EARTH Thailand

Map Ta Phut may drive away Japanese companies in Thailand

The Nation 29 January 2010 | Nalin Viboonchart  

About one-third of the members of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce (JCC) are deeply concerned about the Map Ta Phut impasse, with many of those affected considering relocating their planned investments to other Asean countries if it is not resolved within six months as promised by the prime minister.

JCC president Yo Jitsukata said yesterday after a meeting with Industry Minister Charnchai Chairungrueng and the Board of Investment (BoI) that Japanese companies hit by the crisis both directly and indirectly were in the petrochemicals, construction, steel and financial sectors.

The chamber has 1,314 members.

The majority of JCC member companies recently said they remained confident about investing in Thailand and that the country was still attractive, he said.

However, those who have been affected by the Map Ta Phut crisis have to continue with their investment plans. So, if the Thai government is unable to resolve the problem within six months, they will possibly move to other destinations, he said.

"We expect the government to speed up efforts to solve the Map Ta Phut problem as soon as possible. We still believe the government can do what it has said," he said.

Jitsukata added that the JCC would discuss recent developments concerning the Map Ta Phut problem with its members following the meeting with the industry minister and the BoI.

He declined to comment on whether the present political situation in Thailand would damage the investment outlook for Japanese investors.

Vice Industry Minister Sorayut Phettakul said the JCC president had also urged the government to clarify the definition of projects with a severe impact on the environment. It could then explain the matter to other Japanese firms thinking of investing in Thailand, and hopefully reassure them about bring their money here.

Charnchai said his ministry had brought the JCC up to date on the Map Ta Phut situation, particularly on what the government is doing to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

He said Tuesday's Cabinet meeting had approved the setting up of a task force led by Sorayut. It will assist companies in the process they should follow to comply with Article 67 (2) of the Constitution and get their projects taken off the suspended list.

Korbsak Sabhavasu, secretary-general to the prime minister, has recently assumed oversight of the problem as well, he added.