Advance Blog

July 23, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 23 July 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19
    • Today, Thailand reports eight newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,269 cases. Out of the total number,  3,105 have been discharged from hospital;  106 are being hospitalised (at 94.98%). The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed case Thai nationals returned from Egypt (4), Sudan (2) and the US (2), and have been in state quarantine since. This is the 59th consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.
    • National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) released its latest result a majority are worried there could be a resurgence of Covid-19 because some people fail to take appropriate measures to protect themselves from the virus and there are still infected people arriving from overseas.–Bangkok Post

Politics

  • The cabinet line-up is still on high agenda:
    • Media report that yesterday’s afternoon the PM made call to Mr Suthep, the de facto leader of Action Coalition for Thailand Party (ACT) on swapping the party quota of Labour Minister with Higher Education Minister portfolio.–Naew Na
    • Justice Minister Somsak interviewed on the report that Industry Minister Suriya will not be nominated for Energy Minister as this would mean the main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) will have no political power to bargain for portfolio at all.—Daily News
      • On a somewhat separate yet interesting issue, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC)’ set up a subcommittee to probe into Anongwan Thepsuthin (Somsak’s partner) relating to alleged irregularities in a soil and forest resource project worth 770 million baht when serving as natural resources and environment minister. But his morning the NACC spokesperson said the NACC does not have any knowledge on this.
    • Nation TV reports that Industry Minister Suriya and Government spokesperson Narumon will not be part of the new cabinet as expected and that the highly competitive Energy Minister seat will be allocated to either Mr Pailin or Mr Supattanapong.
    • Siam Rath quotes a source in the main ruling PPRP has submitted three candidacy to the PM for the cabinet line-up without any specific position.
  • University student flash mobs are getting in a full swing:
    • Yesterday, there were student protests in provinces of Maha Sarakham and Chonburi.
    • Media reports that a school in Prae province has issued a warning for students not to participate in political gatherings as the school might not issue graduation certificate for the participants.–Bangkok Insight
    • Bipartisan political parties, including Move Forward Party, Pheu Thai Party, Democrat Party and Bhumjaithai Party urged parliament to engage student activists protesting against the government in a process organised in such a way to allow them to communicate their concerns.–all media outlet

Business

CPTPP

  • The parliament-appointed CPTPP Sub-Committee is preparing to report the progress of its studies to the cabinet after convening 6-7 meetings with stakeholders.  It expresses concerns over the UPOV clause, pharmaceutical patent and ISDS.  It reasons that Commerce Ministry’s studies did not comprehensively study the service and investment liberalization and the impacts on e-commerce, state procurement, social and security.  The sub-committee will continue with its studies to meet the new deadline in September following a 60-day extension.  Source:  https://www.nationtv.tv/main/content/378786342

Others

  • Asia Nikkei Review contends that PM Prayut’s new economic team will be facing the worst downturn since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis since the Thai economy is expected to emerge as Southeast Asia’s worst performer this year (-8.1 percent GDP contraction). The changes in the government’s economic team and central bank Governor will make it difficult for Thailand to navigate 4 economic challenges, namely shocks to domestic demand and tourism, strong currency, high household debt and near-zero interest rate.  PM Prayuth has thrown USD60 billion of stimulus at the economy, but what Thailand needs is a wholesale change in strategy to raise competitiveness and living standards.  A key priority is to diversify the economy away from export/tourism and regulatory changes to build more vibrant ecosystem for startups and unicorns.  Unemployment and corruption remain key concerns.  Source:  https://asia.nekkei.com/opinion/Thailand-s-rulers-must-act-fast-to-reverse-COVID-19-economic-damage
  • A group of 30 farmers rallied in Bangkok, calling for the government to revise its ban on the use of paraquat and chlorpyrifos in agriculture, such as by limiting their usage instead of imposing a total ban.  If the government insists on banning the chemicals, it should ban the import of agriculture products from countries still using paraquat and chlorpyrifos on crops.  Source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1955931/farmers-rally-for-use-of-banned-chemicals
  • Thailand risks dropping to No 5 in rice exports over the next decade if the country does not develop long-term rice strategy.  For short-term strategy, Thailand must invest more in R&D for rice seed development and lower the production cost.  In the long-term, it must overhaul its entire supply chain for the rice industry.  Source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1955959/rice-exports-poised-to-drop-in-next-decade
  • Bad loans at the Export-Import Bank of Thailand (EXIM Bank) rose by almost two percentage points in the first half from the end of 2019 as Thai export is ravaged by the pandemic.  Its NPL stood at 6.37 percent of total outstanding loans in June, a surge from 4.6 percent at year-end 2019.  EXIM bank forecasts that Thai export will contract by 8-10 percent.  Source:  https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1955919/exim-bank-sees-npls-increase-from-2019
  • New business registration in June reported a 3 percent YoY increase (totalling 5,731) due to the easing of the lockdown.  The top three sectors for new registrations were building and construction (612), real estate (217) and logistics services (188).  The number of businesses that ceased operation in June totalled 1,336, a 6 percent increase YoY, mainly in building and construction, real estate and management consulting services sectors.  For the first 6 months in 2020, the number of business registrations totalled 33,337, down 13 percent YoY.  Source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1955947/business-registrations-up-in-june
  • The Digital Government Technology & Innovation Center (DGTI) was launched at Kasetsart University’s Si Racha campus in Chon Buri.  It is a collaboration between the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) and Kasetsart University. DGTI would serve as a main channel for matching digital innovations and government agencies to explore new technologies that would enhance their administration and services.  Source:  https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1955975/dgti-seeks-to-bolster-digital-state
  • Thailand’s commercial banking sector reported a drop in aggregate net profit for both the second quarter and first six months, mainly from higher provisions set aside to cushion against rising NPLs.  Combined net profit was 30.4 billion baht in the second quarter, down 41 percent year-on-year. First-half combined net profit was 77.2 billion baht, down 27 percent year-on-year.  Source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1955943/net-profits-dip-as-loan-buffers-spike
  • Chiang Mai is promoting its image as a medical hub and wellness city in the post COVID-era.  It has over 1,534 hospitals, medical facilities and elderly care centres, spas, product and academic centres.  It also more than 150 long-stay and tourism wellness operators and accommodations that are well geared to attract affluent tourists who can generate 30 billion Baht annually for the local economy. Source:  https://www.prachachat.net/local-economy/news-494498
  • Gold price has climbed by more than 22 percent YTD from the end of 2019 as the precious metal is among safe-haven assets for investors to hedge against downside risks and geopolitical uncertainty.  Silver climbed to the highest in almost seven years.  Source:  https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1955955/prices-pick-up-for-3rd-straight-day-closing-in-on-all-time-high

ASEAN/World

  • A somewhat critical piece against “Five Eyes Network” as an attempt to create “World Government”.–Manager Online
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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