The freshly painted welcome signs at Chiang Khong market are conspicuous, greeting visitors as they cross the border from Laos. Few arrive however, and behind the signs they see only shuttered shops and scattered clothing sellers. The “new town”, as some business operators called it after the opening of the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River in 2013, is now known as a ghost town by locals.
Once a bustling trade development area, the market located just a kilometre from the bridge, has been a flop and doesn’t seem to be able to attract tourists. But there is a chance the market could be resurrected, after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government announced Chiang Rai would be the location for the second phase of the Special Economic Zones, set to be launched this year.
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