KASIKORNBANK HAS opened its first Border Trade Business Centre in Mae Sot, expecting the border town to benefit greatly from further economic development in Myanmar that will spur tourism, trade and investment between the two countries.
Lifting the sentiment on the Thai side is the fact that Mae Sot and two other districts in Tak have been declared special economic zones (SEZs), which should draw investment from Thai and foreign companies and trade with Myanmar.
"The centre, opened ahead of the AEC [ASEAN Economic Community], aligns with the bank's 'ASEAN+3' strategy. Through the centre, we aim to introduce banking products and advise our clients in the 13 countries on investment" in Thailand and Myanmar, said KBank president Predee Daochai.
The centre was opened amid encouraging signs of border trade. The value of Thailand's shipments to neighbouring countries rose by 3.5 per cent in the first eight months of this year, against the 5-per-cent contraction in overall exports. Total cross-border exports last year expanded by 6.85 per cent.
Bilateral border trade with Myanmar has increased the most, by more than 10 per cent in the past year.
Predee expects this to continue. He foresees a huge investment in roads, electricity, manufacturing and other areas to improve the quality of living in Myanmar.
"Myanmar has huge economic potential. Just to catch up with Thailand, it would need a lot of investment," he said.
KBank, with its partner banks in Myanmar, has recently organised four business-matching trips to Yangon, each allowing more than 100 talks. It also organised a trip for Myanmar businessmen to Osaka, Japan.
Mae Sot is a key beneficiary to all this activity, as Thai exports to Myanmar through this checkpoint accounted for Bt42 billion (S$1.6 billion) in the first eight months of this year, or 66 per cent of total border trade with |the country.
The rest was split among the other three checkpoints. The value rose 11 per cent from the same period last year.
"Mae Sot could be the centre of the East West Economic Corridor," he said, indicating that the infrastructure of Tak and other border provinces such as Sa Kaew and Nong Khai was set to improve thanks to the SEZ programme.