Chiang Khong focus of border SEZ
Chiang Khong district in Chiang Rai province is highly likely to be chosen to develop a cross-border special economic zone (SEZ) in the Golden Triangle under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation scheme to expand economic links for Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China.
Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the ministry prefers Chiang Khong for the first cross-border SEZ because the four countries can be linked on the R3A highway.
Thailand will hold more discussions with the governments of the three countries to improve logistics, transport efficiency and e-commerce, as well as ties with China's Belt and Road initiative in the future, he said.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber agreed on a plan to set up the SEZ at Chiang Khong because of its location.
He said the location is perfect to set up a bonded warehouse to support e-commerce between the four countries, following a roundtable meeting between the private sector and related government agencies chaired by Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department.
Once established, the SEZ will connect with the existing Mohan-Boten Economic Cooperation Zone, said Mr Kalin.
In the future, a single-window stop inspection unit needs to be created at the Chiang Khong checkpoint to facilitate trade and increase tourism opportunities.
"Thailand should create friendship cities, similar to sister cities, to increase trade and investment opportunities to link supply chains in each country," he said.
"If the cross-border SEZ can be established in Chiang Rai as planned, there will be a great business opportunity not only for Thailand but also Laos, which is connected with the Chinese border under the Lancang Cooperation project."
However, Mr Kalin said the cross-border SEZ needs supportive tax incentives for investors and traders.
In September, Mrs Auramon said the government was studying the feasibility of establishing a cross-border economic zone in the Golden Triangle under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation scheme to expand economic links for Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China.
The Golden Triangle area seems most appropriate because it borders Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, she said, citing Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts as the top choices.
The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework was established in 2015 to promote multifaceted cooperation at the sub-regional level among the six countries along the Mekong River, namely Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
The framework's vision is to contribute to the economic and social development of the sub-region, narrowing the development gap, supporting Asean community building and promoting the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
On April 18, the Commerce Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Mekong Institute (MI) for cooperation on four projects under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Special Fund, which is supported by the Chinese government.
Under the MoU, MI serves as the implementing agency of these multi-year projects that aim to advance trade and economic growth in the sub-region.
The projects are carried out using a blend of capacity development activities, including modular training, action research, business forums and business matching, policy consultations, and online business platform development.
China also agreed to pay US$1.7 million (56.4 million baht) over three years to help enhance intra-regional economic linkages in the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.