Changes which beckon under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 should be embraced rather than feared, Thailand's ambassador to Myanmar says.
Pisanu Suvanajata said Thais have to reset their minds, especially toward Myanmar, which is conducting a wave of reforms and could become a strong partner under freer trade.
He made his remarks while addressing a seminar on Asean at the Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre yesterday.
Thais should not panic about the changes that are coming, he said, responding to public disquiet over issues such as freer labour migration and a professional brain drain.
The ambassador called on the private sector to think broadly about the possibilities of the AEC. For instance, investors should participate in the Dawei industrial development projects, Mr Pisanu said.
Myanmar has been making many changes, he said.
The country will host the SEA Games later this year and will take over the Asean chairmanship next year, he said.
"Whoever wants to reverse the process of democratisation and reforms in Myanmar will face a great deal of opposition," he said.
Mr Pisanu called 2013 a golden year for Thailand to improve relations with Myanmar, and highlighted energy as a sector that requires more cooperation between the two countries.
Ninnart Chaiteerapinyo, vice-president of Toyota and the Federation of Thai Industries, said the AEC would bring opportunities and challenges.
Under the AEC, the Northeast would become a regional hub for investment and transport, he said. "We need new sign boards and car licence plates using the English language," he said.
"We should be prepared for more competition in the automotive industry and other products."
Thailand is in a good position due to its decent infrastructure, he noted. The private sector should be able to cope with changes in costs and product quality requirements brought on by the AEC.
Kitti Prasertsuk, an assistant professor of international relations at Thammasat University, said Thailand was no stranger to free trade.
Decades ago, Thailand opened its market to join the Asean Free Trade Area, and then signed a free trade agreement with China.
More competition should spark businesses to become more productive, Mr Kitti said.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat