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20 Jun 2020

The Irrawaddy

Myanmar: Tribunal formed to investigate controversial China-backed city development project in Karen State

“Myanmar Govt to Probe Contentious Chinese Development on Thai Border”, 16 June 2020

The Myanmar government has formed a tribunal to investigate irregularities surrounding a controversial China-backed city development project near the Thai border in Karen State.

The planned mega resort and city expansion project is controlled by the Karen State Border Guard Force, a Myanmar military-backed armed group led by Colonel Chit Thu and formerly known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). The project is a collaboration between a Hong Kong-based company called Yatai International Holding Group (IHG) and Col. Chit Thu, officially dubbed the “Myanmar Yatai Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone.”

The project has sparked criticisms due to a lack of transparency, land confiscations, confusion over the scale of construction and the growing influx of Chinese money as well as suspected illicit activity and local concerns about the social impacts of casino businesses…

In 2019, local media reported that the construction activities in Myawaddy have far exceeded the approved scale for the project. Later, the project was temporarily suspended for breaching investment regulations following on-site investigations by Karen State authorities.

A report titled “Gambling Away Our Lands” by the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) in March said that despite the announced suspension, locals report that full-scale construction is continuing and thousands of Chinese workers remain on site…

A promotional video from Yatai International advertised the project as the “only area in Shwekoko that is authorized to operate casinos,”…

U Tin Myint [Union government office Deputy Minister] said the Myanmar government has so far not given official permission for casinos businesses to operate in the city project…

“Casinos business are not allowed so far in Shwe Kokko. Let me be clear about this: we have not allowed any gambling activities in that area officially,” U Tin Myint said…