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54 Suchart Liengsaengthong and Glen Robinson 4 Doing Business in Thailand Suchart Liengsaengthong and Glen Robinson SUCHART LIENGSAENGTHONG I will begin with an overview of Thailand focusing on the economy and then discuss exports and imports. Thailand is a country of approximately sixty-three million people and so provides a large market which offers very good opportunities for business. Thailand is also in the centre of Southeast Asia and we consider ourselves to be the gateway to the Mekong region which is comprised of Myanmar, Laos, NorthernThailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.This region has a total population of about 250 million people. The size of the market is therefore even bigger because Thailand shares borders with all of these countries. Thailand is also a rising economic star in Asia since we are ranked number two, only after China. Thailand is now the twentieth largest exporter in the world and Thai exports are expected to reach US$100 million in the year 2006. International agencies now view Thailand in a very positive light compared with Thailand during the Asian economic crisis. UNCTAD, for example, has just released a study of Thailand and, in terms of investor confidence and of direct investment from overseas, Thailand is ranked fourth after China, India and the United States. Turning to the political environment in Thailand, I have seen some onesided comments from people who have studied Thailand from overseas but who do not really know about Thailand, so I would like to refer briefly to a few issues. Earlier speakers discussed theThai Government’s campaign against 04 ThaiEcoRecovery Ch 4 5/5/06, 10:00 AM 54 Reproduced from Thailand's Economic Recovery edited by Cavan Hogue (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2006). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at Doing Business in Thailand 55 drugs and we referred to the killing of many people in Thailand. In fact there are many perspectives on that issue. This government takes drug issues very seriously when compared to the past. They are trying to bring Thailand forward, trying to suppress and trying to uproot the drug syndicates that have been operating behind the scenes for such a long time. There are many critics and many criticisms of what the government has been trying to do, but in fact some of the deaths resulted from the syndicates trying to cut short the investigation. This is a key issue. Many have mentioned the speech made by the king on his birthday where he mentioned the actions of the government on these issues. After that speech, Prime Minister Thaksin commissioned a study to investigate how many people had been killed over the drugs issue and that data will be received very soon. The results will be given by the prime minister to the king. Mention has also been made of the unrest in Southern Thailand. When we talk about problems in the southern part of Thailand, we tend to talk about the present but we do not talk about the past. What is the history? What are the complications there? So it is very easy to just follow the newspapers and follow the news and talk about Thailand without a complete view of what is going on there. The problem is much more complicated. To take one example, people raise the case of a soldier who was killed recently in the South and criticize the prime minister for remarking that the solider deserved to die. They take this statement out of context and ignore the stress that this government puts on the “CEO style” of administering the country. The key words of this government are efficiency and professionalism. What happened in this case was that a military barrack was robbed, firearms were stolen and the guards were killed, so clearly the officer in charge showed no professionalism in failing to defend that military installation. The prime minister’s remark was intended to reflect how upset he felt with the commanding officer’s lack of professionalism and must be understood in that context. It is also important to note that Prime Minister Thaksin has a majority in the parliament whereas in the past all governments were coalitions which led to problems, infighting and factionalism. These made it difficult for the government to run the country efficiently and so...


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