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Southern chamber urges govt aid to boost investment

Oct 01. 2013
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By Thanapat Kitjakosol
The Natio

A private-sector organisation in a southern border province has called for government aid to boost business investment in the violence-plagued region, while the Pattani fishery association highlights development of the province's port as vital for the reg
Pattani Chamber of Commerce chief Sirichai Piticharoen said that with general investment in the region having increased by just a few million baht per year, the business sector would be able to develop further if there were more government aid and projects. 
Having spoken to leading businesspeople about their investment needs for the region, so that he could report his findings to the government, he said local companies’ main aim was survival during the continued unrest in the deep South, while also supporting villagers to create products for the market.
As regards halal business, he acknowledged that the unrest had made people reluctant to develop factories to cater to this sector. That said, there are several interested investors, he added. 
However, an industrial estate for this purpose, which would cover 1,000 rai (160 hectares), is not yet fully ready, he said, adding that in his view it would be much better to have the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand supervise such a facility to support large factories. 
Sirichai went on to say that Pattani also suffered from a labour shortage, as many locals went to work in Malaysia, but the industrial estate is expected to pull back these people and also attract immigrant workers after the Asean Economic Community comes into effect in 2015. 
He said the improved economy would only partially ease the unrest, because insurgents’ attacks stemmed from ideology, but if the region’s youth had jobs, that would also help solve the problem. 
Meanwhile, if proposed Pattani channel-dredging could be completed next year, it would lead to a great deal of development, he said. 
Pattani property development is continuing to grow, benefiting construction businesses, while the seafood industry – including the canning of fish – remains the major food-processing industry in the area.
In his opinion, the idea of a special economic zone in the newly issued plan by the Board of Investment of Thailand, which includes an eight-year tax-reduction period with a 50-per-cent waiver in the first five years, might not be effective because local businesses would not be able to benefit – as the tax measure would only apply to companies recognised by the agency.
Sirichai explained that the business sector currently paid the juristic-person tax at 15, 25 and 30 per cent, depending on the size of an entity’s net earnings, hence the proposed 3-per-cent juristic-person tax for the deep South was attractive – as was the provision of business-funding loans charging annual interest of only 1.5 per cent. 
However, the financial institutions’ criteria for these business loans are rather strict, which would result in higher production costs in this region than in other parts of the country, he added.
Phubes Chantnimi, chairman of the Pattani fishery association, said development of Pattani Port would be a key factor driving the local sector.
The province used to have the largest number of fishing boats and the largest port, but now Pattani fishermen have to deliver their catch to processing factories in the Central region’s Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram provinces, or in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district, because the Pattani port channel has become too shallow. 
The recession in the province’s fishery business, which accounts for almost half of its employment, is a long-standing problem that has been worsened by the unrest, Phubes said.
Hence the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre’s response to the association’s request for channel-dredging could revive the local fishery industry, provided all sides cooperated in such a venture and immigrant workers were hired in a systematic and orderly fashion, he said. 
He said he was also mindful that the continued unrest in the region adversely affected all types of business, and not just the fishery sector.
Colonel Ekkamon Sinnang, a senior Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) official, said the deep South tended to be perceived by outsiders only in respect of 
the violence in the region, therefore many good things were overlooked.
Isoc is, therefore, trying to demonstrate the reality of the region to outsiders and others in society – about people’s normal lifestyle and the economy – so they can see that the violence is only a fraction of what goes on from day to day, he said. 
“The southern border provinces’ unrest is a complex issue that has many dimensions and is related to all sides – civilians, the Army and police – so we are trying to eradicate the problem by propelling forward the strategy of letting politics come before military force, to create accurate understanding, reduce the lack of trust, create justice and develop people’s quality of life, while the national-security agencies perform operations to provide peace and safety in the region,” he said.

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