Thailand Cabinet approved proposal to create a special economic zone in the Mae Sot district of Tak province which borders Myanmar
Cabinet approves special economic zone at Myanmar border
By the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Week of January 29, 2013
In preparation for the unveiling of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, the cabinet of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra approved a proposal last week to create a special economic zone in the Mae Sot district of Tak province, which borders Myanmar. The zone, which will include an industrial estate and other new infrastructure, should increase cross-border trade and investment, benefiting both countries.
Business groups praised the decision to establish the zone, while also urging the government to increase investments inside neighboring countries such as Myanmar. “The private sector hopes the Mae Sot special economic zone, which was initiated eight years ago, will materialize and be completed before the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community,” Prasert Juengkijrungroj, secretary-general of the Thai Chamber of Commerce for Tak province, told the Bangkok Post newspaper. The chamber said that cross-border trade increased 80 percent in 2012 to total $1.3 billion, and forecast that it will reach $2 billion this year.
Mae Sot has long been a vibrant trading outpost, but most cross-border business there was considered ‘gray’ because for decades ethnic Karen insurgents held sway over the adjacent area inside Myanmar. The Myanmar town of Myawaddy is situated opposite Mae Sot, and the two countries are separated by the Moei River. Myanmar’s government and the Karen rebels have agreed to a ceasefire and are negotiating a permanent peace.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will chair a committee overseeing the design and implementation of the special economic zone. She visited Mae Sot on January 20 to inspect the area with the ministers of foreign affairs, commerce and transport before heading to a mobile cabinet meeting in Uttaradit province. The prime minister was briefed on the proposed plans for the zone by the governor of Tak province.
Prime Minister Yingluck also inspected the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge linking the two countries and which the minister of transport said is in urgent need of repair because of heavy truck traffic. Building a second bridge to ease congestion is being considered as part of the zone project, and if approved, could be completed by 2014.
Government spokesman Tosaporn Serirak said the government also plans to establish special economic zones in Kanchanaburi, Sa Kaeo, Trat, Songkhla, Narathiwat, Nong Khai, Chiang Rai and Mukdahan. All are border provinces where Thailand abuts Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic or Malaysia, and where trade is substantial.
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