of 12 led by former Pheu Thai MP Anan Watcharothai, who call themselves "patriots", are pushing for casinos to be legalised because of the expected financial windfall.

However, NRC member Sira Jenjaka blasted General Somyot for proposing something that would lead to social problems while serving as police chief. Mr Sira said he himself was a gambler and he lost both money and his family. "I don't want my countrymen to get addicted to gambling," he said.

Former Democrat Party MP Watchara Phetthong labelled the NRC and the junta-affiliated National Council for Peace and Order as conspirators in the push for legalisation, as Gen Somyot is a senior member of both. Mr Watchara branded Gen Somyot's support of the proposal as an attempt to divert attention from the delay in stripping former premier Thaksin Shinawatra of his police rank.

National Legislative Assembly member Wallop Tangkhananurak called on Gen Somyot to launch a crackdown on gambling dens before making any move in the casino issue.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has distanced himself from the issue, but said the proposal would be submitted for the government's consideration through appropriate channels after the matter was fully debated publicly.

"Whatever ideas you have about the casino issue, propose them and discuss them. Isn't Thailand a democratic country?" he said.

THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2015, with the headline 'Thais split over proposal to legalise casinos'. Print Edition | Subscribe