7 November 2017
In separate issues, the journal 100 Words (they publish nothing longer) featured two prose poems I’d written about the border muddles in Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle. The situation is no more clear today than it was back when I first encountered it—for people like the Rohingya, fleeing from further west in Myanmar, it is undeniably worse. Perhaps these pieces will spark some thought trails:
No Man’s Land: Bridging the Lines on the Map
The bridge over the river Sop Ruak, deep in the Golden Triangle, lies between the border posts of Thailand and Myanmar. At either end, sentries patrol: flags flying, guns at the ready. The border is closed, and has been for years. But out on the bridge, Chinese, Burmen, and Bengali merchants trade in ivory, gems, opium, and silk. Nothing is illegal, for the bridge belongs to neither country.
So the border has caused the bridge—or did the existence of the bridge determine the nature of the border? Does trade exist in spite of the border or because of it?
Originally published in 100 Words, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1995
Off the Map
In far northern Thailand, the Mae Sai River flows into the great sweep of the Mekong. Mapmakers call the northwest bank Myanmar, the northeast, Laos. Out in the middle, wedged between the three countries, is a small triangular island of reed banks and empty fields. It appears on no map, but in the light of the falling sun its surface turns from green to gold.
After dark we hear the screams and giggles of children on the Laotian bank getting their nightly bath. The golden triangle in the middle of the river can no longer be seen.
Originally published in 100 Words, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1998
Good diversion – and good question about the bridge that belongs to neither side – it is not unlike the old walled Kowloon City in Hong Kong – which was officially not part of the British Colony and was generally regarded as a part of China, an island with no rule of law and where transactions and actions took place with no supervision. Since the handover in 97 – the walled Kowloon City has been razed and it is no more.
Great comparison! I love these quirky little corners of the world.