This report from C4ADS presents a study that applies publicly available information to assess approximately 100 foreign-invested economic development zones (EDZ) across the Mekong region. Among other things, the study uses various publicly available reports to demonstrate that illicit actors are exploiting many EDZ to conduct a variety of illicit activities, including corruption, environmental degradation, land conflict, drug trafficking, and wildlife trafficking. The report finds that Based on this research, the authors find that EDZ do not always precipitate development, and even when growth is present, negative externalities can undercut the benefits the limited data access around Mekong EDZ hurts both host governments and local communities; and collaboration between government, grassroots organizations, private-sector, and civil society stakeholders will boost transparency and better match intentions to outcomes.
MYANMAR: MEKONG RIVER REGION ECONOMIC ZONES DRAW ILLEGAL ACTORS
On 26 June, Radio Free Asia reported that land confiscations, illegal casinos, money laundering, and environmental degradation plagues Myanmar Special Economic Zones (SEZ). They were promoted as a way to spur economic growth and deliver material benefits to the local community. However, considering the Yatai Shwe Kokko SEZ, it is said that the Chinese-backed $15 billion real estate mega-project along the Thaungyin River in south-eastern Kayin state has gained notoriety in recent months as a bastion of illegal activity, according to a report released by the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS). The study identified 110 official and unofficial foreign-invested economic development zones in the Mekong region, including 40 in Cambodia, 15 in Laos, 20 in Myanmar, 16 in Thailand, and 19 in Vietnam, and used publicly available information to assess them in terms of economic development, illicit activity, and geopolitics. The article refers to a combination of legal ambiguity, limited host government enforcement, and poor zone management.
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