HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Myanmar has great trade and investment prospects

Castrol greasing its way in to the city

Consumer confidence index declines in May

Myanmar has great trade and investment prospects

But instability and unreliability are its downfall

Saksit Meesubkwang and Phitsanu Thepthong

Thai businesses are very keen to invest in Myanmar, but are wary of risks and possible financial losses because of its internal politics. That is the assessment of Chavaphan Chavacharoenphan, adviser to the Tak Chamber of Commerce.

Reporting on Thai-Burmese trade, Chavaphan reported Thailand has been showing a trade deficit both last year and in the first part of this year. For the whole of last year, the Thai export figure was 12 billion baht, while imports from Myanmar were worth 45 billion baht. The deficit appears now to be increasing.

Chavaphan was guest speaker at a seminar on "Economy and Investment in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region" organized by the Faculty of Economy. He noted that Myanmar has an abundance of natural resources, especially natural gas, timber, coal and metals.

Thailand exported mainly consumer products, such as fat and oil extracts, steel, chemical products, cement, construction raw materials, fuel, rubber, electric appliances, slippers and clothes.

Border trade with Myanmar at the Mae Sot checkpoint is greater than at Prachuab Khirikhan. The trade at Tak was also better than at the Mae Sai checkpoint, Chiang Rai, and the border crossing in Ranong province.

"The problems or obstacles for border trade between Thailand and Myanmar include national security and instability caused by the latter’s internal politics leading to the closure of border checkpoints, Myanmar’s financial and banking systems, alien laborers, illegal immigrants, and the instability of its currency," Chavaphan said.

He added that Thailand and Myanmar had initiated the so-called Road Map project, but Myanmar still does not trust Thai investors or display good cooperation with Thais.

"However, Myanmar’s strength is its export, import and border trades with other countries. It is rich in natural resources and can be used as a gateway for Thailand to help transfer products and exports to third countries, as well as being a production base for Thai exports in the near future," he said.

"But Myanmar has not kept to its promises and agreements, resulting in slow progress of investment projects run by countries such as the USA, China and England. They have suffered under the Burmese government’s rules and regulations that detrimentally affect their investments."

Castrol greasing its way in to the city

Smooth auto service the promise

Nopniwat Krailerg

The first Castrol auto service center in the North has opened in Chiang Mai. Sakulchai auto service center on the Super Highway was officially opened on June 24. Mike Johnson, chairman of Castrol in the Asia-Pacific area flew from Singapore to be present and was welcomed by Chaiwut Yingluksakulchai, manager of the new center.

Mike Johnson, chairman of Castrol in the Asia-Pacific area, sounds the gong to open the first Castrol auto service center in Chiang Mai.

The chain plans to establish at least 160 centers countrywide this year, supported by its Asia-Pacific headquarters. The first outlet was in Bangkok, and now the company is spreading out into the provinces.

Castrol describe their auto service centers as innovative outlets for vehicle repairs and maintenance, with every outlet meeting the same high corporate standard of operation.

Only professional certificated mechanics are employed, and each outlet is attractive with modern decor and a clean environment.

Consumer confidence index declines in May

The fuel price increase has dampened the country’s consumer confidence as all indices continued to drop in May, according to leading economists. The Dean of the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce’s Economics Faculty Saovanee Thairungrote said that the confidence index on overall economy declined to 99.9 points from 101.6 in May, the index on job opportunities to 95 from 96.1, and the index on future incomes fell to 112.5 from 114.3. She attributed the continued fall in the indices to rising oil prices and the unrest in the South, which remained of concern. (TNA)