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25 Nov 2022


Laos: Crime and labour abuse on rise as Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone remains enforcement blind spot

"Lao authorities seem powerless to stop crime in Golden Triangle economic zone" 25 November 2022

The Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in northern Laos is a haven for criminal activities including prostitution, scamming and drug trafficking, but Lao authorities are essentially powerless to stop it, workers in the zone and police told Radio Free Asia.

The zone is a gambling and tourism hub catering to Chinese citizens situated in Bokeo province along the Mekong River where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet. It has been described as a de-facto Chinese colony.

Due to the special nature of the zone, Lao authorities have limited access to it, and they require permission from officials at the Chinese-run Kings Romans Casino, the zone’s crown jewel, which is owned by the Hong Kong-based Dok Ngiew Kham Group. [...]

“Suppose workers have a problem in the zone,” one such worker told RFA’s Lao Service. “They have to call authorities from the zone only, and Bokeo police cannot help them because they aren’t in control.”

A Bokeo police official confirmed that Lao and foreign workers employed in the zone who need help must contact authorities within the zone, as it is effectively under their control only. 

“Normally there are special economic zone units, and they are the ones who solve problems on the inside. If there are serious cases, they report to higher level authorities inside the zone,” the police official said. [...]