PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA —
A court order to kill several dozen gamecocks found at an illegal fighting ring is causing an uproar on Cambodian social media after a judge ruled the birds should be put down but delayed punishment for the human organizers.
A video clip posted to Facebook showed police officers, following a raid on the operation, apparently beheading the fighting roosters; the birds’ blood was poured into three bowls.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International of Cambodia (TIC), posted on Facebook Thursday, saying, “Another historical ruling of the Cambodia’s justice system for this 2017, was the execution of 92 cocks. So far, the people, who were involved with or colluded in the operation of cockfighting game, were not tried yet. ... But it’s a pity for the cocks that were sentenced to death.”
He also asked, “Where will their corpses go after execution by beheading?” An official told AFP that the authorities had later eaten them.
Cockfighting dates back at least to the 12th century in Cambodia and is depicted in the Bayon, which was built a century after Angkor Wat. Two years after the last U.S. state, Louisiana, outlawed the practice in 2007, Cambodia banned the fights, but they continue underground.
The illegal gambling ring in Kandal province was allegedly run by a relative of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, Thai Phanny. This may be why many online commentators are seeing the cockfighting incident in political terms.
Opposition party members have been under pressure since the government-engineered dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on November 16, which rendered Cambodia a de facto one-party state months ahead of the July 29 national election.
The United States last month said it would suspend its funding of the National Election Committee (NEC) and also imposed visa restrictions on officials over the dissolution of the CNRP and the arrest of its leader, Kem Sokha, who has been charged with treason.
The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge officer who has been in power for more than three decades, dominates government administration, the military and the judiciary.
The decision by Hok Vann Thina, president of the Kandal Provincial Court and an investigation judge, is drawing attention to the cockfighting incident. Neither he nor Iv Chamroeun, the Kandal provincial police chief, would comment on the case.
However, Chamroeun’s deputy, Roeun Nara, told the AFP news agency that officials ate the gamecocks after they were killed Wednesday.
Soeng Senkaruna, a spokesman for local human rights group Adhoc, said the death of the cockerels had struck a nerve with Cambodians as it represented a “culture of impunity,” following the news that the operators of the gambling ring had been freed from jail.
He told VOA Khmer that people are “speechless as they were not satisfied by the ruling.”
It is the “impunity, meaning that the perpetrators are out of prison while the cocks were executed,” that is upsetting, he added.
Reporters from the Phnom Penh Post uncovered a trove of documents left by police in the wake of the raid that appeared to show a wide-ranging local network of bribery involving payoffs to local officials and the media.
Along with Phanny, the authorities detained 150 others involved in the cockfighting ring, and dozens of those detained were later arrested when it was discovered they were construction workers.
Hun Sen took a tough stand on the gambling ring, ordering police to shoot Phanny if he resisted arrest.
Phanny was given a caution and handed a court “monitoring” order, while 64 patrons of the gambling operation were given one-month suspended sentences, according to the Fresh News website.
This report originated with VOA Khmer.