Choose amusement parks over legalised casinos, says Abhisit

The public debate over the controversial proposal to have legal casinos in Thailand is heating up, with Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva questioning whether Thailand wanted to be known as gambling and a prostitution destination.

"Why not think of making Thailand renowned for amusement parks instead? In which profile should Thailand be positioned in terms of supporting its blossoming tourism industry?" he said.

Abhisit had earlier called on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to show a clear stance on the casino issue.

"Why not study the negative effects of casinos in Singapore, which sees them as problematic?" he added.

PM's Office Minister ML Panadda Diskul said having legal casinos would not result in the numerous illegal gambling dens in Thailand disappearing. He said a study on casino models in various countries must be considered to weigh up the pros and cons in individual cases.

Meanwhile, Panadda said he agreed with Abhisit's call for the abolition of the Prayut government's 12-point code of values, which aims to promote good conduct among young people including opting for virtue over vice.

Sensitive issue

PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said the casino proposal was a very sensitive issue and the public would ultimately decide if it should be embraced.

"The issue would not need to be decided through a referendum, which I think should be reserved for only the draft constitution," he added.

A leader of a group of National Reform Council members who first proposed allowing legal casinos in the country, Major Anan Watcharothai, said his group would submit its proposal to Prayut next month.

He vowed to keep listening to all the comments voiced by those opposed to casinos, but he would not back down.

Anan said he would meet with police chief General Somyot Poompanmuang, who backed the casino proposal, while members of his group would meet with all significant opponents to exchange ideas and listen to their advice.

Meanwhile, Ranong Immigration Police revealed that the number of Thais heading to Myanmar's two islands where Thai-owned casinos operated reached 93,809 between January and May.

Of that figure, 46,862 visited the Grand Andaman casino complex on Koh Son and the rest visited VJ Casino on Koh Khoo.

Sucheep Phatthong, head of a network of civic groups opposed to having legal casinos in Thailand, said many Thai gamblers ended up in financial trouble after visiting the Myanmar casinos.