According to a report on the UK Daily Mail news website, the scope of proposed development in Myanmar goes well beyond a $1.2 billion casino resort envisioned for the Mergui Archipelago. Citing ministry sources the report stated that 30 hotels and resorts have been given a nod in a bid to attract eco-tourists and divers to the area.
The Mergui Archipelago holds about 800 pristine islands and is home to a group of indigenous people who are believed to have been living in harmony with the sea there for some 4,000 years. The nomadic Salon people live mainly on the water, spearfishing and diving for fish, sea cucumbers, and pearls. The Salons, or Moken (as they refer to themselves) are rarely seen outside of documentaries. According to the report foreigners have only been allowed in their domain since 1996, but few tourists ever visit the area.
That would likely change if some ministers get their way. The Daily Mail report quoted officials in the news wire, DPA as stating, ‘The (Mergui) region has a lot of potential to be a new tourism destination as most of the islands are untouched and have coral reefs,’ attributed to Sai Kyaw Ohn, deputy minister for hotels and tourism.
‘We hope these can attract eco-tourists and divers.’
‘We hope MIC will allow all 27 firms to set up hotels and resorts by December.’ he said.
Some land may have already been set aside for commercial use, with reports earlier this month indicating that Zochwell Group Pte Ltd., of Singapore, had a lease of 50 years with two possible decade extension to build their casino resort. However local officials claimed no knowledge of the deal, saying they would not approve, and some reports note that any agreement to develop the project would still need the approval of the Attorney General’s office and the Myanmar Investment Commission.