In a hotel on the banks of the Mekong river in Laos, a photo of a submerged tiger skeleton is advertising tiger bone wine. It is part of a shady empire of Chinese businessman Zhao Wei, who in 2007 leased for 99 years, a 10,000 hectare concession in the Ton Pheung district of Bokeo province in northern Laos. Within this concession is a 3,000 hectare site known as the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (GT SEZ), designated as a duty-free zone.
Wei’s company the Kings Romans Group hold an 80 per cent stake in the operation and the Laos Government the remaining 20 per cent. Despite being located in Laos, where Laos laws apply, clocks are run on Beijing time, all business is done in Chinese currency and businesses are Chinese owned.
Under clear view of the Laos government, the GT SEZ is essentially a lawless zone. It has become the hub of wildlife crime across the whole of South East Asia with its convenient location close to the boarders of China, Myanmar and Thailand. The Laos government have turned a blind eye to the illegal activities.
The report, Sin City – illegal wildlife trade in Laos’ Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone by Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) & Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) disclose the open trading of endangered animals including tiger and pangolin on the menu in restaurants and ivory and rhino horn on sale in the street.
Take a look at the recent video on the subject from EIA