Laos new outbreak may links to notorious casino empire run by “Local Emperor”
Local officials are linking the outbreak of Covid-19 cases to illegal human transporting which is run by a notorious crime figure in the region.
Laos state media has reported surge of COVID-19 cases in the Tonpheung District of the northeasterly Bokeo Province, the so called Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone and the notorious Kings Romans Casino.
The casino is operated by Chinese citizen Zhao Wei, an alleged crime figure, whose business empire was once described by the US Treasury Department as a “horrendous transnational criminal organization.”
Zhao Wei is known as “Tu Haungdi”
The Golden Triangle refers to the area where Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. The semi-lawless region is one of the largest producers of heroin and methamphetamine in the world.
Zhao is said to run the GTSEZ like his own private kingdom, where he is known as “Tu Haungdi,” a Chinese phrase that means “local emperor.”
While the GTSEZ is not mentioned in The Vientiane Times story, the Tonpheung District is economically depend on the casino and the foreign tourists they bring.
Human transporting caused the outbreak
One source told CNN that locals were illegally transporting tourists and Thai casino employees across the Mekong River into Laos from Thailand.
According to the US Treasury Department, Zhao’s operations “facilitate child prostitution and sex slavery” and “exploits this region by engaging in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bribery, and wildlife trafficking, much of which is facilitated through the Kings Romans Casino, located within the GTSEZ.”
He is also involved in “the storage and distribution of heroin, methamphetamine, and other narcotics for illicit networks, including the United Wa State Army.”
The Wa is the largest militia groups based in the area, mainly across the border in Myanmar.
Editing by Rachel Hu