Trading across the Thai-Lao Border

Navigating Small-Scale Trade Across Thai-Lao Border Checkpoints: Legitimacy, Social Relations and Money” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1551559) is by Sarah Elsing, an independent researcher from Berlin. This is the sixth article for a forthcoming special issue on Checkpoint Politics in Cross-border Exchanges.

The abstract for the paper states:

Marked in part by a narrow river, the border between the neighbouring provinces of Loei in Thailand and Sayaboury in the Lao PDR appears to be porous and unregulated. While a Friendship Bridge regulates large-scale international trade, an extensive amount of informal, small-scale trade continues to flow across smaller checkpoints and other parts of the river. Trade along these sites is not only highly organised, most of it also happens under the gaze of border officials. This article examines the material and power exchanges that occur at local checkpoints between the different actors involved in the facilitation and restriction of trade. Between Loei and Sayaboury, trade is regulated according to a spectrum of licitness that is constantly negotiated and renegotiated between traders and officials. Negotiations rely on the social relations between these actors and involve practices of gift-giving and bribery, which blur the boundaries between reciprocity and corruption. By focusing on the interactions between state and non-state actors, this article sheds light on the way the informal economy is configured by checkpoint politics.

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