by Zhang Chunxiao
BANGKOK, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- With an ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Community expected to take shape by the end of this year, Thailand will benefit from further economic integration especially with the planned ASEAN connectivity that will link the North-South and East-West corridors, a Thai academic commented.
ASEAN was founded in 1967, comprising 10 member states, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Among all ASEAN members, Thailand is one of the most prepared for the establishment of the ASEAN Community, Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Thailand has been campaigning for the community over the past years, Kavi said, adding to this end, training of officials at the state and provincial levels in all government agencies started in 2013, with budgets worth several billion baht.
Thailand also scored high in its implementation of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community, namely, the ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, he noted.
With the arrival of the ASEAN Community, Thailand, which is centrally located in Southeast Asia, "can become a hub for trade, investment, tourism and logistics," Kavi said.
"But to do so, the country has to amend laws and regulations that are restrictive to facilitate investment and trade with ASEAN members."
With greater economic integration, as well as increased and freer trade and movement of skilled laborers, the academic suggested, the Thai competitiveness has to be beefed up.
Thai workers must improve their skills to compete with those from other countries in engineering and managerial positions, among others, he said.
Besides Thailand, all ASEAN members are expected to benefit from "the continued community-building in ASEAN," with some to gain more in certain areas and less in other areas, Kavi commented.
For instance, Thailand, which enjoys better infrastructure and service industry, will see its tourism boosted while Myanmar and Cambodia will benefit from fresh investment because of the liberal foreign investment regimes and cheaper labors, he explained.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the formation of the ASEAN Community, the grouping will "have better bargain power in both regional and global politics" due to the economic integration among a combined population of 625 million, Kavi said.
"I believe that from now on the ASEAN will adopt more common positions on global issues such as climate change and anti-terrorism measures."
He also urged ASEAN members to assert "more political will" to ensure full completion of the ASEAN Community, saying ASEAN must comply with all recommended action plans.
In addition, the academic contended that the China-proposed "Belt and Road" initiative could also help promote the ASEAN's development as it will improve infrastructure throughout the region both on land and at sea.
The ASEAN connectivity and the "Belt and Road" initiative must be "synergizing and harmonizing" with each other to some extent because there are some overlapping projects, especially on the construction of the North-South Corridor, he added.