U-tapao airport, economic zone move to top of agenda
The government is prioritising the overhaul of U-tapao international airport and the creation of a special economic zone, with the bidding and construction of the two projects expected to start within this year.
The move is an urgent project to build new industrial city with extra investment privileges to attract targeted high-tech investment to promote the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
"We would propose the government use Section 44 to order the overhaul of U-tapao and start the special economic zone in order to bring forward the EEC project," said Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana.
He said the first phase of the U-tapao overhaul is due to start with this year, when around 3,000 rai out of the total 13,000 at the airport in Chon Buri province will be developed in order to increase the airport's capacity to receive up to 3 million passengers and tourists annually.
"We aim to link the three major airports, Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-tapao, within this year," Mr Uttama said.
"The linkage will improve air transport across the country and help boost trade and tourism," he said, referring to the plan to build a second terminal in the U-tapao airport.
The EEC project is expected to help increase investment in eastern Thailand, where there is potential to create technological transfers and improve industries.
The project is also expected to create demand for logistics and warehouse solution services, which will create jobs and support the domestic economy.
The project spans the provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao, which will be designated as a high-tech industrial cluster with an eye towards becoming Asean's leading economic zone for industrial, infrastructure and urban development.
Another urgent project that the government aims to start within this year is the EEC special economic zone with extra investment privileges.
The special privilege will include five-year work permits and visas for foreign specialists and expatriates.
Another privilege will be special funds, or soft loans for companies that invest in the EEC areas to help them enhance their competitiveness.
Mr Uttama said the EEC committee plans to propose these upgrades for the cabinet within March.