Advance Blog

January 18, 2021
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 18 January 2021

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
Newly confirmed case(s)Total CasesProvinces with confirmed casesDischarged from hospitalFrom 15 Dec, total confirmed cases from clusters
36912,423619,206 (at 74.10%)8,186
Local transmissionFrom abroadBeing hospitalised/ in field hospital/  quarantinedConfirmed cases in BangkokDeath tollAccumulated cases from active case finding
82+275 (active case finding)12 (in SQ)3,147588 [575 reported by BMA yesterday + 13 by CCSA today]703,982
  • After media reports of Cambodia receiving free vaccine from China and the side-effects of vaccine candidates around the globe, the PM came out to assure the people via his FB Page that he has been placing Thai people’s safety beyond the speed of getting vaccine and that he will not allow Thailand to be experimental site of any vaccine. His policy will be to wait until the vaccine candidate is proven to be safe enough to be used with the Thai people.—Thai Rath
  • The developer team of ‘Mor Chana’ COVID tracing application that Thai health authority has been promoting as a step-up measure from ‘Thai Chana’ platform told the media that they are going to detach themselves from the application in two weeks. The ‘Code for Public’ group told the media that their involvement in developing the application is on a voluntary basis and that the reasons they are resigning are first, the pressures and interventions from senior officials (Ministerial, Permanent Secretary and Director-general levels) aiming to get a total control of the application and the second reason is the inaction from a department in elevating the risk level of the confirmed case. The developer team said they feel ‘depressed’ with the so-called senior people in the administration who despite facing an unprecedented crisis such as this, still place the well-being of the taxpayer at last.–Prachachat

Politics

  • The political conflict began to heat up again as
    • On Friday, after protestor guard who was summoned by the police on the lese majeste turned out not to be in the area on the day, protestors who were present to show support replaced national flag with a cloth with the sign 112 defying the royal defamation law on the flag pole in front of the police station.—Thai Post
    • The Police Chief said that the action is highly unacceptable and said the police has been instructed to avoid the use of force as much as possible, but he thinks if necessary, the force must be used. The Police Chief said whatever will be will be and that the police will not desert each other.—Thai Post
    • On Saturday, at the Victory Monument a group of student-led protest gathered to attend a symbolic gesture writing down their feeling on 112 metre-long cloth (Lese majeste is Article 112 of Thai Criminal Code). The police cited violation of Emergency Decree, raid in and apprehended protestors.–Matichon
    • In response, the protestors called for gathering at Sam Yan Intersection and the riot control police went in and apprehend four protestors. A bomb-like sound was heard at around 6.00pm. There were 4 injured.—Thai PBS
    • Deputy Metropolitan Chief gave an interview with a media that now the police has got the CCTV footage of the Thai-Japanese bridge and are investigating on the pipe bomb incident. The police said that at the times the bomb was thrown, most of the motorbikes on the Thai-Japanese bridge are protestors.—Inside Thailand
    • On Sunday, some protestors gathered in front of the Internal Security Operations Command to call for the immediate release of a protestor guard whose last post was ‘Help Me’ and his account was later used by someone who claimed to be from the ISOC. The chat also showed that the alleged user said do not report this to the police or your friend will be disappeared.—Khao Sod
    • ISOC spokesperson said that in the primary probe the ISOC does not have anything to do with this abduction.–Matichon
  • Main Opposition Pheu Thai has shown yet the other sign of intra-party crack as Yutthapong Jarassathian, deputy party leader who is assigned to be the leader of this censure debate has failed to inform other party big names on the meeting on 15 January to submit names of ministers to be grilled in the upcoming no-confidence motion. The Opposition whip, a vocal politician who led the party’s committee on special affairs and MPs who are close to former Chief Strategist Sudarat are reportedly kept out of loop. And other MPs who wish to join the censure debate did not send information to MP Yutthapong for fear that the agenda and name lists will be leaked to the government.—Than Settakij
  • Former Pheu Thai Chief Strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan affirmed again on Sunday as she and her team went to a site visit and help out people in a local community that she will not join Deputy PM Prawit to set up a new political party as many reports indicated. She said that her stance has been to stand up against dictatorship and with the democratic side.—Krungthep Turakij
  • The news on Bangkok Governor is back on bulletin as former Police Chief Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda opened his FB account with more approachable persona. Media reported that there have been 10 potential candidates who are going to run for the gubernatorial seat:
    • Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda- former Police Chief (as main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) candidate; or Independent)
    • Taya Teepasuwan-partner of the Education Minister(as main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) candidate; or Independent)
    • Watanya Wongopasi-PPRP MP (as main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) candidate; or Independent)
    • Sakol Pattayakul-deputy Bangkok governor
    • Chadchart Sittipunt-former Transport Minister (Independent)
    • Sudarat Keyuraphan-former Pheu Thai Chief Strategist (Independent)
    • Ariya Banomyong-former LINE MD and Chanel 3 TV (Kao Klai Party)
    • Rosana Tositrakul-former Senator (Independent)
    • Tom Kruesopon-businessman and political lobbyist (Independent)
    • Suchatchavee Suwansawas-Recotr of King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (Independent)—Krungthep Turakij

Analysis/opinion

  • In relation to Chaktip’s intention to run for the Bangkok Governor:
    • It is reported that Pol Gen Chaktip was selected by Deputy PM Prawit to be the main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) candidate. However, the Pol Gen has been facing opposition from the ‘Bangkok faction’ in the party, led by Education Minister and Digital Economy Minister who are eyeing to file Taya Teepasuwan (partner to the Education Minister) for the gubernatorial seat.—Inside Thailand
    • The same information is reported in the other media saying the ‘Bangkok faction’ of the party does not feel at ease with DPM Prawit’s decision. However, it is with a high possibility that the Pol gen might run as an independent, considering the legal complications as former Police Chief and Senator. Should the PPRP does not file any candidate, it is a battle between Chaktip and Taya and a big loss for the main ruling party.—Krungthep Turakij

Economic:

  • The Thai government’s plan to spend 1.2 billion Baht to purchase 2 million doses of CoronaVac; the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Chinese company Sinovac has raised eyebrows.  This is because Thailand’s conglomerate CP Group recentlyacquired a 15 percent share in Sinovac through its Hong-Kong based pharmaceutical arm, Sino Biophamaceutical.  A source from CP Group dismissed the speculation that CoronaVac could have control the Thai market in the future, contendingthat the Thai government is purchasing a small number of CoronaVac compared with other countries.  The source also said CP Group’s 15 percent share acquisition makes it only a minority shareholder and that the move is likely to be for investment purpose.  The Office of the Trade Competition Commission reiterated it is following this deal closely because details of the acquisition is not publicly disclosed.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Bank of Thailand has yet to release its official revised GDP forecast for 2021 following the resurgence of COVID-19, but had made projections based on 3 scenarios.  In the first scenario, GDP is likely to grow by 1.7 – 2.2 percent if the outbreak is contained in 2 months through the current measures and partial lockdown.  In the second scenario, GDP would see a 0.7 – 1.2 percent growth if a nationwide lockdown is imposed.  In the worst-case scenario, GDP growth could range from -0.8 to 0.2 percent if the government implements more stringent measures coupled with a nationwide lockdown.  These forecasts are a departure from the central bank’s original estimation of a 3.2 percent GDP growth for 2021.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • DPM and Energy Supattanapong asserted that the fresh wave of pandemic infection will affect Thailand’s economic growth in Q1 of 2021.  However, he is optimistic that annual GDP growth would remain at 4 percent in accordance with NESDC’s forecast last year, because the vaccine will be rolled out and international tourists start to return in April.  Source: Bangkok Post
  • Thai Rice Exporters Association expects rice export will reach 6.5 million tonnes at best in 2021; up from its original forecast of 5.8 million tonnes which would have marked the lowest figure in 20 years.   The gloomy forecast is the result of low domestic rice production that further pushed up the price of Thai rice in the international market, consumers opting to buy cheaper rice such as those from India and the problem of shipping container shortage.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Ministry of Industry (MoI) aims to launch a new soft loan programme for SMEs this week through its SME D Bank.  Businesses are split into 3 groups based on the level of assistance needed, the first group being the petroleum and jet oil industry that are seriously affected, with growth expected to decline by 10-15 percent from 2020.  The second group is are steel, automotive, canned food and fashion that is estimated to grow by 0.5 – 1 percent.  The last group comprises the best performers, namely the home appliances, electronic and medical products that are anticipated to grow by 5-10 percent.  Last year, SME D Bank had allocated 40 billion Baht in soft loan to SMEs.  Source:  Bangkok Post
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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