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China Bullies Myanmar's Casinos

24 November 2003

MONG LA, Myanmar –As reported by the Asia Times: " On September 9, a large number of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers marched to the Myanmar border. On the Chinese side, life remained normal, with business and livelihoods largely unchanged. But the opposite side experienced a big chill.

"With the help of local authorities, China cracked down on Chinese-invested casinos in Myanmar's Mong La, a tiny town bordering Xishuangbanna autonomous prefecture of Yunnan province. China urged all Chinese citizens working in the casinos to return to the motherland as soon as possible. The move dealt a big blow to the economy of Mong La.

"But why?

"…The reason can be traced back to this summer, when the daughter of a high-ranking cadre in the Chinese central government lost millions of yuan in Mong La's casinos. She was lured by one of her good friends. Yet this `good friend' also made good money from her, pocketing 15 percent of what she lost. Later, the woman's family complained to top authorities in Beijing, who dispatched investigators to Yunnan to look at the issue. The findings were stunning.

"… With the help of Chinese troops and the Mong La government, Chinese Operation Blue Arrow sealed off five large casinos operated by mainland, Hong Kong or Macau people. The 1.4 million yuan (US$168,674) lost by the cadre's daughter was refunded. The Chinese government in addition requested that all Chinese working in the casinos return to China before August 31. Mong La, known for its gambling business, seemed to lose all its vitality overnight.

"Worse still, Chinese troops have massed along the border, meaning that gamblers can no longer move freely in and out. Mong La's economic outlook thus is facing great challenges.

"… That the money lost in casinos can be reclaimed sounds incredible but is actually understandable. For one thing, China years ago granted its consent to the Mong La government to open the casinos for fear that the local people would relapse into drug trafficking. But Beijing failed to anticipate the outcome: gambling fever swept the whole country, with billions of yuan flowing out to Mong La…"

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