Year published :October 2011

Pages :212 (xx+192) pp.

Size :14x21 cm.

ISBN: 9786169005346

Cashing In across the Golden Triangle: Thailand’s Northern Border Trade with China, Laos, and Myanmar

by Mekong Press

Thein Swe and Paul Chambers

Historically, the Golden Triangle on the Mekong River has been a strategic yet largely impoverished crossroads between Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and southern China. In the latter half of the twentieth century, it was known as one of the world’s key opium‐producing regions. The new transnational “economic corridors” connecting northern Thailand and southwestern China via key border towns in Myanmar and Laos have greatly increased the volume of trade and transshipment in the region. Logistical improvements via the highways and ports have transformed entire towns and districts in Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand, bringing with them an influx of Chinese investment and tourism, and other population movements.

The transformation of the economy of the Golden Triangle is on going and relatively uncharted. There is evidence of unequal benefits to the countries involved. To what extent has border commerce grown since 1990? What facilitates or hinders this trade? What are the social and environmental costs of the changing economy? By combining available official data and observations and interviews with a wide range of participants in this new border economy, this book provides an important and unique perspective on the impact of the new economic linkages in the region.


  • Thailand’s role in regionalism in the Mekong Basin
  • Border commerce among Thailand, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and China
  • The growing importance of the North-South Economic Corridor in the Greater Mekong Subregion
  • The potential for trade opportunities amidst social and environmental challenges within the Golden Triangle

About the authors

Dr. Thein Swe teaches economics, finance, and globalization studies at Payap University in the International MBA program and South East Asian Institute of Global Studies. He has served as Alternate Executive Director of the World Bank (1977-1979); Deputy Head of Mission, Vietnam; and Principal Portfolio Specialist at the Asian Development Bank (1990-2003).

Dr. Paul Chambers is Research Director at the South East Asian Institute of Global Studies at Payap University. From 2008 to 2011, he was Senior Researcher at Heidelberg University. His articles have appeared in Contemporary Southeast Asia, the Journal of East Asian Studies, and the Asian Journal of Political Science.

What others are saying

“The corner of the region known as the Golden Triangle remains bound to well-worn images of lawless Cold War–era drug trafficking, rather than evoking images of the complex and varied lives of the region’s inhabitants today. This timely and detailed study provides an important corrective to static and dated images of Northern Thailand, Burma, and Laos. Like other places in the world, the Golden Triangle is in the process of being deeply transformed, and Cashing In ably tracks many of these changes.” — Jim Glassman, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, author of Bounding the Mekong


  • Review by Shaun Lin in The Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography March 2014


    Thailand | Golden Triangle | border trade | North-South Economic Corridor