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Six Markets to Watch: The Mekong Region

A River Runs Through It

Trade flows: borders converging on the Mekong River. Sukree Sukplang / Courtesy Reuters

Mainland Southeast Asia -- long fought over and controlled by outside powers, from the colonial era through the Cold War -- is finally fending for itself, and then some. Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, which were once French Indochina, have grown at an impressive clip in recent years, with the last two taking their cues from China to blend communism and capitalism. Myanmar (also called Burma), once part of British India, is rapidly opening up to trade and foreign investment after decades of insular military dictatorship. And Thailand, the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European colonial power, has proved resilient despite its prolonged political discord, humming along as the region’s manufacturing, tourism, and service-sector hub.

Even as mainland Southeast Asia moves forward, it is beginning to resemble, in a curious way, parts of its precolonial past, when its mainly Buddhist peoples freely crisscrossed

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