Thailand Works to Get Economic Project Off Ground in Deep South

By Nasueroh
2015.03.19
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TH-prawit-620-March2015 Thai Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan (left) looks at a model of a Halal food industrial estate while visiting Pattani province, March 19, 2015.
BenarNews

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan travelled to Pattani province Thursday to promote the construction of a halal food industrial estate, which the government is touting as part of its effort to boost the economy of Thailand’s troubled Deep South region.

The government-backed project, which is to be built on 69 acres in Panare district, has stalled for the past 12 years mainly because of unrest fuelled by a long-running separatist insurgency.

Twice, rebels have tried to stop the project by burning down buildings on the construction site, locals say. The only finished structure is a one-stop service center and administrative building.

When the U.S. $35 million (1.14 billion baht) project is finally finished in 2017, as the government hopes, the estate will process halal foods and produce halal garments.

Because the Deep South is predominantly Muslim, the government in Bangkok hopes to create jobs in the region by building up a local halal industry.

The estate will be developed along a coastal highway that overlooks the Gulf of Thailand. Its various plants will process and can halal-certified crispy fish, chicken and other sea foods, among other halal products.

The completed project will promote peace in the region and serve as a springboard to improve the lives of people in the region, so they won’t need to find jobs abroad, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, who is both deputy prime minister and defense minister in the junta-led government, told a local audience Muslim clerics and residents.

Other hitches

However, the project has yet to attract investors, and locals who sold plots of land that make up the 69-acre lot are still waiting for the government to pay them for the purchase.

Panare resident Maladee Jeh-wae is among those waiting for the payment. In his view, this is one of the reasons why the project has been held up, he told BenarNews.

“This is a good chance for seven land owners to address their problems to the deputy prime minister, and we hope for solutions,” Maladee said.

The government has passed a budget resolution and will settle its outstanding debt to the landowners by the end of March, said Luechai Jaroensap, the deputy provincial governor.

The project, nevertheless, gives locals reason to hope for future economic prosperity, said Ardae Woha, a kamnan (village cluster head) in Borai sub-district.

“I am personally pleased with the development in which our children will have jobs locally and won’t need to go to neighboring countries,” Maladee said for his part.

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