Casino blamed for violence on Mekong River
Teddy Ng in Beijing and Laura Zhou
A casino operated in the Golden Triangle by a Chinese businessman praised by official media has disrupted the balance of power among gangsters in the region, leading to the brutal killing of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River, mainland media reported yesterday.
The foreign ministry said yesterday that Chinese and Thai police were still investigating the October 5 killings, but a report by the Southern Weekend said the safety of Chinese sailors in the Golden Triangle had been put at risk after a casino operated by Hong Kong Kings Roman Group opened in Laos in September 2009.
The chairman of the company, Zhao Wei, who has been appointed as the chairman of the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone by the Laotian government, said in an interview with china.com.cn in May that he launched his business out of 'sympathy' to help local residents escape poverty.
Thailand's Chiangrai Times reported in June that the Laotian government had given the company rights to transform land in Bokeo province into a large complex with hotels, shopping centres, golf courses, massage parlours and medical centres.
The casino sits on 3,000 hectares of land in the economic zone's Tonphueng district.
'The Mekong River has become chaotic, all because of the company,' the Southern Weekend quoted Li Chaohui, the wife of a ship captain who often delivers goods along the river, as saying.
The report, citing records of conversations between vessels and marine bureau in the port of Guanlei, in Yunnan , said at least six Chinese vessels were hijacked between April and October 5, and that Chinese boats had been subject to harassment by armed men for two years.
Zhao's company had reportedly paid a ransom of more than 10 million yuan (HK$12.1 million) for the release of the Zheng Xin 1, which was hijacked on April 3 while carrying gamblers to Zhao's casino.
The operation of Zhao's casino had a significant impact on a rival gambling business in Myanmar.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China hoped that the people behind the killings would be found and severely punished.
At least this many Chinese vessels were hijacked on the Mekong River between April and October 5