Vietnam Police Raid Cockfighting Ring: Seize 40 Gamblers, $24k in Cash
Police in the Hung Yen Province of Vietnam raided a large cockfighting ring this week, arrested 40 gamblers who on the property where the fights were staged. Hundreds of gamblers were said to have been present at the fights when police arrived, though most of the people present were able to avoid law enforcement in the raid.
Cockfighting is a pastime in Vietnam, as it is in other countries in the region. Despite that, the practice is outlawed throughout the country, except during specific holidays. Law enforcement does not always take steps to enforce the ban. In fact, tourists commonly report seeing cockfights in the streets of cities they visit.
Unlike the United States and Mexico, organizers do not use razors on the cock spurs. The fights are not nearly as deadly or brutal as they are in North American, though birds are known to die. In some fights on can see on YouTube, the birds push each other around the ring, while in others they try to hurt each other with their (natural) spurs.
Illegal Gambling Ring Busted
The cockfights took place at the farm of Nguyen Ngoc Kheo, a 59-year old man in the Bao Khe Commune. When police raided Nguyen’s farm, they found 15 fighting cocks, hundreds of people, around 100 motorbikes, dozens of mobile phones, and $24,000 in cash.
Many gamblers were able to escape during the raid, including organizers and viewers. The Hung Yen police say this is the largest gambling ring they have ever located. The raid came after police received a tip which said the gambling ring organized fights every weekend. According to that tip, the fights had been taking place every weekend for 3 months.
Mr. Ngyuen’s Cockfighting Farm
Local residents gambled on the cockfights in the busted ring. Meanwhile, a lucrative fight game had emerged for the owner, Mr. Nguyen. People were allowed to bring their own birds to fight, though they had to pay an entry fee of around $2,400. If their fighting bird won, they would receive approximately $24,000 to the owner. Presumably, the money confiscated was the prize pool for the next fight.
The Hung Yen provincial police say they intend to impose strict measures on the gamblers, for the sake of correction. They also hope to expand the investigation, to see if they can collect information from the detained gamblers and organizers and perhaps raid other cockfights in the region.
Cockfighting in Vietnam
Cockfighting is a popular form of entertainment in Vietnam, at least among the common folk. As one person put it in one of the seemingly endless number of YouTube videos involving animals fights, “cockfighting is a culture in Vietnam”. In Ho Chi Mihn City, cockfights take place in the street. Despite its popularity, organized cockfighting is illegal. Gambling on the fights is strictly banned. The bloodsport is popular throughout South Asia and Southeast Asia, though police say it is near-impossible to stop.
During special festivals and ceremonies, cockfighting is allowed by officials, though it is banned the rest of the year. Tet, the Vietnamese New Year Festival, is one of the times of the year when the sport is allowed, at least by tacit consent.
Hung Yen Province
Hung Yen Province is found in the northern half of Vietnam, relatively near to Hanoi. It is found in the Red River Delta. In the days before the French colonization, the river travel allowed towns of Hung Yen to become trade centers. The Chronicle of Hung Yen from circa 1831 stated, “The streets are very busy and bustle, crowded with vehicles; the old images of Pho Hien in Son Nam can been seen now in this land.”
The French split the province in two, beginning a long process of political fragmentation in the region which continues to this day. A 1968 ruling combined the region into one unit, though that decision was reversed later. These days, Hung Yen is home to a large highway which is the eastern transit route into Hanoi. Decades after the Communist takeover of the country, Vietnam remains a largely-agrarian country. In such settings, old and primordial traditions like cockfighting can persist for generations.
The raids in Hung Yen show that authorities are determined to punish those who flout the law. The fact that punishments for such gambling–both for organizers and the common gamblers–show how entrenched the culture of cockfighting is in Vietnam.