Mekong Development Zones Facilitating Illicit Activities: Report

In recent years, EDZs have proliferated across the lower Mekong region as its governments have sought to attract foreign investment and fire up their economies.

Economic development zones in mainland Southeast Asia have contributed to a range of illicit activities, including drug trafficking and wildlife trafficking, according to a new report from C4ADS, a U.S.-based research organization.

The report, which analyzes 110 economic development zones (EDZs) in the five lower Mekong nations – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar – found that while these zones have stoked economic growth, corruption, opacity, and weak regulatory frameworks have undermined their benefits.

“While the creation of an EDZ is typically followed by an increased pace of development, zones can also facilitate adverse outcomes that undercut the benefits to economic growth,” the report states. “Without proper management, EDZs can serve as staging grounds for multiple types of transnational illicit activity and geopolitical machinations.”

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