I will be away for the next three days at the 11th Conference on Thai Studies, which is being held at the Siam City Hotel here in not so sunny Bangkok. I am going to give a paper on Industrial Estates in Thailand. This is the title and abstract:
The Industrial Estates of Thailand: Places, Processes and People
The industrial estate, which distorts both place and market conditions, exists in various forms to promote desired economic activities in preferred locations. It is a target for inward investment and a goal for workers, especially factory workers, while also being a place that enacts state-mandated developmental goals in transforming the economy from an overly significant agricultural base. Within its borders, contestation has occurred between capital and labour, between stakeholders and polluters and between state and commerce. It is in the estates that Thailand’s transition and, perhaps, out of the East Asian Economic Model (import-substituting, export-oriented low labour-cost competitive manufacturing) has to a considerable extent taken place. Yet the nature and structure of the activities and practices taking place within the estates remains under-explored from a variety of academic approaches. In this paper, an attempt is made to remedy this lack to some extent by delineating the nature, extent and structure of industrial estates in the past and present and also suggests ways in which they might vary in the foreseeable future as Thailand seeks to exit the Middle Income Trap into which its manufacturing base has now brought it. Comparisons are made with the industrial estates of Europe and of China, which offer valuable data concerning the organization of labour and the means of converting manufacturing into higher value-adding activities. It is then possible to address the question of whether Thailand’s industrial estates are in any way unique.
Keywords: labour, industrial estates, economic geography, Thailand