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Bangkok Post(16/5/99)

<center><bold>GOLDEN TRIANGLE


Close border checkpoint near casino, urges MP

Says gamblers, not locals, will benefit

<<Picture>The Golden Triangle Casino is being constructed just across the
river from Ban Sopruek, ChiangSaen district. A Chiang Rai MP has called
for the authorities to close the checkpoint there to prevent Thais from
crossing the border to gamble their money away in Berma.Interior Minister
Sanan Kachornprasart should order the closure of a temporary border
checkpoint in Chiang Saen district because gamblers and not local people
would directly benefit from a casino on the Burmese side, according to
provincial MP Samphan Lertnuwat.

Mr Samphan, an MP from New Aspiration Party's Wang Nam Yen faction, urged
Maj-Gen Sanan to call for a review of Chiang Rai Governor Vicharn
Chaiyanant's order to open the temporary checkpoint.

The checkpoint is located at Ban Sopruek in Chiang Saen where Ruek River
forms a natural border between Thailand and Burma.

A floating landing is being constructed to facilitate the crossing of
Ruek River.

The casino-known among local villagers as the Samliem Thongkham (Golden
Triangle) Casino and located inside a nearly completed four-storey
building which includes a hotel and nightclubs-is about one km away from
the checkpoint.

The casino is part of a project called Golden Triangle and Paradise
Resort initiated during the late Gen Chatchai Choonhavan's administration
in 1990, aimed to promote tourism in the Golden Triangle.

"Is such a temporary checkpoint really beneficial to Chiang Rai people
when it is located right at the casino site?" the MP said.

He said the casino's operators and gamblers would benefit from the
temporary checkpoint, which has been open since last October to
facilitate local trading.

Mr Samphan, who will run in Chiang Saen constituency in the next
election, was quite optimistic that the interior minister would review
the order once he was made aware of the new development in the area.

The casino is reportedly operated by Prasit Posuthon, older brother of Mr
Prapat, the deputy interior minister and Chart Thai MP from Suphanburi.

It is also reported that Mr Prasit plans to have his son Mr Vithawas run
for an MP seat in the Chiang Saen constituency in the next election.

Chiang Rai Governor Vicharn earlier defended his decision to open the
checkpoint at Ban Sopruek, saying local trading was the main
consideration for its opening.

The governor said the decision was jointly made by the provincial border
committee, which had also got approval from the interior ministry, saying
that it had nothing to do with the gambling den on the other side of the

The governor said he had no idea of the purpose for the construction of
the four-storey building, adding he had no authority to do anything if
the building was really a gambling den as widely speculated.

The governor said the temporary checkpoint could be ordered closure any
time depending on suitability.

Meanwhile, Yongyuth Tiyapairath, another provincial MP from the Democrat
Party, felt Mr Samphan's move was quite unusual and politically

Mr Yongyuth said Mr Samphan could lose his MP seat if Mr Prasit decided
to field his son Mr Vithawas in Chiang Saen constituency since the latter
was a wellknown businessman.

"Khun Samphan is quite unhappy as he is aware that Mr Prasit's son might
contest in Chiang Saen," noted the Democrat MP.

He said the claim that the checkpoint at Sopruek River would promote
gambling among the local people was absolutely illogical.

"If so, then the government should also order the closure of Mae Sai
border pass as another gambling den is also located on the other side of
the border there," he said.

Mr Yongyuth said it was quite unusual that Mr Samphan had not also
demanded for the closure of two other checkpoints in Mae Sai district
which were widely known as drug trafficking routes.

"One of the two temporary checkpoints is being controlled by an
influential kamnan who is close to Khun Samphan," Mr Yongyuth said.

There was speculation the casino may open early next month as Burmese
labourers were seen working around-the-clock to complete the building
across the border.