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Ananda CEO urges development of smart city

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THE CHIEF executive of Ananda Development, a major player in the Thai real-estate sector, has called on the government to be decisive about constructing a “smart city” – which he describes as a necessary investment for the Kingdom’s future. Chanond Ruangkritya, Ananda’s CEO and president, pushed for development of a smart city in Thailand during a media tour of the Kashiwanoha Smart City just outside Tokyo last week. “When should a project like [this] be born in Thailand? In five years, 10 years or 50 years? We may all [be] dead by then,” he told newspaper, television and online journalists last Thursday.

Kashiwanoha, Japan’s first smart city, is in Chiba prefecture just 25 kilometres from central Tokyo. It was developed by Mitsui Fudosan, the property arm of the 330-year-old consortium Mitsui Group, and a key business partner of Ananda. When asked if he had discussed this idea with Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who heads the Thai government’s economic team, Chanond responded by jokingly asking the media to help him get an appointment with Somkid and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha so that he could discuss the smart-city concept with them. But he sounded serious when he said Mitsui Fudosan was ready to help develop a smart city in Thailand.

“I confirm with you that Ananda has the strength to do a project like this. And we have our big brother Mitsui Fudosan to help. We can almost copy and paste from their project,” he said, suggesting that a Thai smart city should be modelled after Mitsui Fudosan’s Kashiwanoha project. While talking to the media, Chanond turned to ask two senior Mitsui Fudosan executives present – executive manager Koichi Kato and executive director Tomoo Nakamura – to help “export the smart-city concept” to Thailand. “I hope we can be the first one in Thailand,” he told the Mitsui Fudosan executives.

Chanond, 42, suggested that either the State Railway of Thailand’s large land plot, measuring about 500 rai (80 hectares) in the Makkasan area, or the Bangkok Port in the Klong Toei area could be a good location for a smart-city project in the capital. He said no private businesses had such large plots of land in Bangkok, only the government. He said a lot of real-estate developers, and not just Ananda, would be interested in such a project. The government just needed to ensure fair bidding and a proper project model.

He believes that in addition to Bangkok, a smart city could be developed in an adjacent province such as Nonthaburi or Samut Prakan. Phuket could also emerge as an “interesting choice” to house a smart city, he added. The proposed smart city could serve as a nurturing ecosystem for business start-ups, a university campus, local-government offices, and a residential area for an increasingly ageing population, according to Chanond. A “smart city” is an urban development project that integrates information, communications and digital technologies into people’s everyday lives, with the goal of tackling the problems often faced by an urban area. This concept has been adopted in many countries, with joint investments between the government and private sectors, including South Korea, Singapore and Spain.

He said Ananda was boosting its business alliance with Mitsui Fudosan, with the Japanese property giant likely to invest more in the Thai firm. Ananda is a leading developer in condominiums along train routes in Bangkok under the name Ideo, with a 51:49 investment share with Mitsui Fudosan in those projects.

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