THAI enterprises should not delay when considering business and trade opportunities with Myanmar, otherwise they may lose out to other foreign investors, said Aung Than, vice chairman to the Mandalay Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar.
With the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) scheduled to commence in 2015, Aung Than said many foreign investors, particularly those from China, were already in Myanmar looking to reap benefits from the country's new openness.
"Thais are still investing less in Myanmar compared with other [regional players]. Although the cost of land is rapidly rising, Thai enterprises still have a competitive edge as there are many Thai industry experts. Thais also have a close relationship with the people of Myanmar," he said.
Japan and China, said Aung Than, were already investing in many industries in Myanmar, especially in Yangon and Mandalay. Aung Than said he wanted to see more Thais investing in those destinations as Thailand's cultural routes were similar to those of Myanmar. He added that Thais were also polite and easy to talk to.
Thai joint ventures would also attract more interest among local people as Thais were trusted and many Thai products were already recognised in the country, he said, adding that Thai goods sold in the country were double the price of Myanmar goods.
Aung Than suggested that more Thais should also learn Burmese so that they could more easily find partners and understand the local market.
Interesting business opportunities for Thais in Myanmar included manufacturing of consumer goods, construction materials and the service sector industry - such as hospitals. Aung Than pointed out that many wealthy people in Myanmar preferred to travel to Thailand for health checks and medical treatment, because the standard and service was much better than in Myanmar.
Opportunities in farm sector
Aung Than, also an owner of the Three Star-Gram Mill in Mandalay, said that it would be easy for Thai agriculture and rice producers to find investment opportunities in Myanmar's farming sector, because of their expertise and knowledge in farming technologies.
U Sai Kyaw Htin, managing director of Anchor-ma, a Mandalay producer and importer of cement blocks, said he hoped the AEC would help increase the competitiveness of Myanmar enterprises.
He said many local enterprises were interested in joint ventures with foreign investors - especially Thais - to help them develop their businesses and become international traders.
Srirat Rastapana, director-general to the International Trade Promotion Department, said there were great opportunities for Thai investors to grow in Myanmar, as there was a high demand for goods and services in the country.
With its emerging growth and large population, many foreign investors had begun pouring investment into Myanmar, and Thailand, which has close ties with Myanmar, should urgently explore the market. She pointed out that some Thai commercial banks had already opened offices there to facilitate Thai investors.
She said Myanmar would be a perfect partner for Thailand if Thai investors promised to recognise local practices and offered mutual benefits. Plenty of opportunities could also be found in all sectors including farming, trade and industry, and service sectors. Besides the local market, Thai investors would also benefit from export privileges granted by Western countries. Thai enterprises should therefore not hesitate to investment, she said.
To facilitate Thai traders and investors, the department has also set up a consultation office in Yangon with in-depth information about the Myanmar economy, its rules and regulations, as well as a list of contacts with local traders.