The reopening of the Wang Kelian Shopping Arcade and the Tourism Farmers’ Market is expected to breathe new life into tourism and socio-economic activities in the Malaysia-Thailand border town.

A Bernama check found that several shops in the shopping arcade are open today after eight years of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the discovery of human trafficking mass graves in May 2015.

State Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage and Women, Family and Communities, Welfare and Disaster Relief Committees chairman Wan Badariah Wan Saad hopes the state government’s effort to reopen the shopping arcade and the farmers’ market can revive the once-robust tourism industry in the border town.

“This is our initial effort with the state Forestry Department (JPNP) and Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) to revive tourism and economic activities in Wang Kelian,” she told Bernama, here, today.

She said the revival of Wang Kelian is part of the Perlis government's effort to attract foreign and domestic tourists in conjunction with the Visit Perlis Year 2024-2025.

Wan Badariah said Malaysians who are now flocking to Thailand in conjunction with the school holidays can now stop in Wang Kelian to shop when crossing the border point.

“Tourism products in Wang Kelian such as Taman Negeri and the (300-metre high) Viewpoint are as interesting with their uniqueness which hopefully can attract tourists from Thailand,” she said.

One of the traders in the area, Deraman Shaipee, 54, shared the same hope of seeing Wang Kelian return to its heyday as a focal point for tourists both from within and outside the country.

“Before it was closed…many tourists came and the atmosphere was great. I hope we can restore the vibrancy of this town as it was eight years ago,” he said.

Sharing the same sentiment is fishing equipment dealer Tan Leok, 59, who hopes that today’s effort is the first step towards restoring economic vitality in Wang Kelian.

“It used to be fun doing business here, many local and Thai tourists came… I hope Wang Kelian will be as lively as before because it helps the economy of traders and local residents a great deal,” he said.

In 2015, Wang Kelian was shaken up by the macabre discovery of 106 skeletons, the victims of a human trafficking syndicate believed to be Rohingya migrants, and since then the town has fallen quiet.

On April 1 of the same year, the Immigration Department immediately cancelled the concession of free movement at the border market straddling Malaysia and Thailand.

Previously, residents of both countries could enjoy the special privilege of travelling without passports or border passes to shop within a 2km radius which was enforced from 1993 until 2015.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency