Advance Blog

January 21, 2021
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 21 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
14212,795619,842 (at 76.92%)8,558
Local transmissionFrom abroadBeing hospitalised/ in field-hospital/ quarantinedConfirmed cases in BangkokDeath tollAccumulated cases from active case finding
88+137 (active case finding) 17 (in SQ)2,882635 [619 reported by BMA yesterday + 16 by CCSA today]714,167
  • The Government Spokesperson said in response to the more relaxed lockdown measures that despite reports on the PM going to decide on easing restriction at the end of January, as of now there is yet a confirmed date on the plenary CCSA meeting.–The Reporters 
  • In a potential new super spreader, a vocal DJ has been tested COVID-positive and the health authority is investigating others who have been in close contact with him. The CCSA spokesperson said the celebrity case is not yet put into today’s COVID report (table above).

Politics

  • After the leader of the Progressive Movement and defunct Future Forward Party came out to raise questions on the preferential treatment of the King-owned pharmaceutical company in the national vaccine strategy and got bombarded by the authority, yesterday the Minister assistants filed legal cases against the critic.
    • Thanathorn was charged with Article 112 lese majeste and for violating the Computer Crime Act. This is, according to Reuters, perhaps the highest-profile lese majeste case since a wave of anti-government protests emerged last year and extended to criticism of the King. Suporn Attawong, vice-minister to the PM’s Office, said the criticism violated the monarchy and hurt many Thai people’s feeling.-Reuters
    • In response to the legal case, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit held a press conference saying that the questions did not target the monarchy, but the government’s treatment of budget provided to the company owned by the King. He tackled PM Prayut who he said has always referred to the King to defend many of his political decisions. He said the charges brought against him are politically-motivated.–The Reporters
  • The issue of the upcoming Bangkok Governor election is heating up again as it is reported in a media quoting a source in the main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) that there is a division within the party on the person who will be filed as the party candidate.
    • On one hand, it is reported that Deputy PM and PPRP leader Prawit and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat are supporting former Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda. Meanwhile, the Bangkok key figure like the Education Minister Nutthapol Teepasuwan is eyeing to file his partner Taya for the Bangkok gubernatorial seat, either as the party candidate or as an independent.
    • The same source said that the Education Minister has called on six party MPs to support his wife’s candidacy. He is quoted saying “I will go meet with the party executive for their resolution to nominate Taya. If the executive does not agree, I will resign from the party and help his wife to run for the campaign starting from February.” The source also said the Minister is going to file Taya as the BMA Governor candidate, even though PPRP is going to nominate Chakthip.
    • Interstingly, Nutthapol is quoted saying “As PM Prayut is not going to run in the next ballot, I don’t know whether there will be PPRP in the next election. I am seeking to establish a new political party.”–PPTV
  • The Lower House approved a law amendment bill that allows women with pregnancies of not more than 12 weeks to get an abortion. The bill also decriminalise doctors who perform an abortion if such conditions are met.–Matichon
  • The government spokesperson said that the National Statistical Office of Thailand’s has conducted a survey which showed that 45.5 per cent of Thai people are very satisfied with the government’s performance and 47.2 per cent of Thai people are very confident with the government performance.–Thai PR Department

Australia

  • The European Commission has chosen Phi Suea House in Chiang Mai for its Hydrogen Valley Mission Innovation platform, which highlights 32 large-scale hydrogen flagship projects around the world. The platform is led by the renewable and clean hydrogen co-leaders, Australia, Germany and the EU.–Nation Thailand

Economic:

  • Parties interested in producing, selling or owning cannabis and hemp will be able to register to do so from 27 January when certain parts of the plant are scheduled to be removed from Type 5 narcotics list.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Thailand’s poverty ratio is expected to increase to 8.8 percent in 2020 (5.2 million people), increasing from 6.2 percent in 2019 (3.7 million people) before falling to 8.4 percent this year (5 million people), according to World Bank’s Restoring Incomes: Recovering Jobs economic monitor report.  This is attributable to the pandemic’s adverse effects on the labour market, in which unemployment was severe in the first half of 2020, with 340,000 net job losses coupled with reduced working hours.  Private sector wage declined by 1.6 percent.  Employment will pick up from 2021-2022, resulting in the fall in poverty.  World Bank suggests the government establishes training programs to improve workers’ skills and provide financial support.
  • World Bank estimates that Thailand’s GDP in 2020 will contract by 6.5 percent.  GDP will rebound to a 4 percent growth in 2021 in a base-case-scenario where the pandemic outbreak is contained and a nationwide lockdown is not imposed.  If a nationwide lockdown is implemented, GDP would be only 2.4 percent in 2021.  In 2022, GDP could grow by 4.7 percent if half of the Thai population is vaccinated in mid 2020 and tourism improves.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Finance Ministry will asses economic conditions over the next 2 months before deciding if more stimulus measures are needed to supplement the cash-handout Rao Chana scheme.  Finance Minister Akhom affirmed that the government can borrow more and that there is sufficient room for disbursement of fiscal stimulus budget.
  • KKP Financial Group adviser, Supavud Saicheua, said the second wave of the pandemic outbreak could shave off 1.5 percent of Thailand’s GDP growth, leading the economy to grow between 2-2.5 percent this year.  The economy would contract for a second year if the pandemic remains uncontrollable in Q2 2021 with the tourism unable to resume.  The second infection wave could also render foreign tourist arrivals to fall to 2 million this year, down from the 6-7 million projected earlier.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to establish a Tourism Fund based on the 300 Baht tourism fee collected from foreign visitors this year.  While the tourism fee has yet to be approved, plans are being drafted for 34 Baht from the fee to be used to provide insurance benefits to international tourists, with the rest allocated to the tourism fund.  The funds could be used to build infrastructure to enhance tourism, which is in line with the government’s Bio, Circular and Green economy.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Federation of Thai Industry forecasts that car manufacturing will increase by 5.12 percent to 1.5 million units in 2021 from 1.42 million units in 2020, on the condition that the pandemic is contained and purchasing power returns.  Although car production in 2020 declined from 2019 by 29.14 percent because of the economic slowdown, domestic car sales in December 2020 increased by 11.3 percent YoY.  It is a good sign that the domestic economy is improving.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Thai large-cap equity funds registered a contraction for the first time in 15 years, with net outflows of 20 billion Baht after the super savings funds failed to attract as much capital as the long-term equity fund.  Overall, Thailand’s mutual fund industry saw a 6.5 percent decrease in net asset value to 5 trillion Baht last year, with net outflow of 280 billion Baht because of the closure of 4 fixed income funds of TMBAM Eastspring.  Source:  Bangkok Post
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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