Myanmar Launches Probe On Casinos Near Border With Thailand

myanmar thailand border-casinos

Myanmar is launching a probe on an urban development project located near its border with Thailand.

The project has been the source of a lot of controversy since the beginning. This highlights the rather slippery regulatory oversight when it comes to developing markets in Asia.

The development project has an estimated cost of around $15 billion. Rumors claim that the massive investment comes from a developer with backings from an unknown source in China. The project is called Shwe Kokko New City and it covers 120 sq. kilometers.

A massive undertaking

Once the development is done, the city will be home to several resorts as well as a target to be a financial hub. The project is under the management of Yatai International Holding Group, a developer based in Hong Kong.

During the early days of the project, it was only supposed to cover less than a square-kilometer. The original intention was to build a luxury housing area. However, it has since grown into a massive construction undertaking since it first received its permit in 2018.

Last year, multiple online casinos have started operating in the Shwe Kokko city. Reports revealed that most of these online operators were driven out of China and Cambodia, and has settled in Myanmar due to its lax of regulations when it comes to online gambling.

Myanmar is a deeply conservative country and has strict gambling laws. However, most of these laws are not properly regulated and implement, especially on the outskirts of the developing nation. However, a tribunal was established in June in order to investigate the ongoing project.

One of the many concerns about the project is that locals have not received any benefit at all. Even on the construction level, majority of the workers that work on the project are sourced from China. Materials are also sourced elsewhere but Myanmar.

According to the official website of Yatai, the development project is part of the bigger Belt and Road initiative by China. This is a massive flagship project of the Chinese government that aims to build infrastructure to connect the country to other regions through roads and sea routes.

Response from Myanmar

Despite the obvious connection, China has distanced itself from the project. During a meeting last month, Chinese ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai said that the project is not affiliated with the Belt and Road initiative despite what Yatai claims.

There are also rumors claiming that Yatai is working alongside the local militia. The project is located in what is known as the Karen State, which is home to the Karen rebels. The group has agreed to enter a ceasefire with the Myanmar government and they are now acting as sort of border patrol in the region.

Considering this information, it comes as no surprise why the project is gathering extreme negative opinion from the public. Myanmar government officials are now forced to make all the necessary regulatory checks in order to make sure that everything is done entirely legal.

While the project does offer a valuable revenue stream for the country, it is imperative that the country also has to make sure that no shady deals are being done in guise of the development.

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