Thailand sees at least $10 bln investment in industrial east this year

* Eastern Economic Corridor centrepiece of bid to boost investment

* Thailand still attractive but must reopen-foreign chamber

* Thailand started COVID-19 vaccinations on Sunday

BANGKOK, March 1 (Reuters) - Thailand expects investment to triple to at least $10 billion in the country’s industrial east this year as investment projects previously held by the coronavirus outbreak get pushed forward again as the pandemic eases, an official said on Monday.

Actual investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) could be at least 300 billion baht ($10 billion) this year, up from 96 billion baht in 2020, or 46% of total project applications, EEC head Kanit Sangsubhan told a briefing.

“As investors didn’t invest last year, they would have to do it this year. There will be a bunch of projects held up from previous years,” he said.

The EEC straddles eastern provinces and is a centrepiece of government efforts to boost growth and encourage investment particularly in high-tech industries. Investors are allowed to rent land for up to 99 years. (

In a separate briefing, Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand, said the country remained a good investment destination but it needed to reopen as soon as possible to draw foreign investors.

“If travelling is difficult, it will be hard to help the economy,” he said. “But vaccines have arrived and we hope Thailand will produce vaccines in June, so the second half should be better,” he added.

On Sunday, the country started its COVID-19 inoculation campaign, but it has yet to lift a travel ban imposed last April to curb the spread of the virus.

Thailand’s tourism-reliant economy, Southeast Asia’s second largest, suffered its deepest slump in over two decades last year due to the impact of the pandemic. The government expects growth of 2.5-3.5% this year.

For most of last year Thailand kept infections low, but a second wave emerged in December and slowed activity. Recent cases, however, have slowed sharply. ($1 = 30.21 baht) (Writing by Orathai Sriring Editing by Ed Davies)