Myanmar’s Kayin State Gambling Project Leads to Sanctions Against Officials

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Myanmar is in the middle of an unofficial civil war that has at its roots, in part, an attempt to rid the country of its gambling element. The U.S., the U.K., and other nations are introducing sanctions against two high-ranking officials in the government who also have ties to a major gambling operation.

Colonel Saw Chit Thu, with his entourage, traveling through Kayin. The leader of Myanmar’s Border Guard Force faces new sanctions for his ties to illegal gambling. (Image: Frontier Myanmar)

On Friday, the U.K. unveiled the joint sanctions against Colonel Saw Chit Thu, a Burmese junta-tied Border Guard Force (BGF) leader and two other individuals. The two others are Chinese investor She Zhejiang and Colonel Saw Min Min Oo, a primary leader under Saw Chit Thu.

The sanctions were implemented in response to the exposure of nine individuals and five companies involved in internet-based “fraud farms” in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. It has been widely documented that the workers of those operations are victims of human trafficking.

The sanctions are meant to asset freeze that prevents anyone from the participating country from dealing with the economic or financial resources of the sanctioned individual(s). They also include a travel ban that prevents authorized individuals from traveling to or through the participating countries.

Shwe Kokko

The sanctions link back to their alleged involvement in the recently established Shwe Kokko town in Kayin (previously Karen) State. This decision comes as a response to the severe accusations related to human trafficking, forced labor, and infringements on human rights against the two.

The Shwe Kokko Project is a collaboration between Chit Lin Myaing Co and Yatai International Holding Group, a company registered in Hong Kong. Chit Lin Myaing Co allegedly belongs to the BGF, with Saw Chit Thu as its highest-ranking executive.

Saw Chit Thu and his border guards are reported to have significantly benefited from the operation, which has gained a notorious reputation in Southeast Asia due to its connections with Chinese criminals. The operation presents itself as a significant revenue stream for the BGF officer.

Shwe Kokko currently remains operational, according to previous comments by the BGF.

Human Trafficking Claims

Saw Chit Thu and the other two have been implicated as accomplices or beneficiaries of human trafficking in the operations of Shwe Kokko, according to an official statement from the U.K.

The trio, with assistance from others, allegedly forced their victims into slave labor and allegedly routinely subjected them to torture, physical abuse, and various forms of exploitation.

The United Nations has estimated that as many as 120K individuals in Myanmar face similar conditions of forced labor. At least another 100K in Cambodia are also victims of human trafficking.

Last year, Thai police arrested She Zhejiang in Bangkok. His apprehension was triggered by a foreign warrant accusing him of managing an internet-based casino. He allegedly has deep involvement in several controversial ventures in other countries, as well as in Cambodia’s gambling industry.

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