Wang Kelian is a village in Perlis, Malaysia located on the Malaysia-Thailand Border. The village was once popular with tourists as it was the location of a border market which straddles both sides of the border.
However, it has lost its popularity following the discovery of mass graves of the victims of human trafficking in the area in 2015, for which it is now known for. It is also the location of a minor border crossing into Thailand.
According to Bernama, residents in Wang Kelian have expressed concern that the border area is becoming a ghost town as the government lack efforts to redevelop or revive the socio-economy of the local community.
The situation was made worse when the free-flow zone in Wang Kelian was abolished and the area has been quiet, with not much activity going on.
A survey by Bernama found that rows of shops that were once lively with the presence of visitors are now abandoned, with many stalls now dilapidated and seemingly waiting to collapse.
Meanwhile, the situation in Wang Prachan, a town across Wang Kelian on the Thai side of the border is slightly different, where former traders are back to normal operations.
Speaking to Bernama, a resident of Kg Wang Kelian Hilir, Samsiah Desa, said the villagers hoped that efforts to redevelop the area could be expedited to lure back visitors, especially foreign tourists.
“If this place is not developed immediately, I am worried that Wang Kelian will only remain in memory and become a dead town as it has nothing to attract visitors and tourists,” she said.
Another trader in Wang Prachan, Aishah Che Min, said she hoped the free-flow zone in Wang Kelian could be reopened to revive the economy of traders in Malaysia and Thailand.
“If business activities in these two places are revived, they will attract visitors and this will help boost the economy of the people,” she said.
Meanwhile, Perlis Border Relations and Cooperations Committee chairman Ruzaini Rais said the state government also hoped that the free-flow zone in Wang Kelian could be reopened, but the decision on the matter depended on the federal government.
He added that the state government will spend efforts to redevelop the commercial arcades in the area.
“We must attract back visitors to come to Wang Kelian and for that we are in the process of repairing and upgrading the commercial arcades in the area to be leased out to traders and border control enforcement agencies,” he said.
The free-flow zone in Wang Kelian was abolished in 2015 for security reasons.
Under the free-flow zone, Thais were allowed to enter Wang Kelian without the need for a visitor pass and passport while Malaysians could enter Wang Prachan in Thailand without passports.