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Home Myanmar Tachilek ⇒ Trade in Endangered Species

Tachilek: Gateway to Myanmar

5Trade in Endangered Species

The visitor’s market consists of around a dozen streets and alleys lined with shop houses selling a variety of goods. The emphasis is on electronics and DVDs, Chinese liqueurs and dried foods, counterfeit designer bags and accessories.


Boxed DVD sets on sale
Boxed DVDs on a street stall

Thais come here to buy goods for resale, and there are some good bargains from time to time, especially Chinese hardware. DVDs and music CDs are also a good buy. Most are authentic copies licensed for sale in China yet cheaper and a better quality than pirated copies on sale in Bangkok. Recent years have seen an increase in shops selling boxed DVD sets and outlets for false brand-name goods that are now difficult to find in Thailand.

If you are looking for gift sets of Monty Pythons Flying Circus for 20 Baht a disc or the complete Sex and the City then this is the place to get them. They’ll fit nicely in a fake Luis Vitton bag. Thai customs won’t bother you if you are carrying only a few items but if you come through with a backpack full of DVDs expect to have trouble. And don’t even think about drugs, sniffer dogs are always on patrol, your bags will be x-rayed going back into Thailand and there is always at least one police checkpoint between Maesai and Chiang Rai. As of 2009, Thai customs have been much more vigilent about fake items crossing the border and everone is searched and bags x-rayed.

Burmese cheroots and cigarettes
Burmese cheroots and cigarettes

Travellers from the early 1990s reported the rampant sale of wildlife, in particular tiger and wildcat skins. In 1998 for example, a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society Lao Programme found over 40 bear skins and 70 clouded leopard skins amongst numerous other wild animals and animal parts. Today there is much less visibly on sale, but the trade is obviously still there. Whether the bad publicity over the years has closed down the trade or more likely I feel, driven it underground is hard to say. Of course there just may be no wildlife left to catch.

Animal skins and bones for sale
Animal skins and bones for sale

On my last visit there were several shops in an out-of-the way corner selling dried animal parts. There were rows of monkey skulls and the skulls of a small short-horned deer, possibly a muntjac. There were trays of teeth from the mouth of some large cat mixed up with bits and pieces of yellowing bone. Pinned to the back wall of one shop was the stretched skin of a clouded leopard. Several stores feature large, glass bell-jars containing bones and sinew and strange roots and what appear to be whole snakes floating in a dirty looking brownish-yellow liquor. This kind of potion will be familiar to anyone who has visited a traditional Chinese medicine shop in Hong Kong or Taiwan, in fact throughout Asia. Though the ingredients will vary these tonics, supposedly aphrodisiac, are bought by the cupful and knocked-back on the spot.

 
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