Independent economist suggests AEC will not see much changes in Thailand, part two


Independent economist suggests AEC will not see much changes in Thailand, part two

In last month’s edition we noted how an article published online by, quoted independent economist Dr Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu, a research fellow for the ‘Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Dr Saowaruj main point was the advent of the AEC will not lead to a free flow of labour through the region. She noted there are Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) in place, but only for seven professions: accounting, architecture, dental, engineering, nursing, physicians, and surveying. Even in these professions, practitioners will need to pass Thailand’s licensing tests.

As well as having to pass any exams, which, of course, will be written in the Thai language, the regulations do not allow for independent practitioners. ‘Any foreign

professional intending to work in Thailand must collaborate with a local

business, yet another reason why the AEC is unlikely to foster a free

flow of labour.’

Equally, “MRAs [which are voluntary] are still subject to all domestic laws and regulations, such as alien employment rules requiring work permits and the 39 protected professions in which foreigners are not allowed to work. Even the visas we allow for business visitors are different than what Thailand agreed to in GATT,” said Dr Saowaruj.

“Only Singapore is trying to promote the free flow of skilled labour. Thailand doesn’t want to change anything anytime soon…” she continued.

The biggest fear within Thailand is many Thais think they may lose jobs to foreigners. “

Of course the answer is to get better training and pick up more skills so they can acquire better jobs, but both the government and professional councils prefer to ignore this point,” noted Dr Saowaruj. She believes there is no good economic reason to continue to protect the services sector.

On the positive side, Dr Saowaruj said Asean has been successful “in eliminating most tariffs for inter-regional trade. And I think the AEC provides good motivation for the government to do something about the service sector.”

As an economist she said she supports a competitive, free and fair market but so many sectors are still a long way from being open. “…Any industry that is high-capital and high-tech should be opened up.”

“As an academic, I also want the education sector to liberalise. I would like to see knowledge transfer between universities so intelligent Thai students can stay in the country to study if they want.”

Finally, Dr Saowaruj stated, “Thailand needs to adopt a bottom-up approach to these Asean agreements because then the professional councils will actually support what is proposed. With a top-down policy negotiating can take forever.”