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INSIDE THAILAND
Narathiwat in the Deep South to Be Developed as a Special Economic Zone

31 October 2014 (Readers 1378)
 
The southern border province of Narathiwat will launch many projects to promote trade, investment, and tourism, in response to the Governments policy to develop Narathiwat into a special economic zone. Narathiwat Governor Nattapong Sirichana said that the Committee on the Special Economic Development Zone Policy had listed Narathiwat in the second phase of the plan to establish Thailands special economic zones. Under the plan, Narathiwat will become a special economic zone in 2016. The Governor said that the province was preparing projects to link local transportation routes with Malaysia and Indonesia. The projects include the development of a railway line from Su-ngai Kolok district in Narathiwat to Parsemus Station in Kelantan, road construction along the railway line, and the construction of the second bridge across the Kolok River, connecting Su-ngai Kolok with Rantau Panjang town in Kelantan. A product distribution center will be set up in Tak Bai district. Narathiwat also plans to launch a project to develop a central agriculture market for southern exports in Yi-ngo district. Some investors have shown interest in developing a "rubber city, a halal park industry, and alternative energy in this province. Regarding border tourism promotion, the Governor said that the idea of establishing a duty-free zone had been raised for discussion. The distinctive local culture will be emphasized in boosting tourism. There are about 800,000 people in Narathiwat, 82 percent of whom are Muslim, 17 percent Buddhist, and one percent other religions. More Muslim tourists, especially those from other ASEAN countries, will be urged to visit Narathiwat, which boasts not only natural beauty, but also cultural attractions. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Narathiwat Office, the tourism marketing in Narathiwat in the 2014 fiscal year was satisfactory, as the province attracted more tourist arrivals. In 2015, Narathiwat will celebrate the 100th anniversary of being granted its present name. Many activities will be organized to mark this special occasion, when the province expects to welcome more visitors. TAT will launch a program to promote Narathiwat as a "Must Visit City, since it has a special story that visitors should know about. One of Thailands southernmost provinces, sharing a border with Kelantan in Malaysia, Narathiwat is well-known for its border town of Su-ngai Kolok, which welcomes a great number of Malaysian and Singaporean visitors coming for trade and tourism each year. The plan to develop Narathiwat as a special economic zone is expected to help stimulate the local economy, which has been affected by unrest in the deep South. It will also provide more job opportunities and generate more income, so that local residents do not have to leave their hometown for employment overseas. More importantly, the plan will help ease the security problem and it is hoped to bring lasting peace to the southern border provinces.
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