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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Thai police on the run from counterfeiters

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The Department of Special Investigations tried to raid Rong Kluea market on the border with Cambodia last week. The market sells a wide variety of counterfeit goods from clothing to watches to food usually with second hand products which is its main function. It is part of the route for Chinese made fake goods via Cambodia into Thailand. Enforcement officials along with various observers representing rights holders tried to conduct enforcement of court orders to seize fake goods. These were acknowledged to be counterfeits.
 
Suddenly 400 Cambodian labourers attacked the police stoning them with various objects, overturning a car and forcing them to flee. Clearly they were resentful of the attack on their livelihoods in a very poor part of the country, in a tricky border region.  Now a war of words between the police and local officials has blown up, with a politician linked to corruption allegations in the market.
 
There are two points arising from this. The first is that counterfeiting is part of a wider spectrum of low-level criminality and this demonstrates the problem. Governments need to manage illegal activities more effectively in emerging markets, not through force, but by ensuring that everyone observes the law. This requires policies to address poverty and jobs from innovative industries and stamping out corruption. But bare enforcement in a vacuum often causes problems.

Secondly South East Asia's northern land borders are the most lawless part of the region. Vietnam's northern border with China's Guangxi and Yunnan provinces and Myanmar's infamous Muse 105 border gate are the most obvious lawless land routes. But the Laotian border with China also creates a massive trade through Laos and Cambodia into Thailand, which those two countries cannot control. South East Asia's land borders remain one of the major entry points for fakes from China, which places a huge burden on the 5 SE Asian countries involved.

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