Informal Everyday Border Crossings and the Mechanism of State Regulations
A Study of the East Coast of the Thai-Malaysian Borderland
Graduate School, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
This study examines the daily relationship between the state and the local community on the East Coast of the Thai-Malaysian borderland. It seeks to understand why and how informal border crossings persist despite the ubiquity of the state apparatus, represented in the guise of immigration and customs officials, and border police. It looks especially at how informal flows are conducted and how states regulate such flows at the border. As a political boundary, the border provides a clear demarcating between two nations. However, for local people who transcend the political boundary in their everyday lives, the borderland is a more ambiguous territory, most appropriately conceptualized, I argue, as a living sphere.
The approach of this study is two-fold: it looks at the informal flows of humans and goods at the border. The study first clarifies the unwritten rules that regulate border crossings. These include the nature of one’s legal status and the distinction that the state makes between daily border crossers and non-daily crossers, particularly allowing daily crossers to bypass formal procedures. The first half of this paper thus explains how these unwritten rules actually facilitate informal human flows at the border. The second half of this paper looks at the local economic activities in the borderland, particularly the nature of the daily informal flows of goods and the state’s regulation of the border. By looking at a strictly controlled item, namely, Thai rice at the border, the paper explains the mechanism of the state’s regulation allowing informal flows within—yet not beyond—the borderland. This mechanism is the key to understand the formation of the borderland as a living sphere. Thus, this study not only seeks to understand the border space mechanism as a living sphere but also seeks to elucidate the relationship between local people and states from the everyday and micro level perspective.