Advance Blog

August 14, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 14 August 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports 17 newly confirmed case, a total of 3,376 cases. Out of the total number, 3,173 have been discharged from hospital (at 93.99%); 145 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed cases are Thais returned from the US (1), India (15) and Australia (1). This is the 81st consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.

Politics

  • Yesterday, the PM held a national televised address calling the nation to get over ‘old politics’ and unite to weather the recession storm. The PM laid out the reason to appoint non-politician to be ministers as part of the Ruam Thai Sarng Chart’s goal to involve talent from every part of society.—all media outlet (for the full English translation of the speech: Public Relations Department)
  • In the weekly cabinet meeting, the PM has assigned tasks for the newly appointed Deputy PM as followed—Siam Rath (DPM Anutin moved up the acting order from no.4 to no.3, replacing DPM Jurin).
Acting PM OrderNameQuota/ partyResponsibilities  
1Gen Prawit WongsuwanPPRPDigital Economy Ministry Natural Resources Ministry Interior Ministry Labour Ministry
2Wissanu Krea-ngamPMJustice Ministry (except DSI) Culture Ministry Education Ministry + Industry Ministry
3Anutin CharnvirakulBhumjaithai partyTourism and Sports Ministry Transport Ministry Public Health Ministry
4Jurin LaksanawisitDemocratCommerce Ministry Agriculture Ministry Human Security and Social Development Ministry
5Don PramudwinaiPMForeign Ministry Higher Education Ministry
6Supattanapong PunmeechaowPMFinance Ministry Energy Minister +EEC policy office
  • The reason why DPM Wissanu is getting more responsibility to look after the Industry ministry is due to the tribunal of Australian Akra gold mine. As a law expert, having Wissanu in the position would help the cabinet to weather through this big legal process, according to a source.—Krungthep Turakij
  • The issue of political amnesty is back on bulletin:
    • A coalition Democrat MP Thepthai discussed the study by the House committee on law, justice, and human rights that he would like to propose to bring the 2007 Constitution back in as an impromptu constitution while allowing the drafting committee to draft a new constitution. He also propose an amnesty of political offenders, including those who were charged with Article 112 lèse-majesté as the PM had said that it is not the current King’s intention to charge anyone with this law.—The Standard
  • The issues related to student protests are still on high agenda:
    • Former Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn gave an interview saying that the student protestors’ demands would create a harmonious condition for the constitutional monarchy regime. He warned protestors to rationalise the demands and need to leave some spaces for the more conservative wings to manoeuvre.
    • One senior Palang Pracharat MP told Thai Enquirer that many members within the government would feel uncomfortable and would find it hard to continue to serve the government should there be a bloody crackdown. The MP said that other senior figures in the coalition “don’t want to be another Abhisit [Vejjajiva] or Suthep [Thaugsuban] and be known to the people as murderers”.
    • Dr Supat Hasuwannakit, the director of Chana Hospital in the Southern province of Songkla posted on his social media said he truly regretted joining the People’s Democratic Reform Committee which led to and legitimised the 2014 coup. He posted that he now realised there is no shortcut to the big changes in Thai society, all national government or transitional government are nothing but a form of autocratic regime.–ThaiPBS
    • The PM said yesterday that authorities are looking to identify people and its financial sources who rallied for monarchy reforms at Thammasat University on Monday. The PM said most of Thai people can’t bear with this direct rally against the monarchy.—all media outlet
    • Deputy Police spokesperson denied the rumour that the police has issued an arrest order against Parit Chiwarak, vocal student activist on violating the lese majeste law. The spokesperson said it is accurate that local police in Loei province has received the complaint and now compiling evidences.–ThaiPBS
    • The Free People Movement is beating the drums for this Sunday’s protest at the Democracy Monument from 3.00-9.00pm with three demands (drafting a new constitution; dissolving the parliament; and stopping the harassment of dissidents); two standpoints (no coup d’etat; and no (royally endorsed) national reconciliation government) and one dream (for Thailand to have the truly constitutional monarchy).
    • The student protests have garnered more support from younger entertainment stars with their social media posts demanding for the protection of freedom of expression, human rights and the cease of dissident’s harassment.—The Standard POP

Business:

Cabinet’s Decisions – 13 August 2020

  • Establish an Economic Situation Administration Centre, chaired by PM Prayut, to supervise the government’s economic rehabilitation efforts.  The centre comprises 22 committees, represented by economic ministers, the Interior and Labour ministries, the central bank governor and the heads of three private-sector organisations.  It will convene its first meeting on Wednesday 19 August
  • Set up a committee to oversee economic management, chaired by former Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchotthaworn, who is currently an adviser to PM Prayut
  • Approved 3 projects worth 1.11 billion Baht, allocated from the 400-billion-Baht budget set aside for economic and social rehabilitation
  • Approved for 2.6 billion Baht to pay health volunteers for their contributions in containing the pandemic for 7 months (March-Sept) at the rate of 500 Baht monthly.  This is allocated from the central budget.
  • Approved 11.8 billion Baht from the central budget to address drought and flood problems nationwide.  This fund is reserved for emergency purposes and will be used to finance 14 projects run by five agencies.

Sources:  Bangkok Post   Bangkok Post  Thansettakij Naewna

Others

  • The government has a combined annual fiscal budget of 758 billion Baht for the government’s new economic team to combat the pandemic for FY 2020 and 2021.  There are four main portions contributing to this sum.  The first portion (180 billion Baht) is allocated from the 1-trillion Baht loan decree.  The second portion (350 billion Baht) is from the 400 billion Baht economic and social rehabilitation budget.  The third batch (88 billion Baht) comes from an act related to the fiscal 2020 budget transfer and the fourth batch (140 billion Baht) is allocated from fiscal 2021 budget for pandemic remedy measures.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Thailand’s total Durian export from January – June 2020 is valued at USD1.14 billion (35.45 billion Baht), which marked a 73 percent growth YoY.  Commerce Ministry further revealed that export to China surged by 140 percent YoY, valued at USD1.02 billion Baht and accounted for 73 percent of Thailand’s total Durian export.  Department of Trade Negotiations attributes this increase to free trade agreements that are making Thai Durians more competitive in foreign markets.  Sources:  The Nation  Prachachat Turakij
  • Thailand claimed the title of “least miserable” economy according to Bloomberg Misery Index.  It is based on Bloomberg surveys of economists’ estimates for 2020 price growth and joblessness in each economy, in which inflation and employment rate are used to define a happy economy.  Source:  Bloomberg
  • Commerce Ministry’s Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN) organised a series of public hearing seminars entitled ‘Thailand’s Next Steps after RCEP’, asserting that Thailand plans to complete RCEP negotiations in August before seeking the approvals of the cabinet and parliament in October.  By November, Thailand expects to be able to officially sign RCEP Agreement at the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit.  DTN’s Director-General Auramon will organise seminars throughout September in various regions of Thailand to promote RCEP as an instrument in jumpstarting the Thai economy and attracting investment in the post-COVID19 period.  Sources:  The Nation Thansettakij
  • Savings deposits at the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives are edging up as a result of the government’s 5,000-baht cash handout for 3 months to those affected by the outbreak.  The BAAC aims to have net savings deposits of 65 billion Baht, up from the existing 30 billion Baht, for the fiscal year 2021.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Opinion

  • A Thai social activist, professor and according to many ‘royalist’, Sulak Sivaraksa voiced his support on the student protests’ 10 propositions on monarchical reform. He said the groups that are against the students’ monarchical reforms are nothing but a ‘far-right’ group who are “more monarchical than the monarch himself”. He suggests a way forward for Thais who are critical to the King is to view the King as a human who has strengths and weaknesses.—101 World
  • Parit Wacharasindhu, a former MP candidate for the Democrat Party, wrote an article pointing the Senate as an institution that “symbolizes and encapsulates all that is wrong with the current political system”. He suggested that “only in abolishing the Senate will we strike at the root cause of the existing political problem”. He said that abolishing the Senate is the minimum reform to satisfy the protestors and anything more than this might be difficult to get the consensus even amongst the democratic wing in the society. —Thai Enquirer
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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