11 July 2024

Ninety-two Thai nationals, lured to work in casinos in the Myawaddy district of Kayin state in Myanmar and who were rescued by Myanmar authorities, are due to return to Thailand this Wednesday.

The Thai embassy in Myanmar has asked the Royal Thai Police to coordinate with the township border committee in Mae Sot district of Tak province, to facilitate the arrival of the 92 Thais who were lured with promises of high pay, but ended up as forced labour with little or no pay.

Other nationals, including Chinese, were also lured to work there. Many found themselves working in call centres or other illegal enterprises, mostly operated by Chinese criminal gangs.

According to the Thai military, the Thais were sent to work in the Yatai special Chinese economic zone, opposite Thailand’s Mae Sot and Mae Ramat districts of Tak province.

A Chinese businessman, She Zhijiang, president of Yatai International Holding Group, was granted a 59-year concession, with an option to extend it by another 20 years, by the Myanmar military to build a new town on a large piece of land, estimated at 12,141 hectares, comprising entertainment businesses, such as casinos, online gambling, hotels, industrial, commercial and residential zones.  Total investment cost was estimated at US$15 billion. The new town is expected to house about 400,000 Chinese.

She Zhijiang was arrested by Thai police in August 2022 and has been deported to China to face charges of operating illegal gambling businesses.