Advance Blog

February 23, 2021
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 23 February 2021

News

  • TRAFFIC ALERT: There will be a protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection from 5.00pm. Police has advised road users to avoid the intersection from 3.00 pm.
  • Updates related to COVID-19:
Newly confirmed case(s)Total CasesProvinces with confirmed casesDischarged from hospitalFrom 15 Dec, totally confirmed cases
9525,5996324,446 (at 95.50%)21,362
Local transmissionFrom abroadBeing hospitalised/ in field-hospital/ quarantinedConfirmed cases in BangkokDeath tollAccumulated cases from active case finding
93 [52 (get tested in hospital) + 41 (active case finding)] 2 (in SQ) 1,070952 (+2)83 (+0)14,448
  • The Royal Gazette published the CCSA order rearranging the COVID-19 zoning areas into the following:
    • Controlled area-8 provinces (Bangkok, Tak, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Ratchaburi, Samut Prakarn, and Samut Songkham)
    • High surveillance area-14 provinces, including Kanchanaburi
    • Surveillance area-54 provinces, including Chiang Mai and Phuket–Ratchakitcha
    • Samut Sakhon remains the maximum and strict controlled area.—National News Bureau of Thailand
  • The CCSA plenary meeting headed by the PM approved the lockdown easing measures. The proposal will need to be stamped by the cabinet today. The new measures are as followed:
Zoning/businessesRestaurantsClubs and PubsMallsEducational institutionsGyms and outdoor sport venues
Maximum and strict controlled areaUntil 9.00 pm (dine-in ok, no alcohol allowed)Not allowedUntil 9.00 pm (no events allowed)Only onlineNot allowed
Controlled areaUntil 11.00 pm (dine-in ok, alcohol allowed)Until 11.00 pm (alcohol allowed, live music allowed, no dancing)Business as usualBusiness as usualBusiness as usual (with limited audiences)
High surveillance areaUntil midnight (dine-in ok, alcohol allowed)Until midnight (alcohol allowed, live music allowed, no dancing)Business as usualBusiness as usualBusiness as usual (with limited audiences)
Surveillance areaBusiness as usualBusiness as usualBusiness as usualBusiness as usualBusiness as usual (with limited audiences)
  • The Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) secretary-general has approved the emergency use of Chinese-produced Sinovac vaccine. The first batch of 200,000 vaccine will arrive Thailand with a cargo flight from Beijing on 24 February.–Prachachat
  • Thai top public health official said the PM vowed to be the first volunteer to take the vaccine jab. The PM was reportedly told Deputy PM and Public Health Minister Anutin that despite being older than the recommended age of 60 years old, the PM would like to boost public morale. Minister Anutin clarified later that the PM will take the Astra Zeneca, not the Sinovac one.—Thai PBS
  • Thailand is opening its doors to tourists under the special COVID arrangements:
    • The first batch of 41 Korean tourists under Golf Quarantine scheme arrived Thailand yesterday and will be in Artitaya Golf & resort in Nakhon Nanok province.–Prachachat
    • The first batch of 51 tourists under Villa Quarantine scheme arrived Phuket international airport and will take the quarantine in the posh Sri Panwa Resort.–ThaiPBS

Politics

  • The PM affirmed again that the result of the no-confidence vote does not affect the prospect of cabinet reshuffle and urged the media to stop stirring the conflict.—Siam Rath
  • At the Criminal Court, four main figures of the protest were, yet again, denied bail on lese majeste, sedition and violating the Emergency Decree.—Thai Post
  • Media with sharp eyes report on the campaign banner of former Police Chief Chakthip being erected in front of the former Palang Pracharat Party headquarters. Chakthip candidacy is under fierce competition with Taya Teepsuwan, partner to the Education Minister to be the party candidate in the upcoming Bangkok gubernatorial election.–PPTV

Analysis/opinion

  • As the ousted and self-exile former PM Thaksin Shinawatra made his debut on Club House last night discussing about his past successes, media regarded the recent moves by the controversially ‘beloved’ PM as part of the bigger political ploy.
    • Armed forces journalist Prachaya Nongnuch regarded Thaksin’s intentional ditching on comments regarding the monarchical reforms as a sign of excluding Move Forward Party and its progressive agendas. The journalist hinted (yet again) on the potential union of Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharat Party as Thaksin is helping to present Pheu Thai as economic-oriented party, avoiding to touch upon the ‘sensitive’ issues.—Prachya Nongnuch
    • The club house session was a re-branding attempt to revitalise Pheu Thai party. The –Inside Thailand
  • The so-called “Three Deputies” group, comprising of Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat, Deputy Finance Minister Santi and Deputy Labour Minister Narumon, is gaining the status of the largest wing in the main ruling PPRP. It is believed that Thammanat has made political allies with 40 PPRP MPs, 10 minute parties and vote-turning MPs from Pheu Thai Party. The three deputies are eyeing to be appointed ministers in the next cabinet reshuffle. It is reported that Thammanat is eyeing to get the Digital Economy Ministership to fulfill certain agendas he shared with former Police Chief Chakthip (who is announcing to run for the Bangkok Governor).—Krungthep Turakij

Australia

  • A week after the premiere screening at the Australian Embassy and there are more commentaries on the event:
    • Veteran media on regional affairs Kavi Chongkittavorn wrote an opinion piece outlining the deeper and wider bilateral cooperation historically and contemporarily, despite Thailand continual struggles on democratic process in the last three decades. The premiere screening was a historic milestone and that the Royal Visit was “the first time in the annals of Thailand’s external relations that a monarch had visited a foreign mission.”.—Bangkok Post
    • Former Reuters correspondent and prominent anti-monarchist commentator Andrew MacGregor Marshall drew upon the ABC and Sydney Morning Herald pieces to criticise the Embassy for holding the event to please the monarch who is under protests’ criticisms. Marshall cited embassy sources saying that the Embassy developed the documentary trying to repair the dissatisfaction from the Palace following Australian media report 60 Minutes. The author pointed out that as there was no announcement of certificate in the documentary, rather a commission as a captain, it could mean the King did not graduate. The article ended with the sentence “Drawing attention to this embarrassing episode so publicly may end up doing the embassy more harm than good.”—Secret Siam
  • Ambassador McKinnon was quoted elaborated on the scope of the power of the Australian human rights commission in a report that the Thai Senate is trying to revive the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)’s power to mediate conflicts associated with rights violations.—Bangkok Post

Economic:

Australia (TAFTA, Akara Gold mine and others)

  • Ministry of Agriculture disclosed that some 161.79 million Baht was allocated to the FTA Fund to improve the entire value chain associated with domestic beef industry.  This move was made in preparation for the influx of Australian beef that will enter the Thai market following the elimination of Special Safeguard on Australian beef imports under TAFTA, effective since 1 January 2021.  The Department of Livestock will carry out this work to ensure there is a market for Thai beef and a price that is above the market average.  Source:  Naew Na
  • The Industry Ministry said that it did not grant 44 Special Prospecting Licences to Akara Gold mine to settle the arbitration with Australia’s Kingsgate Consolidated.  The SPL applications were old requests lodged since 2003 – 2004 that the Thai government did not process until policies on gold mines were finalised.  Moreover, the SPLs granted Akara the permission to only explore gold and silver; not to resume its mining operations.  Industry Ministry affirmed the decision was lawfully made and the government is not using Thailand’s natural resources in exchange for Kingsgate dropping the case against Thailand.  Source:  Thai Rath
  • Facebook has told Australia’s Federal Government it will return its site to normal and unblock Australian news organisations after Josh Frydenberg agreed to make changes to new laws targeting the platform.  Source: J.S.100 News Centre

Others

  • The Excise Department had signed an MOU with the Board of Investment to share their information through a digital system, starting from 1 April.  The BOI’s e-Monitoring and e-tax systems allow the investors to submit a single set of documents.  The BOI will pass on the documents to Excise Department to quickly grant the appropriate tax incentives to eligible applicants.  Sources:  Matichon Prachachat Turakij
  • The Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) of SMEs peaked in Q4 of 2020, particularly the tourism businesses that are hit hard by the pandemic, according to the Bank of Thailand (BOT).  Gross SME NPLs (stage 3 loans) in the commercial banking sector was 6.84 percent of total outstanding SME loans in Q4 2020, a rise from 6.52 percent in Q3.  Gross NPLs in the commercial banking sector was 3.12 percent of total loans in Q4 2020; a drop from 3.14 percent in Q3.  As such, BOT is not concerned about overall NPLs managed under commercial banks’ debt relief measures because the assistance provided is granted on a case by case basis.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) emphasised that the government must have a clear plan on vaccine passport by June if it wishes to reopen to the international market by Q4 of 2021.  Long-haul tourists have shown interest in returning to Thailand if inoculation will allow them to forego the 14-day quarantine mandatory requirement.  TAT will get to test the concept of ‘area quarantine’ after the first batch of arrivals that went into ‘villa quarantine’ in Phuket on 21 February.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Domestic car sales in Thailand declined by 21.3 percent in January 2021 to 55,208 units from last year due to the resurgence of the pandemic.  Passenger car sales decreased by 44.2 percent, commercial cars by 5.4 percent and pickups by 9.6 percent YoY.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Some 7.1 million had registered for the COVID-19 financial relief effort (Mor 33 Rao Rak Kan) for employees covered by Section 33 of the Social Security Act as of yesterday, which is the second day of registration.  This 77 percent from the total number of eligible Section 33-registered employees (9.27 million).  Those whose registrations were rejected could appeal on 15 March.  Finance Ministry also reported that 651,633 people have registered offline for the Rao Chana cash handout on Sunday.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is warning Thai exporters to brace for non-tariff barriers, likely to be imposed by developed countries on their products, if Thailand fails to increase the proportion of renewable energy in its energy portfolio.  Source:  Bangkok Post
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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