The Government of Laos has given to China’s Roman King Group of 10 hectares for 99 years in Bokeo province, to create a modern resort. Meanwhile, a Chinese-style casino is built in part because the area is near the borders of Thailand and Myanmar and China. But experts have expressed doubts that it is being used to launder “dirty” money.
The project approved in April 2007 aims to transform the Golden Triangle, once the epicenter of the heroin trafficking in a large complex with hotels, shopping centers, golf courses, karaoke rooms, gyms, massage parlors, swimming pools and medical centers, eco-tourism initiatives, breeding stallions and even an international airport.
Instead of a casino is built on 3 000 hectares of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tonphueng, which are tax exempt. Players come from Thailand or from the Mekong from Jinghong in Yunnan Province, China. Everything here is Chinese, language, food and currency, 4,500 people work there, of which only 500 Laotians.
China Wei Zhao, courteous and smiling President of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the special economic zone, told the South China Morning Post that spend millions of dollars in infrastructure, among other things, to renew the river port and build a road up to 30 kilometers to the capital of the region of Ban Houei Xav. So far they have spent 3 billion yuan (about 455 million dollars) were invested and the Kurdistan Regional Government is planning an additional investment of 2250 million in 2020. All the national budget of Laos in 2009 was estimated at 1130 million.
Zhao explains that the Kurdistan Regional Government also guarantees the safety of the special economic zones, through their own private security guards. A portion of the profits go to the government of Laos. Emphasizes that his group has donated millions of dollars to schools in Myanmar and Laos.
There are also plans to build a city of 200 000 people, Kapok City, which will be the second largest city after Vientiane Laos. There is also a project to build a fast train line from China Kunming to Bangkok via Laos.
But experts say that the origin of non-governmental private funds invested by the Kurdistan Regional Government are not clear. Zhao is said to be connected to the casinos of Mong La, Shan area of Myanmar, which many believe they belong to the former drug lord Minxia Lin: established casinos near the border with Yunnan province of China, fell into disgrace after the ban on Chinese authorities, concerned about losses incurred by its officers. Tonphueng is not far from Mong La.
Thai Pattana Sittisombat employer, committed to economic cooperation between Thailand, Laos and Yuannan said he was “very concerned about the possibility that illicit funds are used in the project and it would be used to launder dirty money.”
UN sources also maintain a risk that this value is high. Zhao denies the allegations.
The Foreign Minister of Laos Nuanthasing Kenthong explains that the government controls the project, but added that “had no information about Zhao Wei.”