PADANG BESAR, Nov 12 — Local residents are urging the government to reopen the free-flow zone at the Malaysia-Thailand border in Wang Kelian to boost socio-economic activities in the area.

Kampung Wang Kelian Village Development and Security Committee chairman Md Razak Daud said the free-flow zone had been closed since April 1, 2015, after the discovery of 139 mass graves of human trafficking victims in the area.

“Before that, this area was the focal point to enter the neighbouring country compared to Padang Besar. As early as 4 am, about 40 buses would gather here to cross the border.

“However, after the border was closed, local people could no longer do business. Now, most of them only work as rubber tappers, farmers and collect forest produce,” he said when met by Bernama.

Md Razak said he was informed that security factor was the main reason for the closed border.

“If security is the problem, the authorities should strengthen border control or increase the number of personnel to monitor the movement in and out of the area,” he said, adding that it was also possible to set specific days for traders to do business like the weekends as there would be many visitors during the time.

Meanwhile, a former trader in Kampung Wang Kelian, Zunaidi Abu Bakar, 47, said the government had opened a business arcade in the area but claimed that the rental rate was between RM800 and RM1,000 for one shop.

“We are only villagers; we don’t have that much money. And the objective of building the arcade is to help boost the local economy. We were asked to sell local products, but how can Thai people buy goods here if the border is closed?

“If we only depend on local tourists, they would prefer to purchase goods, food and others from the neighbouring country. Since this area is located at the border, it is best to sell products from both countries,” he said when contacted.

Zunaidi said back when the area was bustling with business activities, he could generate up to RM4,000 a month compared to only RM300 at present.

Last September, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said the government has no plans to reopen the free-flow zone in Wang Kelian. — Bernama