Five border areas will be developed as special economic development zones at the initial stage to boost Thailand’s border trade and prepare for the arrival of the ASEAN Community in late 2015.
The five pilot areas include Mae Sot district in Tak, Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo, Khlong Yai district in Trat, Mueang district in Mukdahan, and Sadao district in Songkhla.
The Committee on the Special Economic Development Zone Policy, during its meeting, approved the establishment of the special economic development zones in the five provinces. The meeting, chaired by Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) General Prayuth Chan-ocha, determined that the five areas were suitable and had great potential for border trade expansion.
Emphasis will be placed on economic development and national stability, as well as efforts to enhance Thailand’s competitiveness, generate employment, and improve the people’s living conditions. Moreover, the formation of the special economic development zones will ease congestion at border checkpoints and help tackle the smuggling of migrant workers and goods from neighboring countries.
The meeting also approved criteria and methods to support the establishment of these special zones. They involve investment promotional privileges, one-stop services, measures to support the use of migrant workers, and infrastructure development for regional connectivity.
At the same meeting, the formation of three subcommittees was approved to handle issues concerning investment and promotional privileges, employment of migrant workers and skill development, and infrastructure development and the improvement of border checkpoints.
The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board was assigned to conduct assessments on operations in accordance with the policy on special economic development zones, economic viability, economic, social, environmental, and security impacts, satisfaction of various sectors of society, and guidelines to improve operations.
The NCPO has a policy to promote and develop trade in border areas. General Prayuth pointed out that the future for Thailand’s export sector remains bright for a long time to come. Neighboring countries have a great demand for Thai goods, and Thailand has advantages in terms of distance, transport routes, and prices. However, he said, bottlenecks still exist at border customs checkpoints. In order to address this problem, the Customs Department, the Ministry of Transport, and other relevant agencies have been assigned to improve entry and exit routes to facilitate travel.
The NCPO also attaches importance to the setting up of skill development centers in the five pilot provinces. After the five provinces, it is expected that seven more provinces will be developed as special economic development zones in the next stage.