Shwe Kokko New City

A casino town in Myanmar on the Thailand border that wants to be Macau, but is turning out to be more like Sihanoukville.

For Living In Asia I have a loose publishing schedule where I’ve mapped out articles for the months ahead. I’m aware of not posting too many Vietnam articles while I am waiting out the pandemic here, so I try and spread the articles throughout Southeast Asia.

This week I’ve opened the Myanmar account with Shwe Kokko New City. I now have Singapore, Brunei, and Timor-Leste as countries I haven’t written about yet.

I had not heard of Shwe Kokko until researching news for last week's newsletter. This lead me down a new rabbit hole about the border towns of Myanmar, which could be a series in itself.

Here is this week’s article, and a round up of news related to construction, transport, and infrastructure in Asia.

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Shwe Kokko New City is a planned new urban area and casino city in Myanmar. The development is at the township of Shwe Kokko (also transliterated as Swe Koke Ko) on the Moei River, which forms the Myanmar-Thailand border.

Shwe Kokko is a Myanmar border town that offers vice to Chinese travellers. Unlike the border towns of Muse and Mongla in Shan State (both of which border China), Shwe Kokko is on the Thai border and nowhere near China.

It’s an odd choice to build a casino city for Chinese here, but that’s just one of a number of irregularities that make up the Shwe Kokko New City project.

It’s being promoted as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (which it’s not), it’s not a Special Economic Zone, and it’s not getting an airport. It’s not on a major road or planned railway either, so just how they plan to get everyone here is still a mystery.

There is a Chinese community in Myawaddy which is estimated to be about 10,000 people, but that is hardly enough to sustain a new city with multiple casinos (17 at last count). In contrast, when I last visited Sihanoukville they were up to 55 casinos by then, but they at least had direct flights from multiple cities across China.

The party is over in Sihanoukville now after a crackdown on casinos and online gaming centres that were based there. Some of those operators have now moved to Shwe Kokko..

I can’t sit here and say “this is what the government should do”, because the government isn’t really in control of this region. If they were though, and if someone had a sense of nation building and urban planning, then they would build a “new city” at Myawaddy, 20km to the south of Shwe Kokko.

Myawaddy is the border crossing to Mae Sot in Thailand. It’s also where the proposed East–West Economic Corridor railway would pass through. That would be an ideal place to build a planned new city that already has transport infrastructure in place. Lay out a new city grid and encourage developers to build architecturally-interesting buildings. Start building new cities that people want to visit and live in. AND NO CASINOS!

While I was compiling information about Shwe Kokko I was getting itchy travel feet (damn this pandemic). The area around Mae Sot is an unexplored region of Thailand for me, and I would like to pop over the border to have a look at Myawaddy and Shwe Kokko. Another problem though is that Karen State is still unstable. In January this year Thai tourists were briefly taken hostage by the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF). This is the same BGF that is running Shwe Kokko casino city.

Shwe Kokko makes Sihanoukville look like a Swiss casino resort town.

Other News


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Hong Kong S.A.R



“Its economy battered by COVID-19, the nation’s sovereign reserves have fallen to less than $1 billion, putting it on the brink of default.”


“Malaysia’s government today said it will seek to reroute a US$10.6 billion rail project being built across the peninsula under China’s “Belt and Road” trade initiative, and as a result will reassess the cost and schedule with the Chinese contractor.”



“Progressive lawmakers of Makabayan bloc are seeking an investigation into the controversial "white sand" project as part of the government's artificial rehabilitation program of Manila Bay.”

“The Transportation department said Thursday that tunneling work on the first phase of the Metro Manila subway project is expected to begin in the second half of 2021.”


“A proposal for a 2.9 billion baht mega-development in the Cape Bali Hai area of this tourist city was approved at a public hearing on Tuesday.”


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