Authorities in Chiang Rai Look to Downsize Special Economic Zones Due to Protests
CHIANG RAI – Due to heavy protest from local villagers Muang Ngeun Development Co is considering reducing the size of Chiang Rai’s special economic zone (SEZ), to be developed in the second phase.
Managing director Lt Gen Pongake Apiraksyothin said the area to be developed was likely to be cut to 500 rai from 1,500 rai.
Gen Pongake Apiraksyothin told reporters that the company had to consider scaling down the plan as villagers in Ban Boon Reung and Chiang Khong district strongly oppose an industrial zone being developed on their land.
They say the forested areas are a legacy from their ancestors and should not be changed into an industrial area.
“We have two plots of land that are prepared to be developed as an SEZ. We are waiting for approval of the SEZ law to support development before deciding on a location,” he said.
He said the two plots comprise 1,000 rai in Ban Boon Reung district and 500 rai in Toong Yai district.
Lt Gen Pongake said the company had no plan to buy more land to expand Chiang Rai’s SEZ because speculation had driven up land prices.
He said land prices in nearby areas jumped from 700,000 baht per rai to 1-2 million baht. But the company would consider buying more land if the government developed state-owned land to be leased for an SEZ at cheaper prices.
He said the company initially planned to set up a logistics hub to serve growing border trade between Thailand and Laos as well as Yunnan in southern China.
Industry Minister Atchaka Sibunruang said the government will maintain its policy to lend strong support to the SEZ policy, accelerating measures for the first phase so construction can start by 2017.
First phase development is scheduled for Trat, Sa Kaew, Nong Khai, Songkhla, Mukdahan and Tak provinces. The second phase is slated to start construction in 2018 in Kanchanaburi, Narathiwat and Chiang Rai.
“The cabinet approved a plan to draft a special law to support to the SEZ and cluster projects, as the Industry Ministry will work with the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand on the details,” she said.
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