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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        27 January 2011

US solar firm to build Vietnam plant

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A US solar panel maker Wednesday said it will build a $300 million factory in Vietnam, boosting the country's efforts to reinvent itself as a hub for high-tech manufacturing.

Arizona-based First Solar said Vietnamese authorities had approved the investment in Ho Chi Minh City's Cu Chi district, in the south of the country.

The facility will employ around 600 people and production is expected to begin in the second half of next year, a company spokeswoman said.

Vietnam is still a rural-based society that has relied on natural resources and unskilled labour to achieve growth. But the country's communist leaders now speak of moving to a more technologically advanced system of production.

"You're seeing more and more high-tech firms come into Vietnam," outgoing United States ambassador Michael Michalak said at his farewell press conference this month. He cited First Solar's plans as an example.

In October the US-based chip maker Intel opened a billion-dollar plant in Ho Chi Minh City.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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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