Smuggling in Southeast Asia
History and Its Contemporary Vectors in an Unbounded Region
This article examines the historical roots of a contemporary
phenomenon of large scope in Southeast Asia: smuggling
and the movement of contraband commodities. Smuggling
is by no means a new issue in this part of the world;
states and proto-state polities have been identifying
(and attempting to hunt down) smugglers for many centuries.
Documentation for this war of wills is particularly
voluminous once we enter the colonial period, especially
in the first half of the twentieth century. The article
analyzes these historical dimensions, and then traces
these patterns through the passage of illicit "commodities"
today. Two specific contraband lines are chosen as windows
into these processes: the transit of narcotics and the
movement of smuggled human beings. The essay argues
that smuggling is a long-standing phenomenon in this
region that is not likely to disappear as a feature
of the Southeast Asian landscape anytime soon.
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