Nong Khai SEZ lagging, locals claim

Nong Khai SEZ lagging, locals claim

Trucks at the customs checkpoint in Nong Khai before driving accross the Friendship Bridge to Laos
Trucks at the customs checkpoint in Nong Khai before driving accross the Friendship Bridge to Laos

Investment has started to flourish in Nong Khai thanks to the government's planned special economic zones (SEZs).

However, the local private sector says the pace of SEZ development in the Northeast border province remains relatively slow.

"Nong Khai is ready to be developed as an SEZ province. This border province is close to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, only 20 kilometres from the border checkpoint, while the imminent double-track rail development in the area is expected to streamline logistics flows between Thailand and Laos," said Chalongchai Chayutrapong, deputy secretary-general of the Thailand-Laos Business Council.

"But the development here is quite slow, as the province is not regarded by the government as a priority for SEZ development unlike Tak, Sa Kaeo and Songkhla."

SEZ development is a major policy aimed at boosting investment and trade in border areas. The government decided two years ago to set up industrial estates in SEZs in 10 provinces for the purposes of agriculture, industry, logistics and tourism.

Tak, Sa Kaeo, Trat, Mukdahan, Songkhla and Nong Khai were designated for the first phase. Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi, Narathiwat and Nakhon Phanom were named for the second phase.

For Nong Khai, 718 rai of the land in Sakhrai district have been designated as an industrial area.

The Board of Investment in July reported that Nong Khai drew three investment projects worth nearly 400 million baht from Thai investors to produce containers, plastic pellets and consumer products.

Mr Chalongchai said border trade with Laos is thriving, with roughly 300 trucks passing through the checkpoint each day.

Moreover, trucks registered in Thailand are also allowed to drive in Laos nationwide.

Border trade between Thailand and Laos amounted to 115 billion baht from January to July, up 21.5% on the same period last year, according to the Foreign Trade Department.

Exports for the period rose by 6.76% to 79.2 billion baht, mainly for cars, auto parts, diesel, gasoline and steel.

Imports increased sharply by 74% to 36.3 billion baht, mainly for electric power, copper products, electronic parts and processed wood.

Montree Boriban, managing director of Sitthi Logistics, said logistics services in Indochina do not fully support Thailand's SEZ project, as trucks from Thailand have yet to drive through Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

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