Source: Radio Free Asia
Police raided a karaoke bar in the notorious Golden Triangle area of northern Laos, finding that the majority of the club’s patrons – 198 people – were either high on drugs or tested positive for illegal narcotics.
Twenty-nine of the 198 people were Chinese, according to the Bokeo province public security website.
The 198KTV karaoke bar where the March 11 raid took place is known as a center of drug use and trafficking, according to a local resident, who like other sources in this report requested anonymity for safety reasons.
There are several small entertainment venues in the town of Tonpheung, located in Bokeo province just outside of the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, or SEZ, the resident told Radio Free Asia.
“Most of them belong to the Chinese. The big night clubs are in the Golden Triangle SEZ – of course, they belong to the Chinese also,” the resident said. “Most bar patrons are also Chinese; only a few Laotians because they don’t have much money.”
Police talked to owners and operators of karaoke bars, coffee shops and restaurants in the town on March 2 and were told that an average of five people were being rushed to the hospital for drug overdoses each night.
“We also received complaints about street fights, loud noise and late closures,” a police officer told RFA.
On Monday, those arrested in the March 11 raid were released after police officers and Women’s Union and Lao Youth Federation officials reeducated them about the dangers of drugs, drug trafficking and smuggling.
Another resident of Tonpheung complained to RFA that the police didn’t do more to punish those arrested. They should have at least fined or jailed them – and the arrested Chinese should have been deported, the resident said.
The SEZ is a gambling and tourism hub catering to Chinese citizens that has been described as a de-facto Chinese colony. It has become a haven for criminal activities including prostitution, scamming and drug trafficking.
“Oh, drugs are everywhere, not only in that night club,” a retail store owner near the SEZ told RFA. “Most of the users or bar-goers are young. Many of them are workers at the casino in the Golden Triangle SEZ.”
Sex service is also available at all night clubs, the same retailer said. Most of the providers are Lao women and most of their clients are Chinese men, he said.
The SEZ was established in 2007. The zones are business areas that are exempt from most national-level economic regulations, and often receive tax breaks and are governed by different labor laws.
The Golden Triangle – which the SEZ takes its name from – encompasses a larger area in northern Laos along the Mekong River that also includes parts of Thailand and Myanmar. It got its name five decades ago for its central role in heroin production and trafficking in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.