Vietnamese Casino Worker Hangs Himself During ‘Mental Crisis’ in Cambodia

A Vietnamese man who had just started working at a casino in Bavet, Cambodia, was found dead by hanging on Friday, June 14, 2023. The man, identified as Tran Van Ban, 28, had been showing signs of “mental instability” and is believed to have killed himself, according to local police.

The casino, Heng He, is run by a business associate of Hun To, the nephew of Cambodia’s authoritarian leader Hun Sen. The casino is located in the Bavet special economic zone (SEZ), near the border with Vietnam.

Vietnamese Casino Worker Hangs Himself During ‘Mental Crisis’ in Cambodia
Vietnamese Casino Worker Hangs Himself During ‘Mental Crisis’ in Cambodia

Bavet city police chief Em Sovannarith said he did not know what job Ban had been doing at the casino. He added that this was the first case of such a death at Heng He.

No Access for Police and Authorities

Bavet commune police deputy Puthea Nuthseth said police did not have access to Heng He casino, which is also known as Heng Heng in Khmer signage. “This location, I have never entered there because it is very difficult to go in and out,” Nuthseth said.

Deputy commune chief Kao Saran also said that the casino staff were not friendly with the authorities. “We don’t know how many people live inside there, and they have never been friendly with us,” Saran said.

Heng He casino is one of the many casinos that operate in Bavet, which has become a hub for gambling and online scams. Many of the casinos are owned or linked to powerful figures in Cambodia’s ruling party or their cronies.

A Pattern of Mysterious Deaths and Labor Abuses

Ban’s death is not the first mysterious death at a casino in Bavet. Last month, another Vietnamese man died after falling from the eighth floor of the Crown Casino, which is owned by Kok An, a senator for Cambodia’s ruling (and only) political party.

In September 2018, a Chinese cook at the Crown Casino was killed after his head was smashed in on a toilet. An anonymous local government official told VOD that he picked up a body from the Crown Casino three or four months ago and sent it to the Vietnamese embassy.

There have also been frequent reports of workers being held against their will in casino towns like Bavet and Sihanoukville. They are allegedly forced to work in squalid conditions, often by Chinese criminal gangs.

Sovannarith, the city police chief, said 22 Indonesian nationals had been rescued this month from a few locations around Bavet. He said they had been involved in a “labor dispute” with their employers and did not have proper documents or visas.

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