Gambling-mad Thai tourists bet on civil war-hit Myanmar
Civil war in Myanmar has not stopped gambling-mad Thais from crossing the border in Ranong to try their luck at casinos.
Visitors are flocking to the southern province for the beaches and short trip across the Andaman Sea to gambling houses, say local tourism operators.
They report that accommodation in the coastal province has been booked up during normal and long weekends recently.
Thai tourists like to cross the sea border to gamble in casinos on Koh Son and Koh Khu islands along the Thailand-Myanmar border.
Casinos remain illegal in Thailand, where the underground betting industry is worth billions of dollars per year.
Nit Uiteckkheng, former president of the Ranong Tourism Businesses Association, confirmed that hotels and resorts are filling up at weekends. This is prompting visitors to seek alternatives like Koh Payam, which lies two hours away by boat, he added.
Assistant governor Kittipol Roddon recently held a meeting with agencies and operators to prepare safety measures for tourist boats during high season.
Operators agreed that tour boats taking visitors to Koh Song in Myanmar would be equipped with life jackets and two-way radios.
He said the boats must also be capable of repatriating Thai tourists in case of emergencies in Myanmar, where the junta is facing a growing armed rebellion against military rule.
Thai tourists are also required to obtain Myanmar visas before passing through Ranong border checkpoints. Myanmar citizens only need border passes to enter Ranong.