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A customer hands over Sri Lankan rupee banknotes at an open market in the capital, Colombo. The country is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades.    © Getty Images
The Big Story

Asia's ticking debt bomb: Sri Lanka crisis sounds alarm bells across region

Disaster looms in Laos, Bangladesh and elsewhere as China seems reluctant to take losses on Asian loans

MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent | South Asia

CHANDANA POKUNA, Sri Lanka -- Every day after 4 p.m., residents in this quiet, leafy village listen for the putt-putting of motorbikes on the sandy road next to their homes. When they hear it, they know to shut their doors and turn off their lights. Their children are instructed to run inside and not let anyone in.

A motorbike is the vehicle of choice for local debt collectors, who fan out through places like Chandana Pokuna, some 500 brick-faced, rundown houses in Sri Lanka's rice-farming north central district of Polonnaruwa. The motorcycle men, agents of microlending companies, start work in the late afternoon, when they know residents will be at home.

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