Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thai-Cambodia row, Myanmar concerns EU companies

Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 05/07/2011 11:18 PM | World

The emerging economies of ASEAN have become a magnet for European businesses, but ongoing regional security issues in the region still concern them, potentially affecting their decision on weather or not to invest in generating business here.

Thailand and Cambodia have been locked in a standoff over areas in the vicinity of the Preah
Vihear temple since 2008, when UNESCO granted the ancient temple World Heritage status at Cambodia’s request. The two also have been disputing areas near two other ancient temples — Ta Moan and Ta Krabey.

Repeated skirmishes have occurred along their shared border areas, even after several truce agreements.

A long record of human rights violations in Myanmar have caused powerful countries, such as the United States and Canada, and the European Union to impose sanctions on the restive country.

While avoiding making “political statements”, European businesspeople say regional stability is one of the main factors in making business decisions.

“Of course, we are always concerned when something like this happens,” Ronald Unterburger, CEO for the Asia-Pacific region and managing director forGermany-based exhibition organizer firm Messe München International Asie Pte Ltd.’s told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the ASEAN-EU Business Summit on Thursday.

He said as an exhibition organizer, sustainable political stability was crucial because it took about two years in advance to hold an exhibition.

In response to issues concerning Myanmar, Unterburger said a number of European businesses had actually been operating in the Southeast Asian country since 1997 and that more would come when there was stability there.

“As long as Myanmar cannot achieve stability, similar to what you have here in Indonesia — and it takes time to do that — it would be more difficult for them also to attract foreign investment,” he said.

PT Mercedes Benz Indonesia president Echoing Urtenburger and CEO Rudi Borgenheimer
said that in addition to issues involving corruption, it was important for businesses to establish their operations in compliant countries.

“I have to see that every place is free, compliant, and not driven by dictatorship. For us, inability to comply is one important issue,” he told the Post. And as long as “it’s a free decision, as a businessperson, I’m open” for having business engagement with businesspeople from Myanmar.

In response to the Thai-Cambodia border, Borgenheimer said he believed that the conflict would not spill over to other countries in the region and that the issue would be quickly resolved, thanks in part to the central role Indonesia is presently responsible for as the acting chair of ASEAN.

While refusing to comment on issues concerning Myanmar that might affect European business interests, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said he believed that Myanmar was an interesting place for “further economic development and economic ties, as well as for investment”.