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Thailand's Mekong play gives it leg up as Vietnam wins factories

Strong ties to neighbors prime the kingdom to share in the region's growth

An Isuzu factory in Thailand. The kingdom began developing into "Asia's factory" during the 1980s. (Photo by Rie Ishii)

BANGKOK -- Vietnam and Thailand stand out as success stories in containing the coronavirus, drawing praise from the World Health Organization. But as 2021 begins, a disparity between the two Southeast Asian economies is widening.

The contrast between a rising Vietnam and a plateauing Thailand emerged a few years ago but has deepened during the pandemic. It is illustrated in a recent decision by Panasonic to end production of washing machines and refrigerators in Thailand to consolidate appliance assembly in Vietnam.

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