With the lack of proper law and infrastructure in Myanmar, foreign investors should have second thoughts about the country, says Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
Global investment is now focused on Myanmar, Mongolia and Mozambique, three resource-rich countries referred to as the M3. But Mr Supachai urges caution before putting money into Myanmar, saying it is not ready for foreign investment.
"If you ask me, I have doubts about Myanmar, and businesses should be careful, as Myanmar needs to improve in many aspects such as commercial and investment law as well as infrastructure," he told a University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce forum entitled "Thailand's Future: How to Lead Trade and Investment in Asean's Frontier".
Myanmar also has geopolitical issues with China and India, he said.
Mr Supachai counsels investors to conduct thorough studies before placing a big bet on Myanmar.
"We need to provide sustainable investment for Myanmar, not just extract resources, split money with the government and leave," he said.
"We need to invest and transfer technology to the people to provide them skills even after the resources are used up."
Regarding investment in the Dawei deep-sea port and special economic zone, Mr Supachai said the project will greatly benefit Thailand despite the current uncertainty involving Japan and other parties.
Meanwhile, Mozambique is another interesting option that mainly draws investment from Brazil, as both countries speak Portuguese, he said.
Mr Supachai suggests Asean nations separate politics and economics in terms of managing their countries, or else economic management will be improperly determined by politics.
"If you ask me, from my whole life experience, self-sufficiency is very important and can be applied to everything including governing a country," he said.
This article first appeared in the Bangkok Post on June 22, 2013.