This study shines light on behind-the-scenes informal economic activities in the Thailand-Myanmar borderland, with a focus on unauthorized riverbank Burmese merchants, the cross-border movement of goods, and the nexus of ethnic politics and border trade. Although unauthorized trade is labelled as smuggling by the state, it is withi chiwit, a “way of life” for Burmese merchants on the riverbank, and even recognized by local state agencies. The decision to smuggle is made rationally and deliberately by the merchants as part of their life trajectories, while smuggled goods cater to the needs of local people and are deeply integrated into the economy of the border towns. The cross-border movement of goods by boat also demonstrates that informal ways are still alive and facilitating border trade. It further shows that the ordering of the border is not entirely regulated by state agencies but by other social groups as well, notably ethnic groups.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Sociology and Political Science