Can Bangkok be the capital city of the ASEAN region? (1)

Once the war of election between Bangkok governor candidates ended, the winner has the responsibility of following the policy according to his campaigns promoted to the people. However, the main responsibility which Bangkok governor cannot ignore is to develop Bangkok to be prepared with the opening of AEC. One important point to focus on is how to turn Bangkok into the capital city of ASEAN.

When the ASEAN countries integrate into AEC in the year 2015, Bangkok has the opportunity to turn into a capital city or a center of the ASEAN community. Because of the geographical location of Thailand, it is situated in the middle of the region and has the most borders which are close to the ASEAN member countries. Bangkok has the opportunities to be the center of the region in many aspects as followed:
1) The center of trade and logistics
The development project of connecting infrastructure between ASEAN member countries, especially infrastructure of transportation, will help to improve Bangkok to clearly become the center for the transportations within the region. For example, 3 routes of the development project of Pan Asia railway which the Chinese government is pursuing  to connect the railway system between Kunming city, the southern part of China, with other countries in ASEAN, namely Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The 3 railways will be connected to the railway within the country, which will complete the railway network of the ASEAN from North to South and East to West. This will help in reducing the time and cost of transportation within the region. Bangkok will become the center of the railway system transportation, as it is the city of railway junction of the region. 
Another possible project if succeeds is the Dawei Deep Sea Port and Special Economic Zone, and the Motorway and the railway connecting the Dawei port and Laem Chabang port- passing through Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Prathom, and Bangkok. The distance is about 400 Kilometers and the plan includes routes to Cambodia and Vietnam. This route will help to reduce the transportation distance by reducing the need to take the unnecessary Malacca route, which is about 3,500 kilometers long. Bangkok is located between two large deep-sea ports and shall gain benefits in terms of trade and transportation and become the center of the region.
2) The center of investment and office settings
Bangkok has the opportunity to become the center in investment and office settings for foreign direct investment which comes with the purpose of investing in production and services in this region. This is because Bangkok’s geographical location is in the middle of the region; it is a hub for economic development and it is a political center with developed economics, infrastructure, and other convenient elements which are more than what other neighbor cities; institutes and regulations have managed to develop; a center of skilled labors, high profile employees with degrees of education; enterpreneurs and high-potential supporting industries. 
3) The center of tourism industry
Bangkok has a great opportunity to become the center of tourism industry in this region with the highest and most famous tourism ranking in many consecutive years. With various tourism resources, especially a unique history and culture; low cost of tourism; and a complete package of tourism services delivered; along with being a center of land and air transaction in the region are what make it a popular tourist destination. Therefore, when the AEC opens and the infrastructure between countries are completed, more tourists within the ASEAN region will fluctuate into Bangkok because it is of interest of tourists and is a center for other countries within the region.
4) The center of health and beauty industry
Bangkok is considered as a center with high potential in wellness and beauty industry of the region. This is because Bangkok has high education institutions for health areas, and a center which comprises of many hospitals. Nowadays, many private hospitals gain success in delivering services to foreigners. This is due to the global standard of services offered in Thailand; many healthcare doctors are skillful; the price for services is affordable; and many health services are available. 
The opening of the AEC will give freedom to health services in the region, which will support Thailand in becoming the center of the healthcare industry by opening up opportunities to healthcare personnel in Thailand to offer services in further areas overseas; opening up opportunities for foreigners to conveniently walk in to receive services in Thailand; opening up of opportunities to foreigners to invest and hold shares in Thai healthcare industry in Thailand; and opening up of opportunities for foreign healthcare personnel to come to work in Thailand.
We see that Bangkok has high opportunity to be the capital city of ASEAN, but that does not mean it is going to be easy. There are many threats that could shut down this opportunity as well which I will be elaborating in the next article.
Source :amthaipaper
ISSUE 0095 (December 15 – January 16)


Kriengsak Chareonwongsak

Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Center of Business and Government.

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