TCC backs economic zone on Thai-Myanmar border

Businesses have hailed the government's plan to develop a special economic zone on the Thai-Myanmar border, but they urged the government to promote investments in neighbouring countries more seriously.

"The private sector hopes the Mae Sot special economic zone, which was initiated eight years ago, will materialise and be completed before the formation of the Asean Economic Community in 2016," said Prasert Juengkijrungroj, secretary-general of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) for Tak province.

The mobile cabinet, which met in Uttaradit province on Monday, approved the proposal.

The special zone could consist of either a portion or the entire area of Mae Sot district of Tak.

Mr Prasert proposed a 5,600-rai plot of land near Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Mae Sot as the appropriate location for the zone.

The Interior Ministry is issuing an executive decree to use the land.

According to a TCC study, the zone should focus on eco-friendly industries.

The factories should supply products not only to Myanmar but also to the other five members of the Greater Mekong Subregion via the East-West Economic Corridor as well as exports to India via Dawei deep-sea port.

Mr Prasert said border trade via Mae Sot checkpoint saw a surge of 80% last year to about 39 billion baht thanks to the easing political situation in Myanmar and investment deregulation.

The TCC projects border trade to reach 60 billion baht this year.

The chamber urged the government to come up with clearer policies and incentives to support investment abroad.

"I have yet to see any concrete plans to support private investment in neighbouring countries," Mr Prasert said.

"Germany has established a development fund to help Myanmar's government to restructure economic agencies and implemented a plan to support its investors interested in Myanmar."

Government spokesman Tosaporn Serirak said the government also plans to establish similar special economic zones in Kanchanaburi, Sa Kaeo, Trat, Songkhla, Narathiwat, Nong Khai, Chiang Rai and Mukdahan.

It also plans to upgrade efficiency at eight checkpoints in Mae Sai, Mae Sot, Chiang Kong, Nong Khai, Mukdahan, Aranyaprathet, Padang Besar and Sadao.

The government is also committed to human resource development of engineers, architects, surveyors, doctors, nurses, dentists and accountants.

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Writer: Chatrudee Theparat
Position: Business Reporter