Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (C) and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (L) review the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, July 23, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday brushed aside concern that Vietnam is eclipsing Thailand as a regional manufacturing base, saying Vietnam is a friend not a competitor. The comments came during a visit to Bangkok by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, and at a time when a number of foreign companies are shifting manufacturing operations from Thailand to Vietnam, partly for logistical reasons. “Today, we use the word friend and not competitor,” Prayuth told a news conference with Dung, adding that Thailand was Vietnam’s biggest trade partner in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.
Thai officials have expressed concern that Vietnam is attracting more foreign manufacturing investment, an additional worry for a government seeking to spur private investment to quicken slow growth.

A decade of intermittent political turbulence in Thailand, including outbreaks of violence on the streets, has added to questions about the country’s suitability as a regional manufacturing base for some foreign investors. Prayuth is a former army chief who staged a coup in 2014 to end the most recent bout of political tension.
Dung told the news conference Thailand and Vietnam agreed to increase two-way trade to $20 billion by 2020.