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Bkk Post-Checkpoints a drawcard for

Subject: Bkk Post-Checkpoints a drawcard for gamblers

Bangkok post May 21, 1999.
Checkpoints a drawcard for gamblers
House panel looks into crime concerns

Temsak Traisophon and Supawadee Susanpoolthong

Border crossings into Laos, Cambodia and Burma are being reviewed after
complaints that the main function of many of them is to facilitate the
movement of gamblers to Thai-owned casinos across the frontier.

An order issued yesterday by Interior Permanent Secretary Chanasak Yuwaboon
requires all checkpoints to report on whether most travellers are gamblers
or people on genuine business.

The move came as a House subcommittee visited a crossing in Chiang Rai to
check out fears its main function was to facilitate gambling, smuggling and
other crime.

Niran Kalayanamit, director of the Foreign Affairs Division, said the border
passes facilitate cross-border visits and international trade. Closing them
could have repercussions.

The matter would be raised at the National Security Council.

There are three permanent border crossings into Burma: Mae Sai in Chiang
Rai, Mae Sot in Tak and Muang district of Ranong.

There are 12 temporary border passes in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong
Son, Kanchanaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Opposite Kiew Pha Wok pass in Chiang Mai's Chiang Dao district is Mong Hsat,
where a group of Thai businessmen led by Maj-Gen Intrarat Yodbangtoey, a
supreme command officer, has obtained a concession to operate a quarry, a
source said.

At Tachilek, opposite Mae Sai district, Pol Lt-Col Adul Boonset, a former
New Aspiration Party MP for Phichit, is a co-investor in a casino, which has
yet to open, intended to attract Thai gamblers.

Vicharn Chaiyanan, the Chiang Rai governor, originally proposed the opening
of the border pass to Tachilek, arguing it was necessary for trade and

Another border pass into Burma which is currently controversial is at Ban
Sop Ruak in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai.

A group of businessmen led by Prasit Pothasuthon, an elder brother of Prapat
Pothasuthon , a deputy interior minister and member of the Chart Thai Party,
has invested in a project in Burma called the Golden Triangle and Paradise
Resort, which includes a casino.

This group is pushing for the border pass at Sop Ruak to be made permanent.

Critics fear it could become a source of narcotics, contraband and crime.

This concern prompted the House Local Administration Committee to form a
subcommittee to travel to Ban Sop Ruak for an inspection.

The committee yesterday considered the request to make the border pass

Governor Vicharn, the president of the provincial administration
organisation, the Chiang Saen district chief and the kamnan of tambon Wiang
were interviewed.

Mr Vicharn strongly supported opening a permanent checkpoint to facilitate
border trade and immigration.

In the seven months since the pass unofficially opened, about 19 million
baht had flowed into Chiang Rai, he said.

Pol Gen Charn Rattanatham, the committee's adviser, said Thais use a border
pass in Trat province to visit a casino in Cambodia, draining about five
billion baht out of the country annually.The pass was used very little for