Singapore firm Zochwell Group Pte Ltd is close to signing a contract to develop a US$1.2-billion project, including a casino, in Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago, reports local newspaper Myanmar Times. But a local official quoted by the same media outlet claimed to have no knowledge of the project.
The land on Salon Island has already been zoned for commercial use, Zochwell’s chief commercial officer Gareth Chin told the Myanmar Times. The firm would have a 50-year lease over the land, with an option to extend the contract twice – each time for a period of 10 years, he added.
“We are going to sign the land lease and the build, operate, transfer terms with the chief minister [of Tanintharyi region] in the next month, as soon as the Attorney General’s Office approves the agreement. After that, we will seek Myanmar Investment Commission approval,” Mr Chin was quoted saying.
But the assistant director of Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in Mergui, U Hlwan Moe, told the media outlet he was not aware of the project. “We oversee all of the islands in the Mergui Archipelago. They need to get approval from our department, but we haven’t had any information yet,” he reportedly said.
The Mergui Archipelago is a group of more than 800 islands in the Andaman Sea, off the southern tip of Myanmar, in the Tanintharyi Region. The region shares a long border with Thailand, where casino gambling is illegal.
Mergui’s collection of islands, almost untouched by tourism, had five hotels and motels with a total of 196 rooms by the end of 2014, according to data from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
The first phase of the project for Salon Island will include development of a marina, a golf course and a hotel. The development plan also features a casino, which has already been approved in principle but still requires approval from the Myanmar Investment Commission, said Mr Chin.
Casinos are not legal on the Myanmar mainland, but it is possible to gain a licence for an offshore gaming venue, said the Myanmar Times. The Andaman Club Resort, on an island near to Salon Island, has had a casino in operation since 1996, according to the newspaper.
Mr Chin added that the development of the initial phase could begin at the end of 2015, assuming the project gains the necessary approvals from local authorities.
“We are in the process of choosing contractors, operators and investors. We will manage the island in the same way that Sentosa Development Corp manages Sentosa Island in Singapore. We will lease it from the government, divide it up, and sub-lease sections of it to independent investors,” Mr Chin said, referring to a destination off the south coast of Singapore, that is also home to casino resort Resorts World Sentosa.
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism data show that Myanmar hosted more than 3.08 million tourists in 2014. Tourism expenditure reached US$1.79 billion last year, the data additionally show.
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