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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        20  May 2011

Thai retailers object to controls

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Major Thai retailers say the next government should end its use of product price controls as the practice distorts the market and consumers find it even harder to adjust to high living costs once price caps end.

Phaibul Kanokvatanawan, senior executive vice-president of The Mall Group, said the Democrat government's controls distorted the prices of many goods, especially palm oil and eggs. This intervention also blocked some business opportunities for operators.

"If the new government intervenes in the market, its impact will be beyond expectations," he said.

Consumers cannot adjust and consume less or save to pay for necessary products.

Mr. Phaibul said price controls hurt manufacturers as well when their operating costs rise. Retailers also face other product sale restrictions. The recent cap on bottled water prices at food courts at seven baht by the Internal Trade Department was unfair, he said. Hotels still sell bottled water at 25 baht or more.

"Why does it have to be cheaper at food courts? Most business operators pay utility bills at similar rates. The bottled water at a food court and a hotel are not different," he said. Another restriction involves alcoholic beverages, which retail outlets can sell only from from 11 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to midnight.

"I think this restriction does not help to deter excessive drinking or drunk driving. The better solution is that the government should educate Thai people about health problems and other effects caused by drinking too much," said Mr Phaibul.

"Consumers should be able to decide for themselves what they will buy or consume. What we can do is warn them about the consequences."

He also wants the new government to update retail zoning on a yearly basis as Bangkok sprawls. "The government should support free trade, as this will eventually benefit consumers the most, reducing product prices," he said.

But Suwit Kingkaew, president of the Thai Capital Retailer Development Association, disagreed with Mr Phaibul, saying price controls on food and other essential products helped people survive during difficult economic times. The freeze on the price of diesel also delays higher prices for many items if their logistics costs are maintained.

Praphan Eamrungruj, executive vice-president for properties at Big C Supercentre Plc, said the new government should also promote reconciliation to build political stability.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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