Friday, March 16, 2007

Nation Editorial: Transportation Barriers to Economic Integration in the Northeast


The Nation

A bridge too soon

Cross-border transport problems suggest mental blocks are harder to overcome than physical barriers

The second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which connects Mukdahan province with Laos's Savannakhet province, was opened for traffic in January amid high hopes that it would promote regional trade, boost tourism and encourage economic and social integration of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in a significant way. Instead, it did all this in a decidedly non-dramatic fashion, just like the first Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge did, and continues to do, since it was inaugurated in 1994 to link Nong Khai province with the Lao capital of Vientiane.


Interesting editorial. I actually agree with it. I'm a liberal and a utilitarian. I believe in globalization. I think it is a good thing in the long run for the greatest amount of people.

I have been to both border crossings. Do the crossings do anything to stimulate economic activity? No, because as the article states, there is too much bureaucracy and red tape. It takes forever to cross. These border regions are not like the border regions of Europe or like US-Canada border crossings, which actually are conducive to international economic activity.

It is in Thailand's best interests that its neighboring countries prosper and prosper fast, because it doesn't want to have three little Mexico's on its borders.

But that means Thailand has to do its part to foster integration, which means it needs to stop treating its neighboring countries like former conquered states from hundreds of years ago, only to be used, abused and exploited.

Also, Thailand needs to get past its double standards regarding globalization. It can't preach hatred of Western and Japanese capital while doing everything that it accuses the West of doing against its neighbors.

Laos, Cambodia, and Burma need to get their shit together, quickly. It is not in their best interests to become little Mexicos. They need to work on long-term development plans that protect their environments while promoting economic stimulation at the same time. Unless there is regional vision, these countries will be used by China, Thailand and Vietnam as virtual dumping grounds for less than wholesome industries, just like the situation on the US-Mexico border. For example, what if Thailand actually did start to import toxic waste from wealthy nations, like Japan, at a premium only to re-export that waste to its poorer neighbors for the cost of buying off a few border guards? This type of activity is not outside the realm of possibility, so integration yes, but proceed with caution and a long-term vision.

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