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Concerted Efforts to Develop the Deep South as an ASEAN Hub

April 22, 2014 Destination Thailand No Comments Email Email

The southern border provinces of Thailand have high possibilities for developing themselves as an ASEAN hub once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) goes into full effect in 2015.

Chairman of the Songkhla Chamber of Commerce Somporn Siriporananon has stressed the need for the private sectors of the five southernmost provinces to work closely together in stepping up efforts to prepare for AEC.

In terms of economic strengths, Mr. Somporn believed that the five provinces, namely Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Satun, would be ready to move toward becoming an ASEAN hub. However, the strengths of each province must be focused upon and developed further.

For instance, in Pattani, emphasis should be placed on the halal industry. Yala should be developed as an agricultural production and distribution center. Betong district in Yala should be promoted as a border tourism center. Marine tourism in Satun should receive a major boost. Border trade at Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat should be emphasized. As for Songkhla, it should be developed as a trading center. Songkhla is Thailand’s second largest province after Bangkok, in terms of exports.

Hat Yai district in Songkhla is the best-known business center in southern Thailand, with an international airport. Songkhla is also the location of modern hospitals, tourist attractions, and a major state university. Mr. Somporn said that Songkhla is ready to become a product distribution center in AEC, but it needs infrastructure development and the improvement of the service sector.

He said that the chambers of commerce in the five provinces need to cooperate in developing new border trading checkpoints and transportation routes, such as the Hat Yai-Sadao motorway, as they will play an important part for AEC and will make the southern region a major source of exports and market for Thailand.

The southern border provinces are also a gateway to the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT), a subregional cooperation initiative formed by the governments of the three countries to promote the welfare and economic growth of the people living in the areas covered by IMT-GT.

Former Secretary-General of ASEAN Surin Pitsuwan pointed out that the southern border provinces, especially Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, make up a multi-cultural society. Apart from Thai, local people also speak Malay, which is spoken by 300 million people in ASEAN. So they are ready to move toward the ASEAN Community and the ASEAN hub.

Speaking about the readiness of the five southern border provinces for the ASEAN Community, Mr. Surin urged local people to improve their English skills and learn other ASEAN languages, as well. In addition, emphasis must be placed on the creation of human resources of good quality and working as professionals.

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