Advance Blog

August 21, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 21 August 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports a newly confirmed case, a total of 3,390 cases. Out of the total number, 3,219 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.96%); 113 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed cases are Thais returned from Singapore. This is the 88th consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.
    • Yesterday, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) held an evening press briefing on the earlier reports of potential resurgence of local COVID-19 transmission. DDC said the lady who has been tested positive also found immunity to COVID-19, meaning that epidemiologically she is not able to spread the disease.
    • The CCSA has decided following the National Security Council’s advice to extend the Emergency Decree for one more month until 30 September for the fifth time, citing the needs for administrative coordination.

Politics:

  • The political temperature on the protestor arrests has cooled down a bit:
    • Yesterday, all nine activists, musicians and student protest speakers who were arrested since Wednesday night until Thursday morning have been bailed out by MPs and academia, on the condition that the arrested does not repeat the same offences.—all media outlet
    • The police chief said that police officers had no choice but to enforce the law and prosecute as protest leaders have broken the law. Police chief said failure to act against the leaders would result in police being charged with dereliction of duty.—Bangkok Post
  • Student protests are still developing their momentum:
    • Yesterday, there were protests in the North eastern provinces of Nakhon Ratchasrima (around 1,000) and Khon Kaen, reiterating the 3 demands; 2 stances; and a dream.–Manager 
    • This evening, a student protest group is calling for the like-minded to flag three fingers salute when standing to respect the national anthem at 6.00pm on every mass transport stations.
    • On countering the student movements, a leader of Provincial Administrative Organization in the North eastern province of Sakhon Nakorn held a session informing the students on the significance of the monarchy who has been with Thai history for 700 years.–Matichon
    • Labour unions of infrastructure state enterprises gathered at the Democracy Monument calling for the protection of monarchy.–Matichon
  • The leader of Progressive Movement Thanathorn, as an advisor to the House Committee to review the budget bill, has pointed out the continual increase of budget earmarked for the monarchy and urging the budget to be cut, citing the economic hardship due to COVID-19.–ThaiPost, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
  • Piyabutr, the secretary-general of the Progressive Movement, spoke at the Parliament voicing his idea on the charter revision. He said that the condition not to touch upon the Article 1 and 2 could lead to constitutional crisis as it is unknown whether there will be anything related to the articles needs amendment. He also commented that it is also untrue that Article 2 has never been amended. He cited the PM who said the King has asked the government and the National Assembly to amend Article 2, according to the King’s wishes, despite the constitution passing through the referendum.—The Reporters
  • The new line-up for the military reshuffle is finalised with a consensus, falling into Army chief’s wishes.
    • It is reported that the PM and Defence Minister has called a meeting for today with leaders of the armed forces, the permanent secretary for defence and his deputy to finalise the selection of new military chiefs.—Bangkok Post
    • The military reshuffle falls into General Apirat who also heads the special task force of Royal Guard 904’s wishes:
      • Gen Chalermpol Srisawasdi, received the special training to be the Royal Guard is likely to be the new Supreme Commander.
      • Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae, also the Royal Guard 904 is expected to take General Apirat’s reign as the Army Chief.
      • However, deputy army chief Gen Natthapon Nakpanich failed the bid to become the next Army chief, despite the PM backing. Gen Natthapon, under Eastern Tiger military clique (which Gen Prayut, DPM Prawit and Interior Minister Gen Anupong is from) is expected to be the new secretary-general of the National Security Council. The ‘signal’ on 12 August has indicated that the Royal Guard 904 should remain in the Army top brass.
      • The monopolisation of Army top brasses to be solely under the Royal Guard 904 section might stir intra-Army conflict.—Matichon Weekly21-27 August 2020

Business

  • The government denies it is on the brink of bankruptcy following the cabinet’s recent approval for Finance Ministry (MoF) to borrow an additional 214 billion Baht to compensate for an anticipated budget deficit.  MoF forecasts that state revenue collection could fall below the target by 9 percent, or 300 billion Baht.  The national budget passed for FY 2020 totals 3.2 trillion Baht.
  • To finance this budget deficit, MoF is issuing 50 billion Baht in savings bonds for sale to the public from next week.  The bonds will be offered in two tranches: 5 billion Baht in 4-year bonds (1.7 percent coupon), and 45 billion of 7-year bonds (2.22 percent coupon), both of which will be on sale from 25 August to 11 Sept. 
  • MoF will sign a contract to borrow 48 billion Baht (USD1.5 billion) from the Asian Development Bank in late August or early September, which constitutes part of the 1 trillion Baht loan decree.  Sources:  The Nation Bangkok Post Thansettakij
  • Commerce Ministry celebrated its 100th anniversary, with Commerce Minister Jurin vowing to develop local economies through e-commerce.  It will also focus on organising interprovincial trade fairs, for which it received a budget of 100 million Baht for FY21.  MoC will also accelerate trade negotiations with Europe, Britain and other potential partners.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • New Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong aims to revive the economy using energy projects, with the Energy for All scheme taking priority.  He instructed state energy agencies to draw up job creation plans, as well as seek ways to ease energy costs and consider measures to peg the cost of LPG and NGV for vehicles in the next 2 weeks.  Sources:  The Nation Bangkok Post
  • Domestic car sales shrank for the 14th month in July, dropping 24.8 percent YoY to 59,335 vehicles due to weakened demand.  From January to July 2020, car manufacturing decreased by 43.7 percent YoY to 695,468 units.  Over the same period, car exports dropped by 37.6 percent YoY to 400,114 units. Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) forecasts that the Thai car industry may take 5 years to recover to pre-pandemic levels.  It estimates that in year 2020, car production in Thailand would total 1.3-1.4 million units.  Source:  Bangkok Post  Bangkok Post Thansettakij
  • The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is in talks with private and state-owned companies to devise ways to create jobs, given that it predicted that the pandemic would cost 7-8 million workers to lose their jobs this year.  FTI also reported that the Thailand Industrial Sentiment Index rose in July for the third straight month, to 82.5 points from 80 in June.  Source: Bangkok Post
  • The Federation of Thai Capital Market Organizations (Fetco) will propose to the Finance Ministry the launch of a fund for government to raise public funds for infrastructure projects without taking on more debts.  Another fund would build new fundraising channels for SMEs that are too small to be listed in the SET stock market.  Asia Plus Securities enthuses that investors are more concerned about political instability than a second-wave of pandemic outbreak.   Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) has unveiled a Thai-made PPE suit that can be washed and reused 50 times, manufactured from recycled plastic bottle materials.  Demand for PPE suits was as high as 35,000 suits per day at the height of the pandemic outbreak.  The GPO has since then worked with local organisations to ensure the PPE suits could be manufactured domestically to ensure sufficient supply.  Source:  National News Bureau of Thailand fb page, 20 August

Australia

  • China’s Ministry of Commerce said it is launching an anti-dumping investigation into some wines imported from Australia.  Australia had the largest share of China’s imported wine market at 37 percent.  Source:  Khaosod newspaper
  • Australia plans to allow foreign students to return to study in South Australia, starting from September.  A group of 300 students mostly from China, Hong Kong, Jpan and Singapore will travel from Singapore to Adelaide at the start of September, where they will under a 14-day quarantine with all expenses covered by the universities.  Source:  Nation TV
  • Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways posted an almost USD 2 billion annual loss after a ‘near-total-collapse’ in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Source:  Bangkok Post newspaper, 21 August 2020

Opinion:

  • Media reported quoting 11 diplomatic officials from 10 countries including members of the European Union, NATO members and Oceania countries that the Foreign Minister and the recently appointed Deputy PM Don have been refusing to meet with diplomats from most western countries outside of courtesy calls. The diplomats said Thai top diplomat has preferred to hold discussions with diplomats from Russia, China, North Korea and other countries more sympathetic to the Thai political situation.—Thai Enquirer
  • With Cold War political orders being outdated, the younger generation is filling in the gap. The conservative-royalist has failed to address is “how much of a mess the Prayut-led regime has made of Thailand’s economy, society and politics. Thailand’s economy faces hard times for years to come, its society is as polarised and divided as ever, and its politics are rigged and manipulated to ensure the same incumbent regime stays in power for years on end.”—Bangkok Post
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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