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Duangjai Asawachintachit, secretary general of the Thailand Board of Investment, speaks during an exclusive interview with China.org.cn on April 25, in Beijing. [Photo courtesy of BOI]

The Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) is inviting more Chinese companies, especially those in high-tech industries, to set up branches in Thailand, as the Southeast Asian country is promoting what they call Thailand 4.0, an endeavor to boost economic growth through innovation, research and development.

Duangjai Asawachintachit, secretary general of the Thailand BOI, said that Thailand hopes to see more Chinese companies driving the growth of this initiative, and that the BOI is prepared to provide services and support to make it happen.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with China.org.cn, Duangjai said that recent years have seen a growth of Chinese investment in Thailand, with the amount of investment applications increasing by 32% last year.

She added that Thailand has positioned itself as a cost-effective investment destination with a skilled and adaptable workforce, rather than concentrating on labor-intensive activities, in an effort to attract more Chinese investment in high-tech industries.

An investment review issued by the BOI said that the Thailand 4.0 development plan focuses on 10 targeted sectors, including next-generation automotive, smart electronics, food innovation, aerospace and others.

Digitalization, one of the Thai government's priorities, presents great opportunities for Chinese companies, Duangjai said, because there is great demand but still very few Chinese software developers there to lend their technological expertise.

She also said that apart from developing digital business, Chinese companies can take part in the Digital Park Thailand program, which is being implemented on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.

The official website of Digital Park Thailand states that the park is a new economic cluster located within the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a flagship project of Thailand 4.0. It was designed as a destination for global digital players and business innovators, and also serves as the data hub for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community.

In line with the national initiative to build an innovation-driven and value-based economy, the BOI has introduced a new investment incentive scheme, comprised of tax-related measures.

According to the BOI, Thailand now has a three-tier system of corporate income tax exemption — tax holidays of up to 8 years for targeted industries of the Seven-Year Investment Promotion Strategy (2015-2021), of up to 13 years for core technological or R&D projects, and of up to 15 years for new technologies and highly effective investments.

Other incentives include the right to own land, 100% foreign investment ownership, and work permit and visa assistance, Duangjai added.

She said that the Thai government launched the SMART Visa program last February to facilitate entry and stay of highly-skilled foreign professionals, which plays an essential role in Thailand 4.0's science-based activities.

Four main groups of people are eligible for the program: science and technology experts, investors, executives working with technology-based projects within targeted industries, and people joining start-ups, endorsed incubation programs or accelerator programs, Duangjai explained.

She said that a SMART visa is valid for four years, compared to the typical one-year validity, and it grants automatic claim on a work permit in addition to granting entry and work permits to the holder's family.

Duangjai said that this year the BOI also initiated the "Thailand Investment Year," a special incentive program designed to stimulate investment in targeted high-tech industries crucial to economic transformation.

"Companies investing in the targeted sectors will be entitled to additional tax incentives if they submit their applications by the end of this year," she said.

Duangjai believes the promotion measures offered by the BOI are so competitive that Chinese companies will find Thailand to be a good investment destination, which will help the country improve its scientific and technological capabilities.

As the 2019 ASEAN President, Thailand is promoting connectivity, a focus of the organization. "We will make significant investments in developing infrastructure facilities connecting with our neighboring countries," Duangjai said.

She added that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will also enhance connectivity and prosperity among participating countries, and that there is great potential in the complementarity of the BRI and the EEC, as well as other initiatives of China and Thailand.