A Chinese Crime Network gang has taken over the western bank of the Moei River [ tributary of the Salween River] that divides southeast Myanmar from Thailand. The situation has changed as a result of the emergence of three new cities on the Kayin (Karen) state’s border with Myanmar. So-called “ special economic zones” have seen the construction of five-star hotels, casinos, and residences. The Border Guarding Force (BGF), which is an alliance of the Myanmar Army led by General Saw Chit, is owned and run by a dubious Chinese cartel. These three projects, which span a total of about 157 square kilometres of Myanmar territory and were signed between 2019 and 2020, have become a centre for Chinese criminal organisations that operate networks for human trafficking, cryptocurrencies, gaming and money laundering.The three projects’ Chinese sponsors have 5 things in common:
(1)Their leadership is connected to nefarious organisations or individuals who engage in illegal activity.
(2)They already have casinos and cryptocurrency-related organisations.
(3) They purport to be affiliated with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, evidently erroneously.
(4)Promote relationships with important local government organisations.
(5) Their actions in Cambodia prompted the Cambodian authorities to repress them.
Each project initiative has a unique set of investors and collaborates with varied arrangements with Karen based armed groups.
•The Yatai New City Project (Shwe koko) is the outcome of an agreement between the Hong Kong-registered Yatai International Holdings Group (IHG) and the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) that was inked in July 2017. Yatai IHG has set up the BGF—with the support of the national armed forces—to make a tidy profit on Chinese investors who are compelled to leave Sihanoukville( Cambodia) due to the crackdown on illegal casino operations. With an emphasis on blockchain and entertainment, the company’s founder has substantial economic holdings in Cambodia, the Philippines, and Palau. The city promotes itself as the “ only area in Shwekoko that is authorised to operate casinos,” and according to its business strategy, gambling revenue will account for the majority of all incoming funds by year 10, reaching $11.4 billion.
•The Saixigang Industrial Zone Project is also intended to house Chinese companies that have been ejected from Cambodia as a result of the law enforcement cooperation between China and Cambodia. (Saixigang translates roughly to “ Surpass Sihanoukville” in Chinese, which is what its supporters say they want to do.) The project’s main driving force is Wan Kuok-kui, one of Asia’s most renowned former triad leaders. His 14K triad was linked to 14 murders in Macau, which led to his arrest and conviction in 1999. With an estimated 20,000 members still involved in criminal activities around the world, the 14K mafia is still going strong. Experts on Chinese criminal organisations claim that they are heavily involved in the heroin trade, illegal gambling, extortion, and human trafficking in the United States. After leaving prison in 2012, Wan, who now serves as theThe Dongmei Group Company started investing in Cambodian real estate and eventually introduced a cryptocurrency called the “ triad coin.” The main investor in the Saixigang Zone is Wan’s Dongmei Group, which was founded in collaboration with a Malaysian businessman.
•The Huanya International City Project, located in Karen National Union-controlled territory in the city of Myawaddy, involves *Saw Roger Khin, a member of the Karen National Union Executive Committee and head of the KNU Defense Department. Its Chinese investors include the Huanya Company and the Association of Business Federations of Sihanoukville. One company has already begun construction of a casino in the zone. In fact, the KNU may not fully understand the criminal background of some of the Chinese investors and their apparent intentions to control large parts of the Karen State. In the case of the Shwekoko project, for instance, the key investor, under the alias Dylan She, already refers to Yatai City as “his city” and seems to have largely ignored Myanmar government efforts to regulate his activities.
Emerging Global Threat
Three projects pose a threat to not only Myanmar but also to the rest of the world. This is essentially a “ Sinification” that will eventually push the locals out because it will be impossible to do business with them if they don’t speak Chinese. Second, it will cause a real estate bubble that will drive the locals out of the city. The negative consequences could be even more severe than in Sihanoukville (Cambodia) given the magnitude and scope of the Chinese investors’ intentions for these cities as well as the vulnerability of Myanmar.
It is noteworthy that none of these projects have been properly approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission, the National Economic Coordination Commission, or the Union Parliament, nor have they been subjected to a review by any body’s respective legislative branch. Unrestricted gaming, including internet gambling, is already being hosted by some. Contrary to what the Chinese investors are publicly stating in their promotional materials, the new law has not been passed and casino licences have not been issued, even though the Union government intends to legalise gaming in some capacity.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China is allegedly being used by three corporations, although up to this point China has remained silent about the charges. China asserts that it forbids online gambling. To put it briefly, these three agreements with Chinese businessmen engage armed factions on opposing sides of the conflict in potentially profitable economic projects totaling $36 billion in planned investments. The latest project’s marketing brochures state that just land sales are expected to provide a 10-fold return. Similar to this, the Yatai Company’s marketing brochures depict a $202.2 billion total valuation for the Yatai/Shwekoko project by 2027. The three projects together aim to swell the population of one of the world’s most volatile conflict regions by hundreds of thousands of people in coming years.