Thai authorities have detained Chinese Cambodian mogul She Zhijiang, a leading figure in Southeast Asia’s underground online gaming industry, after receiving a request from Beijing for extradition.
She Zhijiang, 40, was taken into custody in Bangkok on Wednesday (August 10) after Thai police cancelled his visa, the AFP news agency reported on Saturday (August 13).
She is expected to be formally arrested this week after prosecutors obtain a court order, AFP quoted police as saying.
The arrest would come 15 months after Interpol issued a red notice for She’s detention at China’s request over gambling offences.
She directed and colluded in the registration of gambling-related companies and in researching and developing online gambling platforms, AFP quoted the red notice as saying.
From January 2018, She’s operations amassed a Chinese player base of some 330,000 gamblers and revenue of 150m yuan ($22m), it said.
She became one of the most prominent indirect beneficiaries of online gaming crackdowns in the Philippines and Cambodia — both Beijing-driven processes whose industry destabilisation spawned underground operations throughout the region, including at She’s base in an ethnic militia-controlled region of Myanmar near the Thai border.
But his detention also points to tougher times ahead for illegal operators in Thailand and further afield, given the Thai government’s apparent shift toward cooperation with Beijing on gambling crime.
Reportedly hunted by the Chinese government since 2012, She had been linked to entertainment and gaming in the Philippines before allegedly engaging in money lending in Cambodia.
He obtained Cambodian citizenship in or around 2017, just as Chinese pressure on Asia-wide gambling operators, gamblers and migrant labour channels became more aggressive.
She was the brains behind Yatai International City in Shwe Kokko village, north of the Myanmar border town of Myawaddy. The business and hospitality precinct is one of three developments by ethnic Chinese in that area that has solicited billions of dollars in investment, but seemingly relies on online gaming for much of their turnover.
One of the other two projects is linked to “Broken Tooth” Wan Kuok-koi, a former triad boss and convicted felon in Macau, who has since entered the online gaming and cryptocurrency space in Cambodia and Myanmar while appealing to Chinese patriotism and Beijing’s economic influence.
She’s arrest, after a period of direct pressure by Beijing on Myanmar gaming operations, suggests that China’s tolerance for the Macau-style nexus between underground gaming and patriotic entrepreneurialism in Southeast Asia is shrinking fast, and that Wan’s own options may be narrowing.