THAILAND – In a bid to protect the intellectual property rights of traditional Thai designs, the Thai Customs Department has issued a directive halting the importation of Chinese elephant-patterned trousers.
The move comes after the pattern’s copyright registration, announced by Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai on Monday (5 Feb).
The issue was initially brought to light through the Luijeen Facebook page, also known as shoot2china, which boasts a significant following of 1.4 million individuals. The page raised concerns about the availability of trousers on Chinese online platforms at significantly lower prices compared to those sold locally.
Chinese imports were reportedly priced as low as 30 baht (approximately S$1.1) per piece at wholesale rates, while Thai merchants offered similar items starting from 65 baht (approximately S$ 2,45) for shorts and 75 baht (approximately S$2.83) for trousers.
The affordability of Chinese-made trousers has made them a popular choice among customers, with sellers from Bangkok’s bustling Bo Bae and Pratunam markets acknowledging their appeal.
As a result, Thai manufacturers have voiced concerns about losing out to Chinese competitors and have called for government intervention. Suggestions include implementing import taxes and promoting Thai-manufactured trousers for their superior quality.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin emphasized the need for the government to address copyright and marketing appropriation concerns in light of the situation with Chinese-made elephant trousers.
He stressed the importance of prioritizing fundamental issues such as copyright protection to safeguard the nation’s intellectual property rights.
Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai instructed the Customs Department to develop measures to curb the influx of cheap trousers featuring traditional Thai cat and elephant patterns.
He highlighted the inferior quality of copied versions from China and emphasized the importance of utilizing copyright law to protect original products.
Elephant trousers, also known as Thai fisherman or Aladdin pants, hold significant cultural value in Thailand and are popular souvenirs among tourists. Most commonly manufactured in Chiang Mai, these wide-legged trousers offer a relaxed silhouette ideal for Thailand’s hot climate, contributing to their popularity among foreigners.
Despite the availability of cheap Chinese alternatives, workers in Chiang Mai remain confident in the quality and diversity of their products.
Kingkarn Samorn, employed at an elephant trouser factory, expressed confidence in their superior-quality trousers, available in over 10 designs with more than 200 patterns.
Moving forward, the Department of Intellectual Property is conducting an inquiry into ongoing imports from China to assess the extent of the issue in Thailand.
Measures such as monitoring China imports and encouraging the labeling of Thai-manufactured products as “Made in Thailand” are being considered to protect local industries while upholding intellectual property rights.
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