Thai authority plans power shutdown to 2 areas in southeastern Myanmar

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thai authority plans power shutdown to 2 areas in southeastern Myanmar The Thailand Provincial Electricity Authority plans to shut off power to neighboring Myanmar on the other side of the border in Mae Sot in Tak province, seen here on Oct. 29, 2020.
Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP

Thailand’s Provincial Electricity Authority plans to switch off power supplies in two sections of southeastern Myanmar early next week at the request of the junta government, officials in Mae Sot district told BenarNews.

The PEA plans to cut electricity to Lay Kay Kaw and Shwe Kokko, the site of a Chinese-backed U.S. $15 billion real estate and casino mega-project that has become notorious lately as a Burmese bastion of illegal activity, including drug trafficking, amid violence and unrest in post-coup Myanmar

Somchai Trithipchartsakul, the district chief of Mae Sot, in Thailand’s Tak province, said the agency had notified him about the plan to cut off the power supply for those two locations on the Burmese side of the Thai-Myanmar frontier. 

“The Provincial Electricity Authority in Bangkok has informed the Tak governor to prepare for any impacts after the Myanmar Embassy had told the PEA of the discontinuation of the power contracts with Shwe Myint Thaung Yinn [SMTY] Industry and Manufacturing Co. Ltd.,” he said, adding the power would be shut off at the beginning of the day on June 6.

The Myanmar government did not release the embassy’s letter or respond immediately to the district chief’s comments. It remained unclear why Myanmar’s military government made the request to Thailand to switch off the electricity to Shwe Kokko and Lay Kay Kaw. 

Myawaddy, a township in southeastern Myanmar’s Karen state, is home to the Yatai Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone, which was promoted as a way to spur economic growth and deliver material benefits to the local community.

Shwe Kokko New City, as the area is called, was funded by Hong Kong-registered developer Yatai International Holding Group in partnership with the Chit Lin Myaing Co. owned by the Karen State Border Guard Force, an ethnic Karen force aligned with the Myanmar military. It includes the Myanmar Yatai Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone.

The area became a hub for illicit activity including casinos because of weak national laws, a diffusion of responsibility, and a lack of development plans, according to a report by the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies.

Apart from drug trafficking, Shwe Kokko in recent months has been a magnet for reported human trafficking and abuse of casino workers.  

The governor of Thailand’s Tak province confirmed that the PEA had informed him about the plan to cut power to the neighbors in Myanmar.

“I haven’t seen the letter yet,” Gov. Somchai Kijcharoenrungroj told BenarNews. “I don’t have the details and you have to ask the PEA – the PEA can cut the power but it has to inform other government agencies about this when we have a meeting.”

He said the PEA met on May 29 after being contacted by the embassy. The agency did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment.

Contracts expired

Somchai Trithipchartsakul said the contracts expired on Feb. 28, but the SMTY had requested them to be renewed temporarily. 

Since 2016, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos have had electricity contracts for 21 power grids in Myanmar, totaling 43,750 kilowatts, according to the PEA database. For Shwe Kokko, the partners signed an 8,000 KW power deal.

While aware of the Shwe Kokko’s notoriety, Somchai said he could not say if it had any role in the Myanmar request. He said the shutdown likely would not affect the casinos located there.

“In Shwe Kokko, they have five to 10 power generators,” Somchai Trithipchartsakul said, adding 75 percent of the Thai electricity supplies local residents and not the businesses.

A source in Myanmar’s Myawaddy district office who requested anonymity because of security concerns confirmed the reports out of Thailand.

Electricity was to be cut to “one gambling place in Shwe Kokko and one in Myawaddy, including security gates run by pro-junta Border Guard Forces in Myawaddy, but not the towns where people live,” the source told Radio Free Asia, a news service affiliated with BenarNews.

Workers in Shwe Kokko said they were aware as well.

“We heard that the Thai side will cut electricity to two places, the site of Shwe Kokko casino and the Ingyin Myaing Park which has gambling offices near Myawaddy town,” the workers said. They requested anonymity over security concerns.

The announcement came after a Bangkok criminal court last week approved China’s request to extradite She Zhijiang, a Chinese investor in Shwe Kokko. The Chinese government wanted She, who obtained Cambodian citizenship and had been convicted of running an illegal lottery business. 

She Zhijiang has appealed the extradition and has one month to fight the court decision.

RFA Burmese contributed to this report. 


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.