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China’s illegal businesses along Myanmar-Thai border prosper following coup

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China’s illegal business operations along Myanmar-Thai border continue to prosper notwithstanding the severity of pandemic with the Chinese conglomerate seeking to revive a city project that was earlier suspended.

The promoter of the controversial China-backed Shwe Kokko new city project near the Myanmar- Thai border has been recruiting staff, raising fears over a rise in cross-border crime, according to a report in The Irrawaddy, a leading news portal in Myanmar. However, Covid cases are on the rise in this area.

Chinese-funded Yatai International Holding Group (IHG) accused of running illegal casinos in Cambodia and the Philippines, has been recruiting a manager for a five-star hotel, human resources manager, an accountant and gardeners this month as part of the project, according to The Irrawaddy report.

Hong Kong-registered IHG has claimed it is recruiting Thai and Chinese speakers for its Mae Sot office on the Thai side of the border. IHG jobs are also being posted on a private Facebook page and WeChat (Chinese social media).

IHG’s job advertisements said the conglomerate is involved in real estate development, urban infrastructure construction, large-scale project planning, spas, entertainment and technology research and development. The current project involves the construction, development and operation of the special economic zone in Myanmar, the company said.

Sometimes called “China Town”, the project is also being controlled by the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF), an armed group backed by Myanmar’s military and led by Colonel Chit Thu which was formerly known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

The $15-billion “Myanmar Yatai Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone” is due to cover nearly 12,100 hectares, stretching 19km along the border.

The plans involve luxury housing, condominiums, hotels, shopping centers, golf courses, casinos, entertainment, tourism, culture and agriculture.

IHG’s business plan identifies casinos as the top source of revenue, projecting an income of $11.4 billion within 10 years.

The project was suspended after the erstwhile National League for Democracy government formed a tribunal to investigate irregularities, an alleged lack of transparency, land confiscations, confusion over the scale of construction, an influx of Chinese money, suspected illicit activity and residents’ concerns about the social impacts of the casinos.

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