UN Warns of Growing Criminal Threat from Mekong Region Casinos, SEZs

The unchecked growth of freewheeling business enclaves and casinos in and around Laos is opening new money laundering and drug trafficking options for crime networks using the country to push spiraling volumes of narcotics across Asia, the United Nations warns.

As China and Thailand tighten their borders with Myanmar, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says transnational gangs based in the lawless corners of eastern Myanmar are funneling ever more methamphetamine through Laos.

In recent conversations with VOA, the UNODC said special economic zones — with eased regulations to attract foreign investors — and the casinos that often anchor them have also become major trafficking and money laundering hubs for the crime networks that make Southeast Asia’s Mekong River countries home.

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Zsombor Peter