Advance Blog

May 5, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headline summary as of 5th May 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reported only a newly confirmed case, a total of 2,988 confirmed cases. Out of the total number, 2,747 have been discharged from hospital. A death toll is at 54.
    • Princess Ubolratana has expressed her concern about a possible surge in new coronavirus cases following the lifting of the ban on sales of alcoholic beverages in most provinces.—Bangkok Post.
    • Health officials said the earlier positive COVID-19 test in the Southern province of Yala was ‘false positive’. Officials are also investigating what went wrong at the Yala lab as controlled test equipment was found to be contaminated.—all media outlet
    • Thailand has loosened restrictions on some businesses after progress in containing the coronavirus, bringing life back to the streets, including the hawker-food heaven of Bangkok’s Chinatown.—Reuters
    • Another suicide case is reported in the capital due to the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 50-year-old woman hung herself at home after having learned that her request for social security compensation was rejected.—all media outlet

Politics

  • Yesterday, His Majesty the King appointed the former Constitutional Court Chairperson to be a member of his Privy Council. This appointment has sparked online discussion on Twitter with more than 200,000 tweets #องคมนตรี “Privy Council”. The former secretary-general of the now defunct Future Forward Party Piyabutr posted on his Facebook account saying the judge’s performance’s is “satisfactory”. He went on listing the verdicts the judge made over a decade on dissolving dozens of political parties, including the Future Forward Party.  His post drew many criticism from the pro-government media outlets.—all media outlet
  • Media interviewed Associate Professor Panitan, the Chairperson of PM’s Security Advisory Committee on the government stability amidst COVID-19. The political scientist said whether government can survive or not, depends on the second wave of COVID-19 transmission (during the rainy season). He said if the government could get the transmission and the unemployment rate under control, the government’s situation might not be that bad. In a primary projection, Thailand will recover within 6 months to a year.—Nation Weekend
  • A student activist Netiwit published his opinion piece saying the Education Ministry’s order to ease student’s haircut is a stepping stone towards respecting human dignity and individualism.—Thai Enquirer

Business

  •  A source from the EEC reveals that Airbus had turned down the deal with Thai Airways to develop the MRO at U-Tapao airport due to 2 reasons:
    1. Originally Thai Airways and Airbus agreed to jointly invest in the MRO development, but as both parties enter PPP negotiations, it turns out both Thai and Airbus are required to establish a company.  This company must then sign a contract to rent the land in the EEC at the rate of 3 percent per year of the total investment value of 7 billion Baht.  The Thai Navy will invest in the infrastructure such as the hangar along with 1 percent commission of the annual revenue.  Airbus wanted a cheaper rental fee but it proves an uphill task as the land belongs to the Thai government.   An agreement could not be reached.
    2. Airbus had hoped that Thai Airways would procure Airbus airplanes as part of its new fleet of 38 airplanes.  Thai Airways aborted the procurement when Covid19 outbreak became increasingly prevalent.
  • Airbus’s rejection will not delay the MRO project because the pandemic has stopped all flight movements, which will automatically extend the maintenance period for airplanes.  The MRO is expected to become operational in 2023-2024, at which time the aviation sector would have recovered.
  • Thai Airways will have to present to the Board in May options in pursuing the MRO, including finding a new partner; Thai Airways being the sole investor or proceeding with the investment and finding co-investors later on.  Source: Prachachart Turakij newspaper, 30 April – 2 May
  • Jewellery and silver ornament exporters said they are unable to access the Bank of Thailand’s 500-billion Baht soft loan with 2 percent interest.  In practice, commercial banks often charge additional fees which raise overall interest by 3-4 percent.  Some banks will only forgo these additional interests for long-time customers.  Several commercial banks have also turned down SMEs’ request for the loan on the basis that the soft-loan credit limit has been reached.
  • Likewise, SME Federation of Thailand asserted that SMEs too have a hard time accessing the soft-loan.  Commercial banks are reluctant to provide loans to the SMEs on the grounds that they have high debts and low liquidity, preferring to make the loans to large corporates which have lower risk of default.  Source:  https://www.thansettakij.com/content/business/432170
  • Social Security Office reported that there were 1,117,841 applications for unemployment compensation, of which only 958,304 are qualified.  Source:  National News National Bureau fb page
  • The 5,000 Baht cash handout for farmers will be paid to eligible farmers directly through their BAAC bank accounts.  Farmers with no BBAC bank accounts can register their details through the website www.เยียวยาเกษตรกร.com from 7 May onwards.  BAAC expects to be able to make the payments from 15 May onwards to 1 million people daily.  Source:  https://www.nationtv.tv/main/content/378774
  • The Digital Economy and Society Ministry (MDES) plans to postpone the enforcement of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) by at least one year as companies are embattled by Covid19.  MDES will convene a meeting with the National Cyber Security Committee before proposing a suitable timeframe to the Cabinet, the decision of which will be finalised at the end of May.  The PDPA is originally scheduled to come into effect on 28 May 2020.  Source:  https://www.nationthailand.com/news/30387285?fbclid=IwAR3EScYXmYmnx_khe31YdigxyG466OGlLgT4AJHeepfx0fCekNyK3RvohA0
  • CP had given out over 711,600 pieces of surgical masks manufactured from its own factory to 54 hospitals in southern Thailand to ease the shortage.  CP supplied the masks to Red Cross (overseen by Chulalongkorn Hospital) for distribution to other hospitals.  Currently CP’s factory has manufacturered 1,168,800 pieces.  Source:  http://www.nationtv.tv/main/content/378774743

ASEAN/World

  • Chinese Belt and Road mega infrastructure projects have come to a standstill across Southeast Asia. Chinese workers cannot enter Indonesia as the archipelagic state has been banning foreigners to enter since March. Thailand also postponed the negotiation deadline. The agreement of the first 250km rail between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima will hopefully be concluded in October. The same goes for Myanmar.—Nikkei Asian Review (please see attached)
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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