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10VIENTIANE91 2010-02-22 10:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vientiane
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1. (C) On the margins of a February 19 law enforcement and
coordination meeting, a Burmese diplomat volunteered to DCM
that the Burmese Minister of Public Security will visit Laos
the week of February 22-26. Primary focus of the Minister's
visit will be a 1-2 day trip to a large casino in Bokeo
province, the Lao portion of the Golden Triangle region, that
opened in September 2009. Burma, said the diplomat, is
concerned that the casino investment and profits are both
linked to non-Burman ethnic groups within Burma. (Note: The
casino, anchor of what the Lao press has reported is a USD 2
billion entertainment complex investment located next to a
well-known Mekong River crossing point for drug traffickers,
has been advertised as a Chinese venture. There are
persistent rumors, however, that Wa interests act as a silent
but significant partner. End note.)

2. (C) The Burmese diplomat also indicated his government's
interest in learning more about the status of the 700
Burmese (almost certainly ethnic Shan) that reportedly work
at the casino complex. he said that when he Asked about the
visa status of these Burmese, the GOL told him that they work
using 3-day border passes, an idea he found ludicrous. He
noted that when the casino was under construction, boats
bringing materials down the Mekong from China to the site
were fired upon from the Burmese shore on several occasions.
It was around the time that the Burmese were hired on for
construction, he said, that these attacks stopped.

3. (C) Comment: Casino investments have recently been
gaining favor with the GOL, despite lack of evidence for
economic development benefit to Lao communities aside from a
few hundred low level jobs at each location. Many observers
have noted the potentially pernicious consequences here of
combining a growing gaming industry, minimal experience with
financial supervision, and a persistent drug trafficking
problem. Perhaps Burma's understandable security concerns
over possible use of Lao territory to finance arms for ethnic
groups resistant to the GOB will prod the GOL into
reexamining its casino policies.