The dynamics of the cross-border trades and the trades and the traders of Northwestern Thailand, 1950s to 2010s


  • Waraporn Ruangsri Department of History Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University
  • Kriangsak Chetpatanavanich The Department of History, Faculty of Humanities Chiang Mai University


The dynamics of the cross-border trades


         This research examines the dynamics of cross-border trade and the lives of the traders in the northwest part of Th ailand between the 1950s and 2010s, focusing on Mae Hong Son, a border province close to Burma. Since the 18th century, the ethnic Tai traders transported commodities by pack-saddle on trade routes cutting across northern Th ailand, Shan state, and the south of Burma. Under the process of nation-building throughout the 20th century and especially the centralization of the economy, their trading activities eventually came to a halt. Th e article explores three main points. First, it highlights the impact of the economic reform of border trades on the trader’s lived experiences through an exploration of the remaining traders’ collective memories.2 Second, memories of cross-border trade are interconnected with socio-cultural relations along the border between Th ailand and Myanmar, and the research argues that memories of cultural ties and the historical turning point mentioned above are crucial for any understanding of cross-border trade in the modern era. Finally, the period under study coincides with what is commonly called the modernization era, which is often associated with free trade policies. Th e article highlights how crossborder trading in northwestern Th ailand in this era became a bone of contention between local traders and new entrepreneurs. Local traders know well the natural routes with informal border stations while the new entrepreneurs have offi  cial support from both government and non-government agencies. Th is article contributes to an understanding of cross-border trade in a transnational context by supplementing economic history with social history.


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January 23, 2015, a shopkeeper at Khun Yuam.

July 31, 2015, a Muslim Trader at Mae Sariang.

July 2, 2015, a local entrepreneur at Mae Sariang.

July 30 to August 2, 2015, a Bengali Trader at Khun Yuam.

July 30 to August 2, 2015, a Tor Pae Villager.

February 6, 2016, a Mae Sariang Informant.

February 8, 2016, a Tai Scholar and Director of the Tai Yai Center in Mae Hong Son.




How to Cite

Ruangsri, Waraporn, and Kriangsak Chetpatanavanich. 2018. “The Dynamics of the Cross-Border Trades and the Trades and the Traders of Northwestern Thailand, 1950s to 2010s”. ASIAN REVIEW 31 (2):75-94.



Research Articles