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Thailand to have law on retail

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Responding to the protests by small store operators similar to the Kirana stores in India, the Thai government has promised to place the draft Retail and Wholesale Business Act in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) next week.

The bill cleared by the Thai cabinet is expected to be put into operation by the next government.

”We hope the NLA will complete the deliberation during the term of the Surayud administration,” said Yanyong Phuangrach, director-general of the ministry’s Internal Trade Department according to media reports.

The mandate of the current military-installed government led by Gen Surayud Chulanont will expire once a new government is formed after the elections scheduled for December 23.

Under the bill, Thailand’s retail businesses would be supervised by a single agency, a central committee chaired by the Commerce Minister with 19 directors from agencies including the Interior and Public Health ministries and private-sector experts.

The new law is different from the previous version, which increased the authority of provincial committees to regulate new store expansion.

The law is a response to protests over the last few years by small store operators who believe the rapid expansion of multinational chains has been squeezing family businesses out of existence.

According to Yanyong, provincial governors could permit store expansion and new outlets while the director-general of the Internal Trade Department would monitor the capital area.

The bill would regulate operators of more than 1,000 square metres of retail space with more than one billion baht in turnover. Chains such as Tesco Lotus Express and convenience stores would be required to seek operating licences from the Internal Trade Department, said Yanyong. He said the central committee would discuss the zoning and operating hours of the business.

Niphon Poapongsakorn, Dean of Economics at Thammasat University, suggested the government allow local communities to decide on planning and zoning regulations for so-called modern trade stores since there would be no provincial committees to supervise business in communities.

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