Saw Yan Naing / The Irrawaddy

The Booming Town of Mae Sot

Saw Yan Naing The Irrawaddy

MAE SOT, Thailand — Over the past decade, Mae Sot, a border town in western Thailand, has undergone a dramatic transformation.

Supermarkets, shopping malls, hotels, and a new airport have sprung up, as construction projects widen its roads, all with the aim of turning this once quiet town into a special economic zone.

The developments began emerging five years ago, said U Moe Joe, a long-time Burmese migrant rights activist who has been supporting the Burmese workers in Mae Sot for 14 years.

The Irrawaddy visited the town to find newly opened shopping malls, including one from the Thai department store chain Robinson, as well as supermarket Tesco Lotus, a new airport, and numerous other hotels and buildings either under construction or just opened.

Burmese migrant workers constructed these buildings, said U Moe Joe. Mae Sot connects to Burma’s Myawaddy town, a major trading hub for Thai and Burmese goods. The Thai border town is also host to Burmese and ethnic organizations in opposition to the Burmese government, as well as migrant workers.