Laos: Covid-19 outbreak reported near casino run by suspected Chinese crime boss
Officials said a cluster of cases in Tonpheung District have been traced to people who entered the area illegally, ignoring lockdown rules, according to the Vientiane Times, an English-language state-run newspaper. .
The newspaper also reports that a district task force accused residents of illegally bringing foreigners to Laos from neighboring Myanmar and Thailand.
Laos’ borders have been officially closed since last year as part of the country’s efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, sources told CNN that the couriers continued to transport people illegally around the country.
A former travel agent said that although crossings are officially suspended, people are illegally transporting a small number of tourists and Thai casino workers from Thailand across the Mekong River to Laos.
The agent, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive and illegal activity, said Thailand-based casino workers had stopped commuting to work and “would not return until the Covid situation was resolved. will improve “.
“They still want to keep their jobs at the casino,” the agent said.
Another source said the CNN bars and nightclubs next to the casino appeared to be open as recently as January and were playing music loud enough to hear in Chiang Rai province on the other side. of the Mekong in Thailand. Neither country experienced significant outbreaks of Covid-19 at the time. Entertainment venues in Laos were ordered to close on April 12, according to the U.S. Embassy in Laos.
Zhao denies these allegations and says he is a legitimate investor who hopes to turn GTSEZ into a major tourist destination, creating jobs in one of the poorest places in the world. Zhao regularly appears alongside Laotian government officials in public relations materials posted by the zone on WeChat, the Chinese social media platform.
The GTSEZ WeChat channel also regularly reminded residents of the neighborhood to practice social distancing. Group gatherings are limited to five people, and all close contacts of cases are required to practice home isolation and get tested regularly.