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Asean Affairs  15 November 2010

Thai industry flees to lowest cost and regulatory site-Myanmar

By  David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs     15 November 2010

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On of the bigger stories in the Asean world today is the Thai-backed development of a huge port and industrial estate development in Dawei (Tavoy), in southern Myanmar.

One of the reasons that the captains of Thai industry may be looking to locate outside Burma is the recent complaint of citizens living neat the Map Ta Phut industrial estate who took their environmental concerns to court. The Thai court agreed with them, deciding that environmental laws had been ignored. This caused a suspension of activities at the industrial estate and a review of the projects to determine if they posed an environmental risk. Most were allowed to resume.

Now, just a few weeks after the Map Ta Phut event quited down, Arkhom Termpitthayapaisith, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board, said the shift to Burma is a response to environmental issues both in Map Ta Phut and southern Thailand.

The flight of Thai industry to adjacent Myanmar brings back images from the United States, where many U.S. companies have move their production outside the United States. The trend started in the 1980s, when U.S. firms received tax credits for locating across the border in Mexico. The next step was the AFTA agreement when job relocation was extended throughout the Americas.

It is reported that the U.S. has lost 40 percent of its manufacturing jobs since 1979, dropping from nearly 20 million to 12 million.

Is the same phenomenon about to repeat it self in Thailand?

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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