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Thailand has enjoyed a steady recovery from the brief downturn brought on by the recent political crisis, which culminated in the removal of Yingluck Shinawatra as Prime Minister. The business community is witnessing a flurry of M&A activity with strong growth in outbound investments, where Thai companies have looked to expand throughout the ASEAN region and have even entered into Western markets. There is further evidence of domestic economic strength, as the Stock Exchange of Thailand has become one of the region’s top performers in terms of marketability and IPO growth, and domestic Thai banks remain especially liquid and therefore risk-resilient.

Like many countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand is ripe for infrastructure development and could provide ample opportunity for clients in the TMT, transport and energy sectors, as one of the primary goals in the region is greater interconnectivity, both physical and virtual. What accounts for some of Thailand’s high-hopes, however, and part of what sets it apart from its neighbours more generally, is the government’s commitment to making Thailand an increasingly business-friendly jurisdiction. In some sectors such as insurance, Thai foreign ownership laws have been relaxed considerably and, in late 2017, a new law governing competition and merger control – one that, unlike its predecessor, may actually meet the challenge of its remit – will officially come into effect.

Similarly, Thailand has set its sights on developing more formal data protection legislation and is in the process of modernising its tax and customs regimes. Thai customs legislation has historically been a minefield for import/export clients. Given the size of the country’s manufacturing industry, many of Thailand’s largest corporates have faced unpredictable and often extortionate fines and costly investigatory or court proceedings. For these reasons, the customs assessment process is being overhauled and the country’s courts will also see new developments in labour and employment law, as a system that has traditionally favoured employees has started to hear true class-action suits for the first time.

By the close of 2017, Clifford Chance will have ceased legal services from its Thai office. The team has traditionally been strong in areas such as aviation and energy project financing and will expect to see several members of its Thai operation relocate to the firm’s Singapore office. In the past, this publication has recognised three of the Bangkok-based partners in particular: managing partner Fergus Evans, who specialises in asset finance and leasing; Joseph Tisuthiwongse, who has experience in project finance throughout the US and Asia; and Andrew Matthews, who will retire with the closure of the Bangkok office.

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