Advance Blog

August 17, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 17 August 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports a newly confirmed case, a total of 3,378 cases. Out of the total number, 3,194 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.55%); 126 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed case is Thais returned from Indonesia. This is the 84th consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.
    • Director-general of the Department of Disease Control warned that despite no local transmission in Thailand for 83 days, there is no guarantee that the country will be free from the 2nd wave of transmission. He cited that people-to-people interaction have been eased and Thai workers abroad — as well as foreign migrants — are starting to come back.—all media outlet

Politics

  • Building on the pendulum of protest yesterday, this morning photos and video clips of students raising (Hunger Games’) three finger salute while singing national anthem are shared online. Some students shared the photos, telling the experience of harassment by their school teachers on Twitter #โรงเรียนหน้าเขาไม่เอาเผด็จการ. —Khaosod (For background, standing to show respect of national anthem is compulsory in Thailand at 8am and 6pm. In school, students will line up to sing the anthem and listen to the school’s director daily guidance.)
  • Yesterday marked the largest protest since the 2014 coup d’état:
    •  Media had a consensus that there were more than 10,000 protestors gathered at the democracy monument in central Bangkok to calls for three demands (stop harassing the people; draft a new constitution; and dissolve the parliament), two standpoints (no coup d’etat; no (royally endorsed) national reconciliation government) and a dream (for Thailand to have a truly constitutional monarchy) which could be done in three steps: 1. Abolish article 269-272 to ban the Senate from politics 2. Amend article 256 to set up a drafting assembly and 3. Dissolve the parliament.–Reuters, Nikkei Asian Review (est 25,000), AP, Sputnik (more than 20,000), Channel News Asia, The Straits Times, The Japan Times
    • The Free People Movement has given the September ultimatum to scrap the Senate out of politics; or else the group will escalate its movement. Apart from the national political issues, the students spoke on myriad of issues, including LGBTQ+, Deep South, authoritarianism in schools.
    • Anon Nampa, human rights lawyer spoke on stage last night underlining the 10 propositions for monarchical reforms presented at Thammasat University on 10 August as part of the one dream to truly create constitutional monarchy which would make monarchy getting along well with democratic society. He invited the monarchy to share the same dream with the Movement.—BBC Thai, Prachatai
    • One complication occurred when Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok left the protest venue earlier, saying that they are not scheduled to speak on stage. ThaiPBS has reached out and Panusaya said the Free People did not accept the 10 monarchy reform propositions that she introduced.—ThaiPBS and Kom Chad Leuk
    • A group of Thai activists presented themselves at a police station and challenged officers to arrest them on charges over the organisation of protests in recent weeks. There were rumours that 31 protest leaders got arrest warrants. The police said they could neither confirm or deny the rumour.–Reuters
    • Thai people and locals in Taiwan gathered at Taipei main station to concurrently demonstrate with the protestors in Bangkok. People  gathered to protest on dictatorship in Thailand and democracy in Asia. The demonstrators assembled under the so-called ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines) sharing the same mandate in the fight for democracy.–Matichon
  • Prior to the Free People Movement at 3.00pm, around 60 pro-royalists Coordinating Centre for Vocational Students Protecting the Monarchy gathered to  in an attempt to counter an anti-government rally on the opposite side of Ratchadamnoen Avenue. The group dispersed around 4.00pm, leaving some fears of confrontation aside.—all media outlet
    • Building upon the movement, Warong Dechgitvigrom, former royalist Action Coalition for Thailand party’s executive, alerted the media he will establish “กลุ่มไทยภักดี” (Royalist Thai) on this Wednesday.—Krungthep Turakij
  • The government has also responded to the protests
    • Ahead of the protest, the deputy government spokesperson said the PM has instructed police to exercise restraint in response to any provocation by anti-government protesters.—Thai PBS World
    • Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn commented in response to the protestors’ demands that under the current constitution, one-third of the Senates need to vote on the Charter drafting assembly. Or else, there are only two options left: coup d’état and people revolution which would inevitably led to civil war. He said that though he cannot represent all senators, the Senate are ready to vote based on national interests.–Manager
    • This morning, the House Opposition leader handed over an amendment proposal on article 256 to the House speaker.—Naew Na
  • Super poll released its latest study showing that super majority of the people (95.8 %) do not support antigovernment protester making references on the monarchy. Regarding the politician supporters behind the protests: more than half of the people both online and offline thinks that there are politicians manipulating the protestors.—Than Settakij

Opinion:

  • Pro-government media has laid out four scenarios of the Free People Movement:
    • 1. If the government enforce the laws rightly and capture the protest leaders; while the government being able to secure its support, the protestors will escalate with violence. It would end up like a ‘Hong Kong’ model.
    • 2. If the government does nothing, the government will be pressured from the protestors and the Royalist, the PM might need to resign or dissolve the House. But with the lesser support from all sides, including with the devastating economic outlook, it is very likely that the PM will lose. The protestors will reign in power, leading to greater conflict.
    • 3. If the government proposes ‘national reconciliation government’, the protestors will not stop, as the protests aim at reducing the monarchy’s power.
    • 4. If there is an amendment in the constitution, including the parts on blanket amnesty for the 2014 coup-maker; or the parts on the monarchy, this would eventually lead to conflicts and, potentially, a coup d’état.
    • The media quoted a senior source in a security agency saying that the end-game of this protests will lead to election under international pressure, particularly from the US which want to dominate Thai politics to balance Chinese influence.—Krungthep Turakij

Business:

  • The Thailand Elite Card, a residential visa program for affluent expats, investors and long-stay groups is seeing an expansion opportunity.  It is forecasting 2,288 new enrollees in the FY 2020 (ending in September); a 6.8 percent increase from the previous year, with revenue surging by 7.7 percent to 1.4 billion Baht.  Currently, mainland Chinese account for about a quarter of Thailand Elite cardholders.  Next year, the program will target overseas markets as border restrictions ease, including Hong Kong and Australia residents.  Source:  Bloomberg
  • NESDC revealed that Thailand’s Q2 GDP contracted by -12.2 percent YoY, the biggest decline since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis but better than Bloomberg’s forecast of -13 percent contraction.  Export value plunged by -17.8 percent, the lowest since Q2 of 2009, and import by -23.4 percent. Unemployment rises to 2 percent and headline inflation is a -2.7 percent.  In the first six months of 2020, the economy contracted by -6.9 percent.  The 2020 GDP is expected to range from -7.3 to -7.8 percent, with export to contract by -10 percent and investment by -5.8 percent.  Source:  Bangkok Post  NESDC Q2 2020 Report
  • Commerce Ministry plans to seek the cabinet’s approval in signing RCEP in October and have an official sign the agreement in November at the ASEAN Summit in Vietnam.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Labour Ministry plans to send 52,253 Thai workers overseas by September such as the Middle East and parts of Asia.  The Ministry reasoned that Thai workers are in demand because of Thailand’s success in handling the COVID-19 outbreak.  The workers will also generate income for Thailand and stimulate the local economy.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The state-run Government Savings Bank will start accepting vehicles as collateral for the first time in its 107-year history in response to the rise in demands for small-ticket loans.  GSB will also establish a joint venture in early 2021 to tap into the lending business and offer unsecured low-rate loans as part of the government’s move to tackle income inequality.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Tourism

  • Tourism Council of Thailand forecasts that Thailand may not open its borders to international tourists this year and for the number of foreign arrivals to be below 7 million.  TCT urged the newly-established Economic Situation Administration to prioritise relief measures for the tourism industry, such as accessible loans with the government acting as credit guarantor.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Business operators in Phuket are pushing to allow long-stay tourists to resume their visits to in November.  Phuket will pioneer the ‘4T’ model (Target, Testing, Tracing and Treatment), which is designed to balance public health issues with economic recovery.  The group will push for chartered flights to transport the tourists to Thailand, where they will be required to undergo quarantine at the hotel for 5-14 days.  Tourists will also be tracked and authorities will work to ensure public health preparedness and response.  Sources:  Bangkok Post

Phuket is also discussing the travel bubble scheme with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and will start focusing on health and wellness tourism.  It is building a medical plaza, complete with long-term care centre and nursing homes for foreign patients against the scenic setting of Mai Khao beach.  Source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1969267/phuket-sets-sail-for-recovery

  • The Tourism Association of Koh Samui will meet with the CCSA to brainstorm guidelines to allow foreign tourists to visit Samui.  Tourists will be allowed to leave quarantine facility after 14 days, but will have to wear special wrist band when travelling outside. They also urge the government to lower airfare to the island as there is only one airline monopolizing flights to Samui.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Pattaya is shifting its tourism strategy to draw local tourists and improving its infrastructure to prepare for recovery.  It is spending 160 million Baht for landscape beautification on a 4-km stretch of Pattaya beach, due to start in October until year-end.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Australia

  • Six years of Don Pramudwinai as Foreign Minister: a successful tenure for Thai international status. As a seasoned diplomat, FM Don has managed to steer Thailand towards many international issues. On the case of Bahrain football player Mr Hakeem, the media said “at first, the Australian has informed Thailand that Mr Hakeem has Interpol arrest warrant but as the issue has gone viral Australia flipped and blamed Thailand. Australia did not do anything to solve the issue, though Thailand insist that Australia needs to discuss this with Bahrain.”–Matichon
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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