Officials in Vietnam’s Hà Giang province are pressing ahead with plans to construct a resort-casino in a highland region recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a Global Geological Park. The plans, first announced in April, would see the construction of a 2.7-square-kilometer entertainment complex – including a casino and an 18-hole golf course – in Dong Van Karst Geopark in the nation’s northernmost province. Investors have been invited to apply for a piece of the project, which hopes to be up and running by 2020.
Ma Ngoc Giang, the Geopark’s deputy chief manager, dismissed concerns that he would let a casino threaten the area’s reputation as the country’s most awe-inspiring destination. Giang told Tuoi Tre News that “customers of high-end services … want quiet and to enjoy local culture.” More to the point, Giang said the project would give a badly needed boost to the local economy. “What can 250k people at the park live on if we merely preserve it?” Another park management official echoed Giang’s concerns, saying the locals “need some breakthroughs or else the vast rock highlands will just simply be rocks like it has been for millions of years.”
NAGAWORLD WORKERS GO NORMA RAE ON NAGACORP
Vietnamese citizens aren’t allowed into their country’s casinos, leaving Cambodia’s border casinos as the most accessible option for bettors. But one Cambodian casino – NagaCorp’s NagaWorld in the capital Phnom Penh – was the subject of a recent strike action by hundreds of croupiers, drivers and cleaners seeking better working conditions and pay raises from around $80 to $150 per month for most workers, and 20% raises for those already making over $150.
The action began June 13, when over 500 workers set up a picket line outside the casino. Around 150 police and casino security guards then forcibly removed the protesters and arrested 19 of their leaders. Phnom Penh’s deputy governor Khuong Sreng justified the crackdown as undesirable but necessary, given the fact that talks had broken down between employees and management. Senior staff then received text messages from NagaCorp saying 413 workers had been “terminated/suspended with immediate effect” for engaging in the “illegal” strike.
On Tuesday (25), Phnom Penh Municipal Court agreed with management that the strike was illegal and ordered all staff – even those supposedly terminated – to return to work. Worker representative Sok Narith told Agence France Press that the workers had complied with the order, but “are not happy yet because our demands have not been met.” Other workers said they were willing to give management another shot at negotiating a compromise, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility of another walkout if a mutually satisfactory arrangement proved out of reach.