A joint Chinese-Thai venture officially opened a luxury furniture manufacturing plant this week in one of the most troubled districts of Thailand’s Deep South, a region plagued by insurgency and low employment.
Located on 99 acres in Nong Chik district in Pattani province, Superb Creation Furniture (Thailand) Co. Ltd. is a joint venture between China-based Superb Creation Limited and local Thai businessmen.
Over the next three years, the Chinese company plans to create 3,500 jobs for locals here as it relocates all of its production activities from Shenzhen, a city in southern China, plant manager and Deep South resident Sumet Sukphanphotharam said.
“The reason we chose Pattani and relocated the production base here was because we want a quality workforce, we welcomed the Thai government’s invitation and we want to create jobs for locals,” Sumet told BenarNews. “When people have jobs, violence should subside.
The initial investment for the plant is 350 million baht (U.S. $11.6 million), he said.
“We initially worried about the violence but the determination to improve the local economy outweighed the concerns,” Sumet said. “I affirm the relocation has nothing to do with the Chinese-U.S. trade war.”
One hundred people are employed at the plant, which has been operating for three months leading up to the official opening, and it expects to triple the number of workers by next April, Sumet said.
The Malay-speaking and Muslim-dominant Deep South is one of the most impoverished regions in Buddhist-majority Thailand, fueled by a 15-year separatist insurgency that has killed more than 7,000 people.
The Thai government has tried to strengthen the economy in the region next to the Malaysian border.
The new plant sits in a district that has seen deadly shootings and bombings tied to the rebellion.
Late last month, Thai security forces gunned down two suspected insurgents during a raid carried out in Nong Chik. Authorities had issued arrest warrants for and identified the pair as main suspects in twin ambushes blamed on insurgents that killed 15 people at two checkpoints in neighboring Yala province on Nov. 5.
Deep South investment
Sumet said the company had considered setting up the plant in Laos or the Eastern Economic Corridor in central Thailand, where Chinese tycoon Jack Ma announced plans to invest in e-commerce and products distribution center.
Ma, an Alibaba co-founder, launched a marketing campaign for durians on his company’s massive online retailing website – creating 80,000 requests for the fruit within a minute. Buoyed by the success, he announced in May 2018 plans to invest millions of dollars in Thailand to tap Chinese consumer demand for agricultural goods and tourism.
The joint group settled on the Deep South instead.
“We visited Prince of Songkla University in Pattani and found readiness of manpower, so we have the courage to invest here to improve the people’s livelihoods,” Wing On Lam, the Chinese partner, said.
An official with the Southern Border Province Administration Center, the government agency that administers the Deep South, said the new factory was among a group of Chinese-related projects valued at about 7 billion baht ($231.9 million) in the region, including a factory to freeze dry durian.
Supreme Creation Limited’s original Shenzhen factory employs 2,400 people and produces more than 800 containers, each containing 48 chairs, every month. The Thai facility can produce two containers each week, the manager said.
Hasan Yewaejeh, a worker at the factory, said he was proud to be a part of the effort to build world-class furniture.
“When I was told that the highly priced products are for export to America, I worried, but tried my best to craft them,” Hasan said. “When customers accepted them, I feel very proud – we can do it.”