July 3, 2013
HURFOM: Gambling has continued to plague the Thai-Burma border sub-township of Three Pagodas Pass (TPP). In what looked like a promising move, local police forces recently seized 9 slot machines from TPP’s Quarter No. 3. However, the machines were returned to their owners shortly afterwards. Residents have expressed concerns, saying that they want the gambling to stop.
The slot machine seizures came after a fight broke out in a gambling hall on 30 June, 2013. Subsequently, the senior monk from the Dhama Haywon monastery demanded that local police forces respond to the incident, resulting in the seizure of 9 slot machines from TPP’s Quarter No. 3. According to a local source, the machines belonged to members of the Border Guard Force. However, following the seizures, owners did not face any repercussions. Furthermore, the slot machines were returned to them on the condition that they sign an agreement stating that they would not continue to operate the machines.
Slot machines have been illegal in Burma for some time now. At the beginning of February 2012, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) prohibited slot machines and gambling as part of an anti-poverty program. However, ethnic armed groups and police forces have continued to operate gambling centers in TPP, with the government failing to exert its influence to stop illegal gambling.
In TPP, gambling is tied up with many other social problems. 2013 has seen an increase in the number of brothels and gambling halls, both of which are common venues for drug and alcohol abuse, and prostitution.
Residents have expressed concerns about these activities. “To advance the residents’ social development, there should not be any gambling, drugs, or human trafficking,” said a member of an armed group who chose to remain anonymous. “First the government should clean those things out to promote the city. Unless the corruption and the gambling centers are gone, the villagers will not attain peace.”