A major hotel and casino which held exclusive rights to operate on an island off the southern tip of Myanmar has reportedly shut down after authorities in Myanmar and Thailand issued arrest warrants for its owner.
According to a series of reports by Southeast Asian media outlet The Irrawaddy, Myanmar national U Kyaw Lwin – who lives in Thailand under the name of Sanga Kangval – is still on the run following a series of raids by police on 27 locations in Thailand, including in Bangkok and Ranong.
Those raids are said to have resulted in the arrest of seven suspects, including U Kyaw Lwin’s wife and one of his assistants. Warrants are still out on another 11 individuals.
The action against U Kyaw Lwin is related to his role in the “Kofuk” network, The Irrawaddy claims, which is alleged to have laundered money from online gambling operations and currently has more than US$28 million circulating in its online gambling system.
It is also claimed that both Myanmar and Thai authorities have acted in response to pressure from China, part of its crackdown on all cybercrime including online gambling.
The warrants against U Kyaw Lwin are said to have resulted in the closure last week of Grand Andaman Hotel on Thahtay Kyun Island in Kawthaung Township, which has exclusive rights to operate gaming on the 1,800-acre island. The hotel had been home to a casino, spas, karaoke lounges and beauty salons with around 1,500 people employed.
Thahtay Kyun Island is located directly across from the Thai mainland, and Grand Andaman Hotel says on its website that it can provide access to both Thai and foreign nationals without the need to acquire a Myanmar visa.
Aside from his gaming interests, U Kyaw Lwin is said to hold a near monopoly on the fuel market in Kawthaung Township – which he imports from Thailand – and also has interests in rubber production, prawn breeding, pearl farming and fishing.
The Irrawaddy report says U Kyaw Lwin is now believed to be hiding out in Myanmar.