AN INVESTMENT worth more than Bt30 billion from the government and private sector is intended to develop both infrastructure and industry in three southern provinces of Thailand, including Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwas.
The government development strategy is to develop the “Southern Economic Triangle” into stable, prosperous and sustainable provinces by the year 2020, said recently Rear Admiral Somkeart Ponprayoon, deputy secretary of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre or SBPAC.
The Cabinet in 2016 approved Bt5 billion to develop 63 infrastructure projects in the three provinces from 2017 until 2020. Already, some Bt300 million has been invested in 17 of the 63 projects this year, with the remainder gearing up over the next two years. State agencies are also planning investments. For example, Airports of Thailand Plc have plans for investment worth Bt1.03 billion to develop Yala Airport and Narathiwas International Airport by 2020, and the Marine Depart-ment of the Transport Ministry plans to invest Bt116 million to develop Pattani Port and into a commercial port serving cargo ship size up to 5,000 tonnes gross in the year 2020, Somkeart said.
The strategy aims to increase prosperity in the three Southern provinces, making it more politically and economically stable. One city in each province will be developed as model cities, to set a future example for other cities in the region.
For example, said Somkeart, Nongjik district of Pattani has been selected to serve as an agricultural city role model, developing agricultural industries and bio-diesel. Similarly, Betong district of Yala will become a model natural tourism city. Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat is to serve as an example of an international trade hub in southern Thailand by developing a distribution centre and a logistics system to link the district to neighbouring countries Malaysia and Singapore.
The master plan also calls on the government to promote expansion of the private sector by expanding their investment in three provinces. The approach will be to offer more incentives for investors interested in expanding their investment in the three provinces. The incentives will include exemptions of up to 90 per cent on duties for importing machines or raw materials, as well as a 50 per cent deduction on corporate income taxes.
The government hopes that the incentives will improve conditions and reduce violence in the three provinces, which have suffered through a hard period over the past 14 years. So far, the private sector has shown an interest in expanding their investments by some Bt15 billion in the three provinces, Somkeart said.
The private investments include a palm oil refinery with plans to double its production capacity from 60 tonnes per hour to 120 tonnes per hour, bio diesel, a biomass power plant generating 49 megawatts, and a solar power plant generating 300 megawatts. Also, fruit processing, seafood processing, coconut processing, plant extract, and vegetable oil packing plants, he said.
Somkeart said that investment from both public and private sectors would create up to 200,000 new jobs in the three provinces. Other benefits would include improved quality of life for the 1.97 million people of the region. Some 397,000 of them have registered as “lower income” and earn below Bt100,000 yearly.
“Our target is to improve income for over a half of the 397,000 people, to have their earnings over Bt100,000 a year by the year 2020,” he said.
When people’s quality of life improves, such as through increased income, better health services, or higher quality education for their children, they are more likely to collaborate with the government to reduce violence in the provinces and to further development, said Somkeart.
Since the October 2016 kick-off for the development programme, SBPAC has received positive feedback from people in the three provinces, he said. The government has seen an uptick in help from local residents in monitoring their family members and neighbours who are vulnerable to participating in violence.
“We cannot say all of people will join with us because some disagree with the government and still want to be violent. But we believe that when most people get benefits from the provinces’ economic improvement, and their quality of life is better than before, we will get more people to be friends with the government and help us to reduce the violence in the province,” he said.