By ACHARA DEBOONME
AT A BRIEFING by National Economic and Social Development Board secretary general Porametee Vimolsiri, the 16 Asian business journalists present all sat still.
They listened attentively to Porametee’s presentation centred on the Thai economic outlook, Thailand’s plan to cash in on regional integration and sustainable development in the Kingdom.
After the 40-minute session, journalists fired questions – and all were centred on the foreign community’s expectation of Thailand.
A question from a Myanmar journalist related to the progress of the Dawei project.
Porametee expressed optimism that it would proceed as planned with cooperation of the Myanmar government and committed participation from Japan.
“The road from Kanchanaburi to Dawei is in a designing stage. This will link with a motorway leading to Bangkok,” he said.
A journalist from China showed enthusiasm in Thailand and China’s proposed joint development of a rail system in the Kingdom. The briefing took place last Wednesday, a day after reports broke that Thailand would postpone the deal. But on the same day, Thai and Chinese officials signed a memorandum of understanding for the project.
The Chinese journalist then asked Porametee how Thailand perceived the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
“Thailand welcomes the AIIB,” Porametee said, adding that was why Thailand became a founding member of the China-led bank.
He said that after a long period of zero investment, Thailand was embarking on several infrastructure projects on a Bt1.7 trillion list of projects approved by the Cabinet last week.
Domestic borrowing would constitute the major portion of the financing, along with public-private participation schemes for motorways and mass transit projects, he said, adding that external financing would make up the balance.
The next question from a journalist from Malaysia concerned the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. There are fears that Thailand’s participation in the China-led trade pact may lead to hurdles if the Kingdom seeks membership in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“The more members joining, the more benefits,” Porametee answered. But he said that “Thailand has reservations” about the TPP due to a number of membership requirements especially intellectual property.
“We have to be careful when joining TPP. We need to wait for the final conditions. Let the first group complete the task,” he said.
A question from another reporter from Malaysia was about sufficiency – a key element of Thailand’s economic and social development plans. She was eager to obtain tangible results of sufficiency projects.
Porametee said he was pleased that awareness was growing.
But there is no fixed model as one model cannot be applied to all locations. As such, information is being collected from different places.
The closed media session was part of Asia News Network’s initiative to broaden Asian journalists’ regional perspective.
The journalists were from several countries including South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Laos.
After the briefing, the regional business reporters flew to Chiang Rai to visit the Doi Tung development project. There, they attended a briefing by Doi Tung deputy chief executive ML Dispanadda Diskul.