Vietnam: The forest of fighting cocks

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When cockfighting is outlawed, only the outlaws will be cockfighting.

When gamecocks are outlawed, only the outlaws will have gamecocks.

– Gameness til the End

Illegal cock fighting held in forest

TUOI TRE
Updated : Wed, March 2, 2011,8:01 PM (GMT+0700)

The forest offers protection not only for wild animals but also for gamblers these days.

In fact, many forests along the national highway 20 in Tan Phu District of the southern province Dong Nai have become secret gambling venues in the past two years or more.

Every day from early morning till afternoon, hundreds of gamblers from the surrounding localities of Lam Dong, Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong flock to these “ecological casinos” to bet on cock fighting to escape the attention of the police.

In Vietnam, cock fighting is a traditional game that is legally allowed during traditional festivals only. Outside of festivals and traditional ceremonies, they are banned as illegal.

With the money deposited in each cock fight reaching several hundred million Vietnamese dong (VND100 million = US$4,760), it is estimated that gamblers bet approximately VND20 billion ($950,000) on thirty cock fights a day at a single casino.

On average, each fight between two cocks, each of them having a sharp, metal casing wrapped around their spurs, about 6-10cm long, lasts less than ten minutes before one of them collapses from a mortal wound inflicted by the other.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Tan Phu District is the hub of illegal cock fighting in Dong Nai, with ten “forest casinos” operating in secrecy under the protection of a gambling gang leader that goes by the name G.

The Fight

A regular customer in many “casinos” operated by G, P. agreed to take a Tuoi Tre journalist – disguised as a novice gambler – to a secret venue in a forest in Tan Phu.

“The area is now known as ‘the forest of fighting cocks,” P said.

As usual, at 8 o’clock gamblers start to converge on a coffee shop at the 123th milestone on the national highway 20 in Tan Phu.

After getting a message from G. or his men about the exact location in the forest, they will skirt along a trail to go deep into the forest, sometimes 5 to 10 kilometers away from the highway.

Before each fight, two roosters are weighed and sharp, metal casings are then wrapped around their spurs. From 200 to 300 gamblers gather around a circle of five meters in diameter. Only the owners of the two animals are allowed into the exclusive area.

With sharp spurs of 10cm long, a battle may sometimes end in seconds, after just one or two attacks. A cock dies immediately after the spur pierces through its head, eye or throat.

During a game, gamblers may offer new and different odds for others to accept, based on their assessment of the current advantage or disadvantage of either of the fighters.

Watching the two animals fight each other to the death, their eyes fixated on each of the animals’ movement, some gamblers shout and cheer, while others scream and swear.

It’s an impressive sight seeing blood spurting from the wound on losing rooster’s head, pierced through by the other’s spur.

A winning bettor has to pay the organizer and gambling boss G ten percent of his stakes. The rate varies at different casinos held on the home turf of different gambling bosses.

The Organization

Gamblers prefer the “casinos” of G as it is rumored that he has close connections with the local police.

G dispatches his henchmen on a wide parameter around the casino, far from the national highway, to alert him if a stranger or policemen attempt to infiltrate his casinos.

Xe om (taxi motorbike) riders waiting for travelers on the highway are also on his payroll, ready to tip G off of the appearance of any suspicious stranger.

G also guarantees gamblers that the winner will get his shares of the prize money and any loser failing to pay will be roughed up by a dozen thugs ready to take actions on his order.

Many gamblers have pawned their houses and land to G to borrow money from him to pay off their losing bets.

In an interview with Tuoi Tre newspaper, policemen from districts Tan Phu and Dinh Quan confirmed they knew about the existence of the casinos and are planning to bust them soon.




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