Down on Motown

Reporters on the Job: For the story on how workers in Asia are dealing with the economic crisis, I reported from Rayong, an industrial province east of Bangkok, Thailand, that exports much of what it produces and is hurting as global trade collapses. (Read the story here.)

At one industrial estate that is dominated by the auto industry, a huge sign over the entrance announces that you’re entering “The Detroit of Asia.” It’s a tag that underlines Thailand’s ambition to become a regional auto center. It’s already the world’s second biggest pickup producer, after the US. Around 400,000 people are employed in the industry, including those in spare parts and sales.

But these days, I’ve noticed that the Thai government is playing down the Detroit association and is now talking about becoming the Nagoya of Southeast Asia, with an eye to Toyota’s home ground. Detroit is a symbol of auto ambition, for sure. But right now it’s also a byword for financial troubles.

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