Govt pushes ‘economic zones’ for defense – Thailand

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The Defence Technology Institute shows an unmanned aerial vehicle to be used to survey forest areas in the county. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd) 

The government is planning new “special economic zones” aimed at better supporting Thailand’s defence technology industry.

The plan, backed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon who on Wednesday chaired the Defence Council meeting, will be carried out under the 2019 Defence Technology Act.

Defence spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said a panel would be set up to oversee the zones, but gave few other details.

Gen Prawit, also defence minister, wants all armed forces and agencies under the Defence Ministry to work with the Defence Technology Institute to drive the plan.

Officials are also encouraged to seek cooperation with the private sector to further develop defence technology and eventually make the country more “self-reliant,” given as a goal in the 2019 law, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.

It is unclear if the plan is connected to the 10 new Special Economic Zones, known as SEZs, near border areas, earlier pushed by the Prayut Chan-o-cha government.Authorities want SEZs to promote border trade, which in 2016 accounted for 10% of total exports, according to the Board of Investment.

The zones are in Chiang Rai which borders Laos and Myanmar; Tak and Kanchanaburi which are adjacent to Myanmar, Mukdahan, Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom on the Lao border; Trat and Sa Kaeo on the Cambodia border; and Songkhla and Narathiwat in the South, bordering Malaysia.

Up to 13 industries are expected to gain benefits from SEZs. They are agriculture and fisheries; ceramics; garments, textiles and leather; furniture; gems and jewellery; medical equipment; cars and parts; electronics; plastics; pharmaceuticals; logistics; industrial estates; and tourism.

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