Border closures on cards to curb 'greedy' casino visitors

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 May, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 May, 1999, 12:00am

The nation's legions of high-rollers and rapacious military officials are being targeted in a sweeping review of border crossings.

The National Security Council will shut recently opened passes into Cambodia, Laos and Burma if they are found to be used mainly by gamblers frequenting a burgeoning casino industry, government sources confirmed yesterday.

'These crossings were supposed to boost trade and longstanding links as Indochina opened up, not merely line the pockets of a few greedy people,' a senior government source said.

'Casinos are banned in Bangkok for a very good reason. It is no good to have thousands of people exploiting this loophole. It will be a matter of shutting down the small crossings. It is not our intention for the new, open Mekong region to take a step back.' Several prominent businessmen and politicians have funded new casinos just inside Burma while military officials are understood to be linked with operations in Cambodia.

Officials from the House Local Administration Committee have already travelled to the Sop Ruak crossing in northern Thailand, which feeds the new Golden Triangle and Paradise resort, the Bangkok Post reported.

The resort's Thai political backers want the crossing made permanent but critics fear it will merely spark even more smuggling and vice in what has long been one of Thailand's most notorious regions.

News of the review followed reports in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that wealthy Thai-Chinese were leaving Bangkok by the bus-load on cross-border gambling excursions.

Typically, the gamblers avoid main crossing points but are ushered by military officials through dozens of 'temporary crossings'.