Lao Vegas - the Kings Roman Chinese Casino City - Golden Triangle


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
It seems as if more people are aware of and interested in the story of the Kings Roman Casino city 'Lao Vegas" at the Golden Triangle on the Laos side.
So here is some info from an earlier GTR reports on Kings Roman

Kings Roman - the Lao Vegas & Sin City

From the "Lost princess shrine" it 41 kms upstream to the wild west casino sin city of Kings Roman / Ton Phueng.

The road is generally narrow bumpy asphalt / concrete with a few trailer trucks that you should take care of.

The turn off to Ton Phueng.

Ton Phueng used to be the sleepy little village opposite Chiang Saen.
In 2023 though it is the scene of a building frenzy & booming with kms of pubs, restaurants, karaoke, phone & beauty shops, servicing the masses working / visiting the Kings Roman Megalopolis.

Outside the main attraction, the Kapok Star wonder hotel.




In 2010 it all looked likethis:



The old road from Houei Xai:

In 2023 the road from Houei Xai:




The change is unbelievable & a bit frightening.

I never imagined there would be such a fully developed, functioning city behind the casino facade you see from across the river in Thailand; but indeed there are apartment blocks, shopping malls, pubs, restaurants, karaoke, phone, shoe & beauty shops. It is amazing & deserves more exploration - I need to return & check it all out!

Some Chinese tourist attractions.





It should be noted that generally in the heat of the day there are few people out & about.
Hence there are few people in these photos.
Then at dusk the punters start coming out like thousands of termites after a shower of rain.
I would have liked to stay longer, to witness the night scene, but time was up for the day.

Some night time images from the Thai side:



Not sure what is going on - some info - how the hell could this happen!
The GTSEZ is run by a Chinese-born gangster-tycoon Zhao Wei, who in 2007 secured a 99-year lease for kms of prime paddy land on the Mekong River, basically stretching from Ton Phueng to the Golden Triangle.

Zhao Wei was born Liaoning, China on 16 September 1952.
Starting as a timber trader he moved to Macau in the 1990s & invested in casinos & gambling.
In 2001 then Zhao moved to Mong La on the Myanmar / China border and founded a casino franchise, Landun Entertainment.
In 2005, this complex ran foul of the Chinese authorities who imposed a travel ban to Mong La following reports of officials gambling & losing state funds. The travel ban caused the casinos to shut down.
The same also happened with the casinos at Boten on the Laos / China border, where China state officials, gambled away government money, ran up debts & were detained until they paid their debbts, or were even killed!
In 2007 Zhao Wei popped up again with a new casino biz - the 99-year King Roman lease. Construction soon started & has proceeded at a frightening pace ever since.

More info

As crooked as he is, laundering money, he has great influence in the area; and has secured 2 more long term leases. One near the Plain of Jars and one near the Vietnam border in Saravan.

Perhaps the most famous incident related to the GTSEZ was the 2011 murder of 13 Chinese Sailors on a boat loaded with drugs, that was "highjacked."

Yesterday, ASTV Manager Online, that has for years been reporting on news in the Golden Triangle, presented a clearer (but still incomplete) picture of what happened to the two Chinese cargo ships and their crew last October.

According to the report, the two ships were seized by Naw Kham, “the freshwater pirate”, who has been running a protection racket in the area since 2007, on 4 November. One of the crew women had then made a call to Thailand’s Chiang Saen to inform about what had taken place. This had sealed the fate of herself and the rest of the crew, it says.

On the next day, the two boats were stormed and taken by the Thai Army’s Pha Mueng Task Force.

On 6 October, Pha Mueng and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) officials held a press conference to explain the previous day’s events.

According to them, Pha Mueng received information at 06:00 on 5 October about the hijacking of the two boats and had accordingly organized a team to intercept them.

At 10:30, the two ships turned up and seeing the Thai officials trying to head them off, the unidentified armed men on the ships fired at the officials and later escaped in a speedboat. The catch, Pha Mueng and ONCB said, included 1 dead armed man and 920,000 pills of “yaba” (methamphetamines).

On 7 October, the dead crewmen and women started floating up on the river one after another.

On 28 October, Thai police summoned 9 Pha Mueng officers to face two charges: killing of 13 Chinese crewmen and women and concealing evidence, which the officers had promptly denied.

However, there are still two Jigsaw pieces missing, the report says: two well known men living in the nearby Maesai district: “Uncle N” and “Mr S”, who is Uncle N’s relative. (A source in Maesai told SHAN “Uncle N” was none other than Olarn Somphongphan aka Chamras Phacharoen, a known “Chao Paw” (Godfather) in the district.

Due to the disappearance of the two who are believed to have gone underground, at least three questions remain unanswered:

Where did the drugs originate?
Who seized the boats and killed the crew?
Who would be the recipient of the drugs?

A local who wished to remain anonymous said one way to find it out is to look at the year’s events that had made headlines in the area and piece them together:

4 April 2011
A ship belonging to Kings Romans Casino on the Laotian side of the Mekong seized and 19 crewmen abducted. Zhao Wei, the casino owner, was reported to have paid a hefty B 22 million ($730,000) ransom to Naw Kham

21 September 2011
Burmese and Laotian security forces attacked Naw Kham’s men at Sri Dorn Mee island, 25 km north of the Triangle. 20 of his men were said to have been killed, while 4 of the wounded came to Chiangrai for medical treatment

26 September 2011
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister announced that Kings Romans was raided and 20 sacks of yaba pills were seized

5 October 2011
Pha Mueng seized two cargo ships, one either belonging to Zhao Wei or his associate Ah Ming

Updated (1 December 2011)
According to ASTV report, 30 November, there were 4 boats manned by an unknown armed group escorting the two cargo ships into Thai waters on 5 October. 9 Thai officers who are under investigation meanwhile say they had only fired warning shots.

It remains unclear who killed the Chinese crewmen on board the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 boats on Oct 5.
But nine army personnel of the 3rd Army Region's Pha Muang Task Force came under suspicion and have since been charged with the murders.
One initial account says the soldiers intercepted the Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 as they entered a stretch of the Mekong and found 920,000
methamphetamine pills and one dead body on board one of the boats.

Other bodies were later retrieved from the river. Most were blindfolded, tied up and had bullet wounds.
The nine soldiers have denied the charges, blaming a drug trafficking gang from Shan State in Myanmar led by Nor Kham, who they said had hijacked the cargo boats.

A source at the northern branch of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board said criminal violence along the Mekong mostly involves drug
trafficking gangs betraying each other.
The source said there are four criminal groups with vested interests in trading, drug trafficking and protection money along the Mekong which is
the principal transport route for cargoes from Xishuangbanna through to ports in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand's Chiang Saen. There are 13 trade
ports dotted along the route.

See also

Enjoy, there is a lot of interesting history in the top North.
Read up on it a bit & it makes the ride a lot more rewarding.
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Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Watching the speed of the construction at the Lao Vegas at the GT & the pace is frightening.
Check out these new buildings going up on the riverfront, in front of the Kapok Hotel.

29 September 2023

30 October 2023

11 November 2023

14 December 2023

28 December 2023

20 January 2024


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Some excellent information in this guide by Bertil Lintner

Work your way through these written reports by Bertil

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