The controversial project takes place in the small village of Yatai-city, which is located in Myanmar's Karen State
According to a report by local media, Myanmar's Yatai city is now home to a $15 billion gambling hub built on unfulfilled promises of a smart city development powered by blockchain technology. The project which is financed by Chinese investment has lured online gambling operators being driven out by Cambodia's crackdown.
The project has been a source of controversy after locals raised concerns over potential crime spikes, security issues, and limited job opportunities for the native Karen inhabitants. Questions have also been asked about the legitimacy of the investment, as the area is currently caught up in a drawn out battle for independence between state officials and the local militants backing the deal.
Yatai-City, a small village which was previously known as Shwe Kakko, is located in Myanmar’s Karen state. It covers 120 sq kilometers, and is filled with resort areas and a financial district.
According to Yatai's website, the project is backed by Chinese investment, claiming to be a part of China’s one-belt-one-road initiative.
In a facebook post, Myanmar's Chinese embassy officials however have emphasised that, the Karen state is 'a third-country investment and has nothing to do with the Belt and Road initiative.'
Karen Peace Support Network said in a report, “It is clear that the project will have little benefit for local Karen people,” and that, “They will be displaced off their land, with few job prospects in the new development. Based on the experience of similar Chinese casino “SEZs” in Laos, the area is also likely to become a hub of criminality, drug trafficking and money laundering,” it wrote.
The institute, which was founded by the US Congress claimed that several of the company names said to be operating within the project matched with those currently operating casinos in Cambodia. Names like 'entertainment' and 'golden technology' were typical.
60% of project revenue within the first 3 years will will be drawn from online gambling operations eyeing up Mainland China - a potential market size of $25 billion is predicted.
China has said that it will ramp up efforts to ensure security, increasing cooperation efforts with Myanmar in a bid to clamp down on online gambling.
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