Things seem to be rather quiet lately. Apart from all the excitement over Serina Wee at the City Harvest Church hearing, nothing much seems to be happening in these parts. I wonder if it’s because the world’s attention is now focused on Myanmar. My hopes for Thailand just got a little dimmer.
I was once on the same bus as a few cartons of tweeting chicks going from Yangon to Mandalay. The cartons were marked with the Thai Airways logo. Because of US boycott, all the Coke that you could find in Myanmar were either smuggled in from Thailand or China. Many observers expected Chiangrai, Mae Hong Son, Sangklaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan to prosper because of trade links with Myanmar.
The latest developments sound a warning. Myanmar can hold its own and may soon become a competitor. Like a representative of Southeast Asia, Thailand has always been the centre of foreign policy initiatives emanating from Japan and the US. Apparently, the Land of Smiles is now being replaced by Myanmar.
During the Bush administration, Myanmar was named as one of three members in the “axis of evil”. Now, 20 months after the initial reforms, the country has become the most sought after by the major powers and regional groupings, particularly the EU. The most telling piece of news can be found in Today:
YANGON — In a show of intent to re-establish itself as a major investor in Myanmar, Japan’s government yesterday extended its first loan to the rapidly developing South-east Asian country in almost three decades and cancelled the remainder of the debt between the two countries.
The ¥51 billion (S$627.9 million) loan agreement was signed after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — on a first visit to Myanmar by a Japanese leader in 36 years — met Myanmar President Thein Sein.
The whole article can be found here
Gosh, I wish my creditors can forgive and forget the money I owe them. But the writing is clearly on the wall even though this backward country still has a long way to go. Rich in natural resources, if Myanmar takes off, it is going to soar at an amazing speed as long as their business laws do not put foreigners at such a disadvantage like they do in Thailand. Singapore and Thailand are major investors in Myanmar and I think we had better may hay while the sun still shines. The problem with Singapore is that many of our scholar-managed enterprises are not used to competition. We did well when other countries boycotted Myanmar. The problem with Thailand does not lie in its lack of natural resources. The problem lies in its people too driven by impulse and not being bothered to follow some simple rules which are beneficial to everyone.
Thailand is one of the few places in the world where the helmet rule cannot be successfully implemented even till this day.
© Chan Joon Yee