Australian Embassy Updates

Daily Updates on COVID-19

Headlines summary as of 15 October 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports 13 newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,665 cases. Out of the total number, 3,463 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.49%); 143 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 59. The newly confirmed cases are returnees from Lebanon (1), Myanmar (6 (3 in Thai state quarantine; the other 3 deported back to be hospitalised in Myanmar)), the Netherlands (1), Italy (1), South Sudan (3) and Ethiopia (1). All have been in state quarantine since.

Politics

  • There is an unverified report that anti-government Voice TV cannot be viewed via satellite system.
  • For a basic 101 explainer of the protest, please see Reuters
  • The government has made the Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok, effective from 4.00am 15 October 2020. The PM justified the declaration by accusing the protestors of stirring unrest, obstructing to the royal motorcade and affecting public health safety from COVID-19
    • The Emergency Decree has appointed Deputy Prime Minister Prawit as the head of overseeing the state of emergency-related affairs. Police Chief Suwat is Chief Official responsible for remedying the emergency situation.
    • The Emergency decree has triggered Section 7 paragraph 3, 4 and 6 and Section 11 and 15. The translation of the Decree can be accessed here.—Office of the Council of State
    • The decree prohibits
      • the assembly or gathering of more than 5 persons at any place or the commission of any act which may cause unrest;
      • to prohibit the press release, distribution or dissemination of letters, publications or any means of communication containing texts which may instigate fear amongst the people or is intended to distort information which misleads understanding of the emergency situation to the extent of affecting the security of state or public order or good moral of the people;
      • to prohibit the use of routes or vehicles or prescribe conditions on the use of routes or vehicle.
    • The decree allows
      • competent official to issue a notification to summon any person to report to the competent official or to give an oral statement or submit any documents or evidence relating to the emergency situation;
      • competent official to inspect letters, books, printed matters, telegraphic transmissions, telephone communications or any other means of communication as well as to cancel or suspend any contact or communication in order to prevent or terminate the serious incident.
  • Right after the televised declaration, the Border Patrol Police cracked down the protestors.
    • Soon before the crack-down, Anon Nampa announced the gathering is adjourned and called for the gathering at CBD Rachaprasong intersection from 4.00pm.
    • A large numbers of protest leaders have been arrested
      • Media reported that 20 protestors have been arrested, including the following police leaders.
      • Anon Nampa was arrested with warrant of Chiang Mai Police. He posted on his FB status saying that he is being forced to get onto helicopter to Chiang Mai without his lawyer—Anon Nampa;
      • Parit ‘Penguin’ was arrested by undercover police and taken to an unknown location;
      • Prasith ‘James’ was arrested prior to the crack-down;
      • Natchanon Pairoj (ณัฐชนน ไพโรจน์) and Panusaya ‘Rung’ were arrested soon after she made a statement via FB Live calling for supporters to gather at Rachaprasong intersection.
  • There have been reactions from different actors related to the rallies:
    • Free Youth Movement, the core organisation of student-led rallies, made a bilingual statement via FB Live condemning the crack-down, stressing the freedom of assembly. The emergency decree aims at undermining democratic process. The government has utilised the monarchy for their own gains, which could be interpreted as the Monarchy positioning itself to be antagonistic to democracy.—Free Youth Movement
    • Thanathorn, the leader of Progressive Movement, calling on the Government to immediate release the arrested protestors, revoke the emergency decree and stop violating the people’s rights.—Progressive Movement
    • Pheu Thai Party held a press conference at 1.00pm, inviting six Opposition Parties and the Senator to hold a special session at the Parliament to discuss the solution to this event. The main opposition party announced the rejection of violence and violation of human rights on any occasion.—Pheu Thai Party
    • Suthep Thuagsuban, the secretary-general of the now defunct PDRC, posted on his Facebook this morning supporting the government’s actions. He also called for patriots to get ready to protect the monarchy.—Suthep Thuagsuban
    • Rienthong Nanna, the leader of Garbage-collection organisation, posted earlier to set up a ‘people’s army’ to collect the ‘garbage’ people violating the monarchy. He later deleted this and said that after the Emergency Decree is declared there is no need of the setup of the people’s army.–TNews
    • The conservative Thai Move Institute posted in support of the government decisive action in intervening before the monarchy is getting threatened even further.—Thai Move Institute
    • A professor from NIDA outlined three scenarios from the declaration of emergency decree:
      • A. Might create fear among the people and the protestors will not dare to protest;
      • B. Might create discomfort among the people and the scope of the protest will expand;
      • C. Might mean the beginning of the end of the government
      • The emergency decree means the escalation of antagonism between the government and the people.—Pichai Rattanadirok Na Phuket
    • A vocal MP from Move Forward Party Rangsiman ‘Rome’ posted on his FB pointing out that there are more than a hundred soldiers stationing at the Parliament. He said this action is a similar pattern to the last coup in 2014.—Rangsiman Rome
  • After the crackdown, officials are clearing path for the resumption of Government House’s operation.
    • The government spokesperson informed the press that this morning the PM has met with the Chinese Finance Minister Wang Yi. The two discussed the green lane and fast lane to facilitate the international travel.
    • The government speaker also stresses the need for Emergency Decree to ensure peace and security of the country. He also warns the usage of social media to stir unrest.—Thai Gov
  • Yesterday, at around 5.00pm, the unprecedented episode occurred as the Royal motorcade with Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn passed through the rallies. The motorcade, however, was greeted with a shout and symbolic three-finger salute. Their Majesties were on the way from the Grand Palace to visit a temple on Thonburi side of town. The motorcade route took a slightly different path as the one before.—BBC Thai See graphic below.
  • A media reports that the Police Chief has penned down a transfer order of Deputy Chief of Metropolitan Police Bureau, Head of Protection and Crowd Control Division and Commander of Metropolitan Police Division 1 to work at the Police Situation Administration Command. It is anticipated that this transfer is due to the hindrance of the Royal Motorcade yesterday.—Krungthep Turakij
  • The government spokesperson has informed the press that the PM has ordered the prosecution of those who hindered the royal motorcade without any exception.—Naew Na

Business:

TAFTA

  • Wangnamyen Dairy Cooperative based in Sakaeo province has been strengthening its businesses over the last few years in preparation for the liberalisation of dairy market under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).  Once the tariff on dairy products is eliminated in 2025, the cooperative is worried that Australian and New Zealand products will be dumped in the Thai market due to their price competitiveness.  The Cooperative urged the government to provide incentives and know-how to empower local farmers, while noting that it aims to export more of its dairy products to China and Europe.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • The priorities of Commerce Ministry’s Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN) include signing RCEP in November this year, proceeding with free trade agreements between Thailand and the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, the United Kingdom, the Eurasian Economic Union, ASEAN-Canada, Turkey, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  DTN will also focus on upgrading AANZFTA and ASEAN-China FTA, ASEAN-India FTA, and ASEAN-South Korea FTA on important agenda such as market liberalization, rules of origin, customs procedures and e-commerce.  Source:  Prachachat Turakij
  • The cabinet approved of 3 stimulus projects that are projected to inject some 192 billion Baht into the economy and boost GDP growth by 0.54 percent.  The projects  comprise 1) ‘Shop Dee Mee Khuen” (Return on Good Shopping) project running from 23 Oct to 31 Dec that grants personal income tax deduction of up to 30,000 Baht per person for the purchase of products and services with 7 percent VAT; 2) ‘Khon La Krueng’ co-payment scheme where the government subsidises half the price of the product purchased from small-scale shops/hawkers to 10 million consumers.  The subsidy is valued at 150 Baht per day or 3,000 Baht per person for 3 months from 23 Oct to 31 Dec and; 3) an increase in living allowance worth 500 Baht per month for state welfare cardholders from Oct to Dec 2020.  Source:  Bangkok Post  Prachachat Turakij
  • The Bank of Thailand is assessing moves to relax regulations related to offshore market and foreign asset investments for individual investors to help manage foreign exchange.  The central bank is also considering permitting more sales of foreign financial products in the local market.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Bank of Thailand plans to implement additional debt restructuring package using targeted measures as the first-phase debt relief scheme is expiring on 22 October.  The central bank will soon meet with commercial banks and the private sector to discuss the possibility of extending the debt relief measures based on NPL figures and the debt servicing abilities of borrowers, particularly SMEs, low income earners and retail customers.  Simultaneously, it is also considering tweaking soft loan criteria and options to assist financial institutions cope with the possibility of rising NPLs.  Sources:  E-Finance Thai Bangkok Post
  • The Finance Ministry is thinking about launching a new stimulus package as a New Year gift for the public.  Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith also instructed ministry departments to devise measures to tackle unemployment and propel economic recovery in preparation for a full reopening of Thailand’s economy.  Priorities in fully reopening Thailand’s economy are reopening the tourism sector, followed by public and private investments; most notably the acceleration of government infrastructure projects such as the Eastern Economic Corridor.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The meteoric rise of a little-known Polish company, Mercator Medical SA, that manufactures protective gloves in Songkhla province in southern Thailand provides one of the clearest examples of how the pandemic has changed the world for Warsaw equity investors.  Its shares has risen by more than 6,700 percent this year since the first wave of COVID-19 infections.  Source:  Bloomberg

Headlines summary as of 12 October 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports five newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,641 cases. Out of the total number, 3,454 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.86%); 128 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 59. The newly confirmed cases are returnees from Hong Kong (1), The UK (2), the US (1), and Singapore (1). All have been in state quarantine since.
    • The Deputy Governor of Tak Province bordering Myanmar has kept trucks from Myanmar from crossing to Thai territory as the Ministry of Public Health has spotted two truck drivers from Myanmar infecting COVID-19. The Myanmar authority close down the gate of the border bridge in reciprocity. There have been a group of local communities pressuring the local authority to close down all international check-points.—Thai Rath
  • The Royal Gazette has published the schedule of the Royal Family members to offer robes to monks as part of a royal ‘krathin’ ceremony as followed (in chronological order):
    • Monday 12 October, HM the King to Debsirin Temple and Suthat Thepwararam Temple from 4.00pm
    • Wednesday 14 October, HM the Queen to Ratcha Orasaram Ratchaworawihan Temple and Temple of Dawn from 4.00pm
    • Wednesday 14 October, Princess Sirindhorn to Makut Kasatriyaram Temple and Ratchapradit Sathitmahasimarama from 4.00pm
    • Friday 16 October, Princess Bajrakitiyabha to Niwet Thammaprawat Temple, Ayutthaya from 4.00pm
    • Saturday 17 October, Princess Sirivannavari to Benchamabophit Temple from 4.00pm
    • Sunday 18 October, Prince Dipangkorn to Phra Pathom Chedi, Nakhon Pathom from 4.00pm
    • Monday 19 October, Princess Chulabhorn to Rachathiwat Temple from 4.00pm
    • Monday 19 October, Royal consort Sineenart to Suwandararam Temple, Ayutthaya from 4.00pm
  • The Nation Group media reports that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to take an official visit to Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and passing through Singapore from 11-15 October.—Than Settakij and Krungthep Turakij (with the other report saying that Wang Yi is scheduled to visit Thailand 14-15 October as guest to Deputy prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don).

Politics

  • Yesterday, the freshly appoint Finance Minister Arkhom took an oath to HM the King and will start working from today onwards.—all media outlet
  • The political tension and speculation are rising prior to the major protest on 14 October:
    • Thai Bhakdhi (Loyalist Thai) are calling for people who are loyal to the Monarchy to wear yellow attire as a symbolic gesture to portray allegiance to late King Bhumibol.—Siam Rath
    • Human right lawyer and leader of student-led rallies Anon Nampa posted on his social media platforms that on 14 October when major rally is going to take place and HM the King is scheduled from last week to visit the Grand Palace passing through the demonstration venue, the demonstrators will not impede the royal motorcade, rather they will flash three fingers salute in silence.—all media outlet
    • After the symbolic gesture to call for monarchical reform, the protestors will camp out and surround the Government’s House, calling for PM Prayut’s resignation.—all media outlet
    • Student Union of Thailand issued a statement calling for a national strike on 14 October to collaborate with the major rally on the day.—Khao Sod
  • A media reports that there is a rumour awaits confirmation that the ruling fraction might change their approaches regarding the student-led rallies’ demands. Prior to this, the ruling elites will pass the amendment of section 256, with a reported aim to reduce the political tensions embattling the government. Now, the ruling-coalition stance will be to call for a referendum this December whether to amend the constitution and postpone the Provincial Administrative Organisation’s (PAO) executive until next year. There are two reasons for this: first, the ruling fraction just want to challenge the student-led rallies judging that the rallies’ demands are getting too far and thus, losing its legitimacy; the second is that the Progressive Movement are getting an upper-hand in the PAO election.—Inside Thailand
  • The spokesperson of the German foreign ministry addressed on Friday that the government had repeatedly stressed to Thailand’s ambassador to Berlin that “foreign affairs of state should not be pursued from German soil”. The spokesperson referred to the earlier House discussion when an MP inquired the Foreign Minister about HM the King spending his time in Germany. The spokesperson said the Thai authorities had assured Berlin that “it is the Prime Minister who conducts government business, and the King of Thailand, as the head of a constitutional monarchy, which Thailand is, lives in Germany in a private capacity”.—Financial Times
  • Panitarn Wattanayagorn, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Security Advisory Committee, gave an interview saying the German Parliament discussion is inaccurate. Panitarn said that the majority of German parliamentarians focus mostly on how to assure security for heads of states, not on critical issues regarding the Thai monarch. The German authority focuses their attention on how to make Thai King’s residency in Germany as comfortable as possible.—Nation TV
  • After a breakthrough report on Friday regarding Twitter closing down 1,594 accounts (926 of which are linked to Royal Thai Army) involving in information operations, Thai authority has dismissed the report:
    • The spokesperson of the RTA said that all social media accounts are utilised for public relations purposes only. The spokesperson said he has already collaborated and notified Twitter on RTA’s purposes.—Thai Rath, Reuters
    • Minister of Digital Economy for Society Puttipong Punnakanta commented that he feels surprised why Twitter needs to disclose this report at this moment, why Twitter did not take down accounts which are critical to the Thai monarchy. The Minister said Twitter should follow Thai authority’s request and express sincerity in its operations.—The Standard
    • The analysis by Stanford University on the RTA’s strategy and the target of such information operation can be accessed in G-Drive here.

Economics:

Tourism

  • Despite the pandemic, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) aims for the country to be among the top 5 markets for foreign tourists in 2021.  Total tourism revenue is expected to range between 700 billion – 1.5 trillion Baht, of which domestic tourism will make up 400-500 billion Baht and foreign tourism 300 billion – 1 trillion Baht. 

Domestic Tourism Scenario Forecasts:

  • In the best-case scenario, domestic tourism would recover starting from Q1 of 2021 with no further cases of infection and a 3.6 percent GDP growth.  Other countries would still be in a lockdown, compelling Thais to resort to travel domestically.  Domestic tourist number is expected at 125 million (+39 percent), with the revenue of 774 billion Baht (+55 percent).
  • If Thailand undergoes another nationwide lockdown, Thai tourist figures could total 66.03 million (-26.8 percent) with a revenue of 37.9 billion Baht and a GDP contraction of -8 percent.  If Thailand undergoes partial lockdown of selected provinces, Thai tourist number could total 76.18 million (-15.5 percent) and tourist revenue at 458 billion Baht (-8.3 percent).
  • If the Thai economy recovers in mid-2021 (July 2021) with a 5-percent GDP growth, domestic tourist number would reach 93.3 million (+3.4 percent) with revenue of 536 billion Baht (+7.1 percent).
  • If Thailand recovers from April 2021 onward with no further infections, with Thai tourists could amount to 99.1 million (+9.8 percent) and tourist receipt would rise to 575 billion Baht (+15.1 percent).

International Tourism Scenario Forecasts:

  • If tourism recovers from October 2021, foreign tourist number is anticipated at 6 million, generating a revenue of 300 billion Baht. 
  • If recovery starts from July 2021, foreign tourist number could reach 12.5 million with 600 billion Baht in revenue. 
  • In the best case scenario, recovery would begin from April 2020 and tourist number could reach 20.5 million and tourism recept at 980 billion Baht.   Source:  Krungthep Turakij

US-China Trade War

Others

  • Delta, an electronic manufacturer from Taiwan, has opened a new plant in Samutprakarn province.  This is the direct result of the US-China trade war, which has prompted the company to continuously relocate its resources and plants form China, including its 7th factory that is set to open in Chachoengsao province in Q2 of 2021.  Delta is also in talks with Amata Group to invest in a Smart City in the EEC zone.  Source:  Prachachat Turakij
  • On 8 October 2020, the parliament-appointed CPTPP Committee completed their report that assesses the impact of Thailand’s CPTPP accession following a 4-month consultation session.  The report will be printed and will most likely be debated at the parliament sitting on 5 November.  Whether or not the Committee’s observations and recommendations will be implemented is at the government’s discretion.  The Committee noted that Thailand will eventually need to participate in high-standard FTAs such as the CPTPP in order to remain competitive globally.  It has made recommendations for Thailand to prepare for the prospect of future accession.  Source:  Thansettakij
  • Dialogue partners look set to clinch the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on 14 November at the virtual meeting hosted by Vietnam, according to Ministry of Commerce.  The signing of the RCEP members will be done via hologram.  The Commerce Ministry is expected to ask for parliament’s ratification next year.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Headlines summary as of 8 October 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports seven newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,622 cases. Out of the total number, 3,439 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.95%); 124 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 59. The newly confirmed cases are returnees from the US (1), India (1), UAE (1), Hungary (2), the Netherlands (1) and Kuwait (1). All have been in state quarantine since.
  • This morning, the former vocal Army Chief Apirat who went to retire on 30 September and continue his work as Vice Lord Chamberlain ordained at a temple on Thonburi side of town. The former Army Chief went to enter monkhood at the same temple as former Police Chief Chaktip who seeked religious peace as he entered into retirement.—all media outlet

Politics

  • Drums are beating up on the upcoming major rally by all groups of the student-led rallies on 14 October:
    • The main figures of the rallies alerted the press that they will host a press briefing at Sanam Luang (Royal Field) from 2.30pm onwards.
    • Online community has been sharing a document showing that their majesties the King and Queen will travel to the Grand Palace to attend a monkhood-related ceremony on the same day as the major protest.—Siam Rath
    • One of the protest main figure, Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep, posted on his Facebook yesterday that he has been contacted by security agencies asking the rallies to avoid using Rachadamneon Avenue as their majesties will travel through. The protest leader posted that there are many roads in Bangkok.—Piyarat Chongthep
  • Yesterday, the Constitutional Court made a series of verdicts which have political implications:
    • The Court has passed a resolution that an Act allowing House Committee to summon anyone for investigation is unconstitutional. The Court made the decision following a vocal MP from the main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) Paiboon’s request for the court to look into the legality, as the MP claimed the Act was part of the 2007 Constitution which is no longer liable. The Opposition has been using committee’s order to summon key figures in the government to testify in the investigation. A distinguished case was when Pol Gen Seripisut has repeated the Committee’s summon of the PM on the incomplete oath he took back in 2019. —Thai Post
    • The Court will read the verdict on 28 October whether the status of 64 MPs (equally from the Coalition and Opposition) remains viable as the MPs have shares in media firms. The verdict for the Coalition MPs will be read from 3.00 pm, followed by the Opposition MPs from 4.00pm. Should the MPs found guilty, they are obliged to cease its MP status.—Neaw Na
  • The Secretary-general of the Election Commission said next week, the EC will convene to determine the election date of the Provincial Administrative Organisation’s Chief Executive. He said there has been two timeline for the elction:
    • 1. The EC will announce the PAO election on 28 Oct—Applications open 5-9 Nov.—Election date 13 Dec.
    • 2. The EC will announce the PAO election 5-9 Nov.—Applications open 5 Dec.—Election date 20 Dec.—Krungthep Turakij

Business:

  • The Centre Economic Situation Administration (CESA) anticipates it will spend 200 billion Baht on 3 stimulus projects to spur domestic spending in Q4 of 2020
  • The first project, already approved by CESA, is called ‘Shop Dee Mee Keun’.  It offers income tax deductions of up to 30,000 Baht for the purchase of products and services with a 7 percent value-added tax, except for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, government lotteries, fuel, accommodation services and air tickets.  The scheme runs from 23 October until 31 December and is projected to inject 120 billion Baht into the economy. Eligible applicants are those who have not signed up for other existing stimulus packages.
  • CESA also approved of extending 2 tourism projects, namely We Travel Together and Moral Support until January 31, 2021.  For We Travel Together, participants can use e-vouchers given to them to pay for food, entrance fees at tourist attractions and for buying OTOP products in their home province.  For Moral Support package, eligible applicants now include 570 officials at Bangkok health centres and 2,615 health promotion officers, instead of only health volunteers.
  • CESA is considering proposals proposal to lure more foreign investors and tourists through the Special Tourist Visa program, the Board of Investment of Thailand’s measures to attract foreign experts, and an idea to allow Thailand Elite Card holders to invest more in properties.  Discussions will continue on Friday.
  • PM Prayut said the tourists who will visit Thailand through the Special Tourist Visa Scheme will most likely enter Thailand after 25 October.   Source:  Bangkok Post Prachachat Turakij Krungthep Turakij newspaper, 8 October 2020
  • Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) expects Thailand’s economy to shrink by 7-9 percent this year, while upgrading its export outlook to a contraction of -8 to -10 percent rather than -10 to -12 percent.  It also urged the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation to extend credit guarantees provided to SMEs from 2 years to 10 years under the Bank of Thailand’s 500 billion Baht soft loan scheme.  JSCCIB asked the government to tweak economic stimulus measures and to continue its excise tax reduction for jet fuel and speed up issuing soft loans to domestic airlines.  Source:  Bangkok Post The Nation Bangkok Post
  • JSCCIB is in the process of hiring a consultant agency to analyse the pros and cons of Thailand joining the CPTPP and providing their recommendations to the government.  This move follows the remarks of Japanese investors who said they prefer to invest in Vietnam and Malaysia because these countries have signed the CPTPP, which reflects the sentiment of the new Japanese PM Suga.  Source:  Manager Online
  • The Digital Economy Promotion Agency will officially announce the first batch of 4 smart cities designated under its development scheme at Thailand Smart City Week scheduled to run from 16 – 22 October. These four smart cities have met five categories for smart city transformation and have 2 years to develop to become smart cities.  The smart city development project is part of the government’s 20-year national development where the government expects 100 smart cities by 2024.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Fitch Ratings said Thailand’s economy will recover slowly if tourism does not improve, as its economic growth is reliant on foreign tourist arrivals.  Fitch considers the prospect of Thailand’s public debt to GDP surging in the wake of the pandemic not too worrisome because it has been taking a prudent approach to public finance.  Fitch’s recommended measures include promoting employment and labour skill development; job creation in provincial areas to absorb returning workers and economic restructuring.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Cross-border trade, including transit trade, declined by 7.42 percent YoY to 853 billion Baht in the first eight months of 2020, according to Commerce Ministry.  Overall border trade with 4 neighbouring countries amounted to 497 billion baht, down 11.5 percent YoY.  This is attributable to the closure of border checkpoints to prevent the pandemic outbreak, where only 36 of 97 border checkpoints are currently opened.  Source: Bangkok Post
  • MTS Gold Group, one of the country’s largest bullion traders, predicts domestic gold trading volume will remain bullish in the medium term with an upward trend that could hit 30,000 Baht by next year. MTS is preparing for new business opportunities from dollar-gold trade, silver and rubber futures, which regulators are likely to approve trading in this year.  As for gold, for the first nine months this year, trading of gold online grew by 200 percent.  Source:  Bangkok Post

ASEAN/World

  • Pew Research took an opinion study on citizen of 14 democratic and advanced economic countries, including the US, Australia, Japan and many European countries from 10 June-3 August. Majority of the people have negative image of China. In Australia, 81% of the interviewees felt unsatisfactory with China, following by the UK at 74 %, Germany at 71%, the US at 73%.—Voice Online

Australia

  • Op-Ed by four Ambassadors (Australia, Germany, the UK and the US) on ‘Turbocharging Thailand’s post-COVID economic recovery – improving the ease of doing business’, proposing 10 measures for Thailand to implement in order to be the top ten in World Bank Global.—Krungthep Turakij
  • Former advisor to Deputy PM Prawit, Paisarn posted on his FB calling for an action by the Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Don to ask Singaporean and Australian diplomats about prominent figures who are organising anti-monarchy protests using Bangkok—Singapore—Australia route to seek asylum.—Siam Rath

Headlines summary as of 5 October 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports five newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,590 cases. Out of the total number, 3,390 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.43%); 141 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 59. The newly confirmed cases are returnees from the India (2), Malaysia (1), Bahrain (1) and Japan (1). All have been in state quarantine since.
    • Last weekend, the (inter)national political landscape was in shock as it is reported and confirmed that US President Trump and self-exiled former PM Thaksin were tested COVID positive. As for the former Thai premiere, it is anticipated that he has caught the virus from a food court in UAE.—Thai PBS
  • The head of Thailand’s state zoological agency was shot dead Saturday as he was pursuing an investigation into the suspicious disappearance of the Queen Mother’s given albino barking deer. The Police said the suspected gunman, a senior official at the zoo, fled the scene of the shooting and killed himself in his living quarters.—all media outlet, AP

Politics

  • Breaking: The King has endorsed the nomination of Arkhom Termpittayaphisit as the new Finance Minister.—Than Settakij Please find attached the full cabinet portfolio of Prayut Government 2/3
  • Since last week, a dominant e-commerce firm Shopee faced online criticism on banning the store linked to the now-defunct Future Forward Party. The giant e-commerce revised its decision after #BanShopee became the third highest trending hashtag on Saturday. Shopee says Democstore had violated its terms several times before the ban for posting “politically sensitive” material. Some online users pointed out shops selling goods by right-wing ‘Loyal Thai’ or even Nazi symbols which Shopee seems not to have problem with.–Reuters
  • Last Friday, anti-government student-led group “Bad Student” toured schools which had reports on student abuses. Their final destination was at the Ministry of Education where they throw away mock 10,000 resignation letters in a symbolic gesture calling for the resignation of the minister, who the ‘Bad Student’ called incompetent.–Reuters
  • Nida Poll surveyed people’s opinion on the most recent Pheu Thai’s restructuring:
    • Opinion regarding Pheu Thai joining hands with main ruling PPRP under PM Prayut premiership: 49.09% said totally disagree; 16.84% were somewhat disagree; 16.41 said they somewhat agree; and 15.88% said they agree.
    • Opinion regarding Pheu Thai joining the coalition with PPRP under different premiership (under different PM): 37.54% said they disagree; 24.09 agreed with the idea; 22.11 said they are somewhat agree; and 14.51 said somewhat disagree.—Nida Poll

Analysis/opinion

  • An exclusive interview with Police Lieutenant General Torsak Sukvimol, the Central Investigation Bureau’s chief and brother to the Lord Chamberlain. The commander said the CIB tasks will be focused on three pillars: 1. Providing security for the Royal Family; 2. Looking after safety of the people; 3. Looking after Royal Volunteer Unit.—Siam Rath

Business:

  • Tourism and Sports Ministry said the first batch of tourists from China, originally scheduled to arrive in Phuket on 8 October, will be delayed to a later date in October as authorities need more time to implement the Special Tourist Visa smoothly.  Nonetheless, the Ministry affirms that it will bring in 1,200 long-stay travellers to Thailand in October.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • With the Bank of Thailand’s debt relief measures poised to expire on 22 October, fears are mounting that a debt tsunami is accumulating.  The BOT’s new Governor, Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, will face the uphill task of tackling the surging non-performing loan problem.  BOT estimated that 8.1 million consumer loan accounts had entered the BOT’s first-phase debt relief measures.  However, non-bank companies make up the largest loan amount, representing from 27-75 percent of total loan portfolio and are also the most fragile, being saddled with rising NPLs.  Businesses complain that they are dying out, given that they are unable to access BOT’s soft loans as commercial banks are reluctant to grant them the loans.  The hard-hit tourism sector noted that to date, only 5 percent of them could access such loans.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Commerce Ministry’s Department of Foreign Trade reiterates that Thailand is not a global dumpsite for e-waste, adding that a ban has been imposed on the import of 428 types of electronic waste (E-Waste) since September 15.  E-waste is defined as electric and electronic components and scraps, excluding scraps from an electric generator. All sides are urged to hasten efforts to improve the efficiency in handling domestic e-waste, optimise the use of resources and also to recycle.  Source:  Bangkok Post Thansettakij
  • The 900-billion-baht ‘Thai Bridge project’ is expected to be discussed at the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Policy Committee meeting today.  The plan involves digging a tunnel from Chon Buri province in the east to either Phetchaburi or Prachuap Khiri Khan province in the south.  It is envisaged as a new cargo transport route connecting the EEC Project to Thaiand’s southern region, and potentially to open up new transport routes between East Asia and ASEAN.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Thailand’s rice export this year is expected to drop from 7.5 million tonnes worth 130 billion Baht last year to 5 million tonnes worth 115 billion Baht, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association.  This is largely attributed to the appreciation of the Thai baht and low rice output.  Source:  The Nation
  • Colliers International Thailand said condominium demand and supply recovered in Q3 after bottoming out in the Q2, which marked the lowest period in the past decade.  In Q4, there will be fewer than 10 new condo projects launched and the number of new condo supply in Greater Bangkok this year will not exceed 20,000 units, the lowest in a decade.  Foreigners from China and Hong Kong are continuing to make online bookings for potential projects near the BTS and MRT routes, for speculative purposes and their second homes in Thailand, especially since the Thai government is opening up to visitors in October.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Headlines summary as of 2 October 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports six newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,575 cases. Out of the total number, 3,384 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.66%); 132 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 59. The newly confirmed cases are returnees from the South Sudan, India (2), UAE (2) and Japan (1). All have been in state quarantine since.

Politics

  • A media reports that the PM has submitted the nomination of the vacant Finance Minister to the King for endorsement. The media quotes a source higher-up in the Government House that it is highly likely that Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, the former Transport Minister during junta period will take the seat. The reason why Mr Arkhom is the most likely candidate is the reason that he has been the PM’s counsellor for years. The source said the new Finance Minister will likely take the position by mid-October.–Prachachart
  • The new Army Chief has led a ceremony to pledge its allegiance to the Chakri Dynasty. –Thai Post
  • The PM gave an interview to the media saying that he has ascended the budget bill for the King approval. He said “I think it has been ascended, I have signed a lot of thing recently.”—Siam Rath
  • At the Interior Ministry, the Interior Minister and the Election Commission’s Secretary-general said that the ministry will put the local election agenda on the weekly cabinet meeting bulletin this Tuesday. –Naew Na

Business:

EEC

  • PM Prayut held a meeting with 16 corporations based in Thailand and overseas at Leam Chabang seaport yesterday, thanking them for expanding their investments in the Eastern Economic Corridor.  The premier said the next focus will be on developing Laem Chabang port into an international sea port that link to the provinces in the Southern Economic Corridor and potentially to South Asian nations along the Indian Ocean.
  • The attending corporations, such as  such as PTT Global Chemical and WHA Utilities and Power, called on the government to eliminate the weak points in infrastructure development.  They also asked that the government revise its investment incentives to lure more foreign investors as well as fix the land and water shortage problems during this time of economic recession.  Source:    Krungthep Turakij Bangkok Post
  • Construction for the 12.3-billion-Baht Smart Park in Rayong province is set to start next year and will be completed in 3 years.  Overseen by the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, the Smart Park is envisaged as the first high-tech industrial estate in the EEC to serve the S-Curve industries, and will be split into 4 zones, namely industrial area; commercial area; infrastructure and facilities area; and green and buffer zones.  It is projected to contribute 529 billion Baht to Thailand’s GDP and creates 7,459 jobs.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • The 8 low-cost airlines urge the government to give a definite answer on whether they will be given the 24 billion Baht soft loan with 5-year repayment term, which they requested 6 months ago.  Air Asia has complied with the government’s request to keep the employees, but it is struggling with the financial burden of maintaining the payroll.  Finance Ministry is considering their soft loan request and will announce a decision soon.  Source:  Bangkok Post  Krungthep Turakij
  • Thailand climbed one spot to 39th out of the 63 countries in IMD World Competitiveness Centre’s Digital Competitiveness ranking for 2020.  This is attributable to Thailand’s investment in technology, namely the adoption of 5G.  However, Thailand needs to improve on its knowledge factor to enhance future competitiveness.  Thailand also climbed up the rank for future readiness factor, supported by improvements in e-government services and participation.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The hospitality industry in Thailand and Asia will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024 at the earliest, according to hospitality marketing analyst firm, STR.  This is based on the assumption that COVID-19 vaccine is successfully developed in Q1 of 2021 and that recovery will start in Q2 of 2021.  STR reported that Thai hotels have an average occupancy rate of 15 percent from June 6 until August 31, peaking at 30 percent during the weekend.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Global demand for rubber gloves and rubber tyres have risen significantly as the global economies recover following the easing of the lockdown measures.  To this end, Commerce Ministry expects rubber export to rise by 3.19 percent and fetch 359 billion Baht in 2020.  Specifically, the soaring demand for protective rubber gloves has driven Thailand’s rubber glove export up by 38.5 percent YoY in the first 7 months of 2020.  Domestically, rubber consumption is likely to rise slightly this year due to the government’s para-soil cement road construction projects in 45 provinces.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN) has kick-started its effort to forge an FTA with the European Free Trade Association (Efta), which consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.  DTN has hired the Institute of Future Studies for Development to study the benefits and impacts of a Thai-Efta FTA.  It is likely to propose the outcome of the study and schedule public hearings early next year.  Source:  https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1994519/thailand-tries-to-get-efta-pact-in-place

Analysis/opinion

  • The new Pheu Thai Party’s executive is nothing but the internal coup to rid former Strategy Chief Sudarat out of the party’s executive. This would mean a strong signal for the national reconciliatory government as the Sudarat’s wing is seen as more hardliner against the PM. Should the national government ‘deal’ is taken, the real pressure will be placed upon Democrat and Bhumjaithai Party to make sure they are still needed.—Thai Rath
  • An analysis of Pheu Thai’s restructuring and the potential of inviting former Transport Minister Chatchart back into the party is nothing but an attempt to attract more young voters. The real threat to Pheu Thai Party is Future Forward—Move Forward Parties as they lost the leadership role to the parties.—Khao Sod

Headlines summary as of 30 September 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports five newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,564 cases. Out of the total number, 3,374 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.67%); 131 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 59. The newly confirmed cases are returnees from South Sudan (1), India (3) and Kuwait (1) and have been in state quarantine since.
    • Yesterday, the cabinet has passed its resolution to extend the visa amnesty for foreigners who are stranded in Thailand due to the pandemic to be able to stay in Thailand until 31 October.—Thai Government

Politics

  • It is reported that the PM has discussed with party leaders of the Coalition before the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday. According to the report, the PM has agreed to let the constitutional amendment Section 256 to proceed allowing the Constitutional Drafting Assembly to be proceed in a bid to reduce the political tensions. Varawut Silapa-acha, the Natural Resources Minister and the leader of Chart Thai Pattana Party confirmed that there was a talk on this.—Inside Thailand
  • Development related to the split within the main Opposition Pheu Thai party remains salient:
    • Yesterday, the freshly resigned Chief Strategist Sudarat broke her silence by saying that she remains the party’s member, despite not taking any executive position. The Bangkok-based veteran politician said she will only help recruit the party’s nomination for the Bangkok’s governor, dismissing the rumour that she will run for the position.—Siam Rath
    • Former Transport Minister Chatchart posted on his FB Page reaffirming that he will not return to Pheu Thai Party and want to continue working for Bangkok communities as an independent.—Thai Rath
    • Media quotes a source close to the ousted and self-exiled former PM Thaksin that the former PM did not know anything about the allegation of Thaksin returning as Royally-endorsed PM. The close aide claims that information operation is the culprit, aiming to stir conflicts.—Thai Rath
  • In the retirement ceremony of General Apirat, the new army chief pledged to follow his predecessor, who has taken a hard line against anti-government groups and he emphasised the importance of protecting the monarchy. The newly appointed Army Chief said “I will protect and develop the army so it stands as a key institution of security that sustains the nation and throne”.–Reuters
  • Human rights lawyer and one of the key leaders of the student-led rally pledged to take the protestors to street from 14 October and will continue to hold a protracted gathering.

Business:

  • Tourism and Sports Ministry said the first group of foreign tourists to enter Thailand with Special Tourist Visas will comprise 150 Chinese from Guangzhou, who will fly to Phuket on October 8 via a chartered Air Asia flight.  On the same day, 7 Chinese businessmen will fly into Bangkok on a private jet.  On 25 October, another 126 Chinese tourists will fly to Bangkok from Guangdong on a chartered Thai Smile flight, followed by 120 tourists from Scandinavia and Schengen countries on Thai Airway flight on November 1.  These tourists will undergo a 14-day quarantine at approved facilities and will be required to download the tracing application. In the first phase of the reopening, the number of arrivals to Thailand will be limited 300 per week.    Source:  Thai PBS World  Bangkok Post

Cabinet’s Decisions, 29 September 2020

  • Approved the 30-billion Baht ‘Khon La Krueng’ co-payment scheme that will run from 23 October – 31 December.  The government will subsidise 50 percent, or a maximum of 150 Baht per person per day (equivalent to 3,000 Baht per person for 3 months) for individuals to buy food, drinks and consumer goods from street vendors and small shops.  Both the consumer and shops must register on the www.คนละครึ่ง.com on 16 October.  This scheme is expected to inject 60,000 billion Baht into the grassroot economy and boost GDP by 0.18 percent.
  • Approved of raising monthly allowances for 14 million state welfare cardholders to 1,500 Baht monthly (a 500-Baht increase) for 3 months from October – December 2020.  The allowance is for spending on the purchase of essential goods at the government-certified Tong Fa (Blue Flag) shops.  The total budget for the project is 21 billion Baht. 
  • Adjusted specifications for the co-payment employment scheme for companies which hire new graduates.  The government will extend help to companies that hire students who have registered in the social security system as well as those who work part-time to support themselves while studying. 
  • Approved a 1.51-trillion Baht spending plan for 44 state enterprises for FY 2021.
  • Approved of the proposals from Finance Ministry for FY 2021 (Oct 2020 – Sept 2021) to borrow 1.3 trillion Baht and manage existing debt worth 387.5 billion Baht to battle the pandemic.  Should the government implement the borrowing plan, it will raise public debt to GDP to 57.23 percent of GDP, not yet reaching the 60 percent ceiling. As of July 31, public debt totalled 7.6 trillion Baht, or 47.04 percent of GDP.  Sources:  Ministry of Finance Press Release  Prachachat Turakij Bangkok Post The Nation

Others

  • World Bank projects that the Thai economy will contract by at least 8.3 percent in 2020, and by 10.4 percent in the worst-case-scenario where recovery to pre-pandemic level would take at least 3 years.  Recovery could be hampered by the drought, flooding or second wave of outbreak.  Investor confidence is also rattled by doubts in policy continuity arising from changes in the government’s economic team and political protests.  Despite Thailand implementing the stimulus packages making up 8-13 percent of GDP, some stimulus measures such as the cash hand-out were not directed to the targeted segment.  World Bank calls for the government to find a method to distribute money to reach households more efficiently.  Source:  Bangkok Post The full report can be accessed here
  • The Board of Investment plans to propose a job retention scheme to the government to ease the high unemployment rate resulting from Covid-19.  BOI will also seek approval for new investment incentives for clinical research, especially medicines and vaccines, in a bid to make Thailand the hub of the medical industry in ASEAN.  The BOI is also restructuring to suit the government’s plan to promote new targeted industries and highly advanced technology.  Source:  Bangkok Post

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