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Casinos in Myanmar Growing Despite Chinese Crackdown

On October 4th, 2007, far from the ongoing government crackdown by the government against the protesters all over the country, Myanmar's northeast has a distinctively Chinese environment as gamers excited for their turn at the baccarat table go into the country situated in Southeast Asia in dozens.

Wagering is prohibited in China, so a lot of Chinese gamblers trooped to the safety of Maijayang to play at the casinos owned by the mafia on this frontier town in the country of Myanmar (Burma). Covered by Myanmar's mountains and hidden by a thick, sugarcane field, Maijayang dominates the land in the Kachin state.

It is operated by former rebels. While the international community's focus is on the crackdown by the military junta against the protesters, little is not allowed in this gambling paradise. Business is growing here and can be reached by motorbike just 20 minutes from the Chinese border.

Usually, a visa is needed to enter Myanmar but that is not required in Kachin, where the rebel group Kachin Independence Organization and a coalition of warlords hold the authority over the area near the border of the Yunnan province in China.

At first sight, Maijayang may look like a typical town in China, but the cold stares of police officers on the street make it clear what country that a gambler is in. Inside the International Entertainment facility, one of the eleven casino establishments in Kachin, slot machines ding and buzz and croupiers from China wearing maroon vests call the wagers at the blackjack and baccarat tables packed by mostly Chinese customers. Surveillance cameras watched the seven rooms in the casino while burly looking men move around the gaming floor.

According to one employee that has worked in three of Maijayang's casino facilities, operations are managed by a mafia boss in Ruili, a border town in China that specializes in narcotics trade, gemstone trade and wood trade.

The demand from Maijayang and Laiza grow when Chinese officials last year cracked down on gambling establishments in Ruili. Chinese owned casinos in Maijayang operate without fear because they cannot be touched by Chinese officials.

Protection money is given to Kachin soldiers but the Chinese police officers also ignored the Chinese customers that cross the border illegally in order to have some part of the protection money. But Chinese officials insists that they are doing something to stop the illegal activity.

In 2005, with the understanding from the officials of the Shan state, a jungle area of Myanmar south of Kachin and are also managed by militias. Police officers raided the town of Mongla, the center of Chinese gaming operations. The number of casino facilities operating in the border and anywhere in the country reduced from 149 casinos in 2005 to 28 last year, because of a crackdown that confiscated $445 million in gaming related money.


10/25/2007 04:40 PM
Richard Kennedy