Thai-made products of all kinds – from cosmetics, detergents, clothes and footwear to rice, food and motorbike parts – have become necessities for many visitors and pilgrims to the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, in southern Vietnam.
Thai products are more durable, of high quality, and have eye-catching designs, while their prices are only slightly more expensive than Vietnamese or Chinese goods, traders said, explaining why goods stemming from Thailand appeal to tourists.
Sadly, this is because the goods are illegally brought to the Mekong Delta province.
An Giang is located in the southwestern part of Vietnam, sharing a border with Cambodia to the northwest. The province is a popular tourism destination, especially for pilgrims, with its Ba Chua Xu (Lady of the Realm) temple on Sam Mountain.
The province’s border market of Tinh Bien also attracts visitors as it showcases a wide variety of goods, of which more than 30 percent are from Thailand, according to Doan Van Be, deputy head of the market's management board.
Similarly, Thai-made products account for around 30 percent of goods available at the Ha Tien market in Kien Giang Province, also located in the Mekong Delta.
Thai washing powder fetches up to VND30,000 (US$1.41) less than locally made products, while cosmetics are only VND15,000 more expensive.
Luu Van Doi, head of the provincial market surveillance team, said most of the Thai products at Ha Tien are contraband.
The products are gathered at the Thalop market near the Phnom Denk border in the Cambodian district of Kirivong, Takeo Province, before they are illegally transported across the boundary to Vietnam.
Phan Loi, deputy director of the An Giang Department of Industry and Trade, said only a few local businesses officially import Thai-made products.
The remainder is illicitly imported across the border, he said.
Tran Thanh Moc, director of the trade promotion center of Kien Giang, said the smuggled products can easily find buyers thanks to their cheap prices, as the traders and importers do not have to pay any taxes.
Reasons for dominance
Industry insiders say there are numerous reasons to explain the widespread consumption Thai products are enjoying in Vietnam.
“Thai-made goods are favored on account of their attractive designs and stable quality, while their prices are reasonable,” Danh, a trans-border trader in An Giang, revealed.
Le Thi Hoa, a trader at the O Mon market in Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta, who sources Thai products from An Giang-based Tinh Bien market, said middle-class consumers prefer Thai products to their Vietnamese counterparts.
Other traders say that while Vietnamese manufacturers struggle thanks to the economic slowdown, their Thai rivals are still able to repeatedly improve the quality and design of their products.
This has helped Thai products take back their market share in Cambodia, and penetrate the Vietnamese market, according to traders.
Another reason is that Vietnamese consumers “tend to favor foreign products instead of those manufactured domestically,” Loi, of the An Giang Department of Industry and Trade, said.