Chinese Samanea Group building largest retail centre in Thailand

PHOTO: Samanea Plaza will expand to be the largest retail centre in Thailand, selling imported Chinese goods. (via Facebook)

Chinese retail giant Samanea Group plans to create the largest retail and wholesale centre in Thailand, much to the chagrin of Thai importers. They worry that the centre will flood the country with cheap Chinese goods.

The Samanea Plaza, located on Bangna-Trat Road in Bang Sao Thong District, Samut Prakan province, already operates a massive shopping centre. Over 100 service providers and 500 shops operate in 50,000 square metres of retail space now.

But the group reportedly plans to open the remaining 250,000 square metres of retail space over 200 rai later this year. The complex will also include buildings to house office space, condos, and a hotel. When it’s finished, the complex will include a total retail space of 300,000 square metres used primarily for shops selling products from China.

Thai importers have raised concerns and requested the government to investigate whether Samanea Plaza is operating under Thai proxy ownership for Chinese investment.

There have been similar cases of scams operating in the Thai tourism industry known as “zero-dollar tourism,” where Chinese investors operate through Thai citizens but all the profit goes to China.

As Thailand continues its quest to lure Chinese tourists, critics point to these businesses that use Chinese vendors and suppliers to bring people to and around Thailand without actually spending any money locally or contributing to the local economy at all.

After uncovering triad criminal syndicates operating within Thailand this way, Thai officials initiated a countrywide sweep of illicit Chinese investments in Thailand facilitated illegally by Thai nationals.

Samanea Plaza imports and sells furniture, kitchenware, household products, electrical equipment, and tools from China. The Plaza has attracted local retailers by offering free rent for up to 17 months.

According to Krungsri Research, the complete opening of the Chinese retailer’s operations will cause a significant impact on Thailand’s retail and wholesale markets worth 2.7 trillion baht.

“Samanea has a strong advantage as they directly import products from Chinese manufacturers, while Thai retailers have to order Chinese products through middlemen and therefore get higher prices.”

The Group, which was established in 2018 and has its headquarters in Singapore and Guangdong, China, specializes in developing and managing large-scale business complexes around Asia.

Samanea Group’s initial subsidiary in Thailand, Samanea Holdings (Thailand), was registered in November 2015 with a capital of 1.02 billion baht, followed by the establishment of Samanea Bangna Ltd with a registered capital of 2 billion baht a month later.

The company builds complexes with conference and exhibition spaces, business hotels, office buildings and commercial flats. Samanea operates in eight cities across Asia and is seeking expansion to Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Bangkok News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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