Appeal for action against megastores
PHUKET TOWN: A crisis meeting of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce (PCC) today pushed for government support for small Thai retailers in the face of overwhelming competition from large foreign supermarkets and discount stores. The meeting was told that as many as 250,000 small retail outlets around Thailand had already been forced to close because they could no longer compete. Bangkok-based economic analyst Amarin Korman said he was worried that Thailand was going down the same road as Argentina and Italy, which had faced the same problem after introducing free trade policies. In Italy, he said, 150,000 small retail shops had closed. “I have been arguing this point for four years,” he said, “but no one who has the power to tackle the problem has done anything. Indeed, they have supported those foreigners who are taking employment away from Thais.” He proposed that the government should bar further expansion by foreign retailers and abrogate treaties (such as the US-Thai Friendship Treaty) that allow foreigners to run businesses without licenses. He also urged the Small Industry Finance Corporation (SIFC) to do more to support Thai-owned businesses. “Many countries in the World Trade Organization have refused to allow foreigners to trade freely, but Thailand did [allow it] because some bad politicians sold the nation,” K. Amarin added. Sakrapob Tantivit, owner of 32 Minimart, said the issue had become more pronounced in Phuket with the arrival of Tesco-Lotus and Big C. “We are experiencing financial problems,” K. Sakrapob said. The chairman of the PCC, Pamuke Achariyachai, said after the meeting that one objective for retailers should be to consolidate small business and adopt strategies to compete with the discount stores. The SIFC plans to conduct more research to detail precisely what problems are being encountered by small retailers.
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