Casino Resorts as Micro-Para-Statal Areas in the GMSR: Connectivity and Economic Development


Announcing: Walsh, John, “Casino Resorts as Micro-Para-Statal Areas in the GMSR: Connectivity and Economic Development,” The Myanmar Journal, Vol.3, No.1 (2016), pp.21-31, available at:

Abstract:  Several types of para-statal areas exist in different parts of the Greater
Mekong subregion (GMSR). These are areas in which different versions of the
rule of law apply than in normal parts of the country. Para-statal areas can be
formal in nature, as in the case of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that are
used to help propel nations along the trajectory of the Factory Asia paradigm.
Other para-statal areas are informal in nature and represent territories where the
rule of law is partially or wholly-imposed by non-state actors. These range from
areas in Myanmar where insurgent ethnic minority groups have established
autonomous zones, to areas in Laos where Chinese capital has been used to
create areas of cowboy capitalism, where the rule of law is enforced by the
owners of capital, usually in collusion with representatives of the state, who
benefit personally as a result. There are no examples of the latter form of
para-statal area offering better workpace safety conditions or labour relations
more generally. On the contrary, workers are generally subject to exploitative
conditions with little guarantee of receiving due reward for their labour and no
rights to collective bargaining or freedom of association. This is generally true of
the casino resort micro-para-statal areas of the GMSR that are mostly located on
the borders of Thailand with Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, as well as special
resorts created for Chinese visitors to Vietnam. Casinos offer employment but
few good jobs and a significant proportion of those jobs are associated with
indecent work. Only croupier work is valued. Most jobs are low-paid, low-skilled
service sector jobs with little security or career paths. They are also often
associated with drug smuggling and usage, sex work of various categories and
money laundering. This does not necessarily mean that the lives of workers in
resorts are materially worse than all other workers in formal sector SEZs, as the
recent protests by female Cambodian workers in the garment industry SEZs
illustrates. However, these are conditions in which workers have historically
sought to organize themselves in the name of security. This paper uses mostly
secondary data sources to compare what is known of conditions in a range of
different para-statal areas across the GMSR, with a particular focus on casino
resorts. It is argued that connectivity with surrounding areas can be of
considerable importance in determining the nature of conditions experienced by
workers and that the different forms of connectivity exist in different
combinations in the various para-statal area categories identified. This then has a
direct impact on the willingness and ability of workers to provide remittances
and to obtain competencies and experiences that can subsequently contribute to
local economic and social development.
Casino Resorts as Micro-Para-Statal Areas in the GMSR: Connectivity
and Economic Development

Key words: Casino resorts, Greater Mekong Subregion, Para-statal areas, Informal
economy, security


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