In most reports, Thailand surpasses Malaysia in terms of foreign investment and security consciousness, but still has a long way to go to be on a par with Singapore.
Government agencies, businesses, insurance companies, labor unions, and other entities have awakened to the public's increasing desire to protect personal property, said Thomas Wan, CEO of ACTAtek; and to the necessity of a variety of security and safety equipment, of which a large portion is made in the U.S. In addition, the booming property market and industrial investment have significantly raised demand for high-end security and safety equipment and fire protection systems. Key drivers are bombing incidents, the implementation of new regulations that meet international security and safety standards, and the development of major Thai projects. Industrial plants, office and residential buildings, airports, and seaports must conform to the aforementioned new requirements if Thailand wants to compete in regional and international markets.
The most critical challenges the market is now facing are mainly to do with political uncertainty. Other factors which may be impacting the market negatively are high oil prices, corruption and lack of transparency in government, weak IPR (intellectual property rights) protection, customs/tariffs issues, responses to avian flu, unrest in the southern provinces, and contro- versial investment regulations such as amendments to the Foreign Business Act and the Retail Business Act, Wan continued.
According to media sources, the Commerce Ministry is revising a draft of the Retail and Wholesale Act to ensure that large and small retailers can compete fairly in the market. The previous government failed to pass the controversial law. As for the Foreign Business Act, several objections have been raised by Thailand's foreign business community, among them that the narrowing of the definition of an alien closes the Thai market to them, especially as compared to neighboring Malaysia and Vietnam.
Other Market Characteristics and Trends
When it comes to security, the south of Thailand, near the Malaysian border, is used as a barometer, as there are few problems in the rest of the country, said Vic Plessner, Managing Director of VHP Group Asia. Few media are reporting this, but some sources cite a 20 percent decrease in tourism over the past 12 months, possibly because of security reasons. "Terrorism is an aspect of this, but the crime factor may be capitalizing on the territorial dispute and religious strife problems. Recently, a handful of car dealerships have been blown up. These incidents may be blamed on terrorism when in fact it may have more to do with straight crime. In other regions, such as Bangkok, there have been bombings, but these are believed to be politically motivated (discontent with current leaders)."
Because of the bombings risk in the south, both locally owned and international chain hotels try to avoid having vehicles parked too close to the hotel premises, Plessner continued. Those who are allowed in are checked thoroughly, including under the vehicle. For this application, cameras are placed on a track on the ground, which the vehicle then drives over. A handful of camera vendors are now offering cameras designed specifically for this application; these typically use LED lighting, are small, and can be plugged directly onto monitors and mounted onto the vehicle tracks. Inside hotels, X-ray machines and weapon detectors are used to check persons as well as carry-on items. Even budget hotels in the south have at least one camera, which may not offer great security, but give tourists peace of mind.
Similarly to Indonesia, the Thai government is in the midst of conducting small-scale pilots on cattle and poultry animals in bids to improve overall security concerning traceability of food, as disease outbreaks such as mad cow disease and avian flu costs the animal trade millions of dollars in losses every time they occur, said Richard Sebastian, Research Analyst, RFID APAC, Frost & Sullivan.
Opportunities and Projects
Projects scheduled to be completed in the next three to five years are:
Second phase of construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport and Suvarnabhumi Rail Link: The US$1 billion Rail Link project is slated for completion in 2009, explained Worapong Padungkirtsakul, Director of Property Care Services Thailand. Its security system is integrated with SCADA. Systems used include Aimetis Symphony Video Management Software with video analytics, 250 Bosch IP Cameras, and 250 Cardax access-controlled doors.
Bank of Thailand note-printing facility: Contractor Direct Telecom recently completed the $7.5 million project, part of which is a fully integrated system which includes 700 Verint IP cameras, a 350-door Cardax access control system, Nedap long- PIR intruder detection system, IP intercoms, alarm sensors, and other security equipment.
Royal Thai Customs nationwide IP CCTV project: Slated for completion in December 2008, the $9-million project includes installation of 1,250 Pelco cameras with Axis encoders, IBM servers and NETAP NAS video storage, Milestone video management software, and Aimetis Symphony video analytics software.
Ua-arthorn low-cost housing project: Twenty-one industrial estates under development, nine of which remain to be completed.
Mass transportation development projects: These include construction of multiple elevated and underground mass transit systems in Bangkok.
Additionally, there are opportunities for intelligent transport systems and for electronic security for numerous projects in the pipelines, including the
Bangkok Underground Mass Transit System, the extension of the Bangkok Elevated Train, rail projects such as the Dual Railway Track, the Cha Choeng Sao-Sri Racha-Laem Chabang Route, expansion of the national highway network by the Highways Department, and further development of city expressways.
Thailand Power Project Development Plan (PDP): Construction of a new oil refinery, expansion of two existing oil refineries, planning of a fifth refinery and LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal, expansion of major petrochemical facilities on the Eastern Seaboard, and expansion of offshore gas production facilities (including new platforms and another major offshore pipeline). Furthermore, there is a $2 billion annual construction program for new power plants.