Advance Blog

August 24, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 24 August 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports two newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,397 cases. Out of the total number, 3,222 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.85%); 117 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed cases are Thais returned from India and Qatar. This is the 91st consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.

Politics:

  • Submarine became a heated debate as last week the House’s budget scrutiny sub-panel voted to approve the Royal Thai Navy’s procurement for 2 Chinese-made submarines.
    • Thai Royal Navy will hold its press conference this afternoon to lay out its rationale for the procurement.
    • On Sunday, Pheu Thai MPs claimed it now has evidence to prove that the Thai-Chinese government-to-government procurement contract is invalid, since navy chief who signed on behalf of Thailand had no authority to represent the government and the Chinese company which signed the contract was also not representing the Chinese government either.—all media outlet
  • The issue of student protests are still on high agenda.
    • Higher Education Minister said on Sunday that about 60 students, who are the presidents of student councils at various universities, will be the first to be invited to present their opinions on setting a roadmap for the future of Thailand.—ThaiPBSWorld
    • An MP from Democrat Party as the deputy head of special committee to listen to student’s demands said that during a discussion on a setup of online poll to survey student’s opinion, deputy permanent secretary of the Education Ministry said they has discussed this with Ministry’s executives and that the ministry has long known what the result of the poll will be. The senior official also said that we all knew in our guts that the students are not as naïve as they portray themselves to be.—Thai Post
    • Last Friday, royally established Rajini School issued a statement preventing students from expressing political opinions.  This morning some student representatives with signature of hundreds of alumni handed over an open letter requesting the school to be more politically neutral, citing that a group of alumni used to be part of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. –Thai Rath
    • An opinion survey by the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, or Suan Dusit Poll showed that more than half of the samples (almost 200,000) said the Free People Movement are making demands as allowed in democracy and that more than 60 percent of the samples agree with the protestors’ demand on amending the Constitution.—Suan Dusit Poll
  • The movement to ban sponsors of hard-line pro-government Nation TV is developing as some brands have announced that they withdraw from the sponsorship.—Channel 3

Business:

  • Thailand’s export in July 2020 declined by 11.37 percent to total 18.8 billion USD, while import declined by 26.4 percent to 15.5 billion USD.  Commerce Ministry enthused that Thailand’s export is showing signs of recovery after nosediving in June.  Exports that performed well in July are food products, work from home items/home electrical appliances, COVID-19 related products and hedge assets, ie: gold.  Overall, export in the first seven months of 2020 contracted by 7.72 percent.  Source:  Ministry of Commerce Press Release
  • Bank of Thailand with financial institutions and banks launched DR BIZ Program, a mechanism to help businesses classified in the NPL segment with multiple-creditors restructure their debts.  A lead creditor will be assigned to coordinate with other creditors through common debt work out practice as mutually agreed by all creditors.  To assist the debtors, creditors could employ instruments such as extending repayment period, lower instalment payment and adjusting repayment plan.  In its first phase, the program starts from 1 September.  Eligible debtors are the businesses impacted by COVID-19 with credit lines across all financial institutions in the range of 50 – 500 million Baht.  Sources:  Bank of Thailand press release Bangkok Post
  • Bank of Thailand disclosed that Thailand’s commercial banks are financially sound.  The central bank asked financial institutions to run stress tests, with the results showing that lenders possess sufficient capital to cope with a ‘severe crisis’.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Tourism and Sports Ministry’s Phuket Model will be the first to trial the new Safe and Sealed plan, whereby alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotels can jointly provide a restricted 1-kilometre space for international arrivals over two weeks.  Thailand has to risk reopening borders to tourists with this pilot project in October, or else its economy may not recover.  If the first international arrivals to Phuket complete their trips without local transmissions, Thailand will be ready to seize the long-stay market in the upcoming high season.  Source: Bangkok Post
  • In an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post, Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong said the government’s priority is to assist redundant workers and rehabilitate the tourism sector. The goal of the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) is to create 1 million jobs, partly to be funded by the 400 billion Baht economic and social rehabilitation budget and the 3.3 trillion Baht budget set for FY21.  In the medium and long terms, the government will focus on introducing measures to attract investments, particularly the S-curve industries to be in line with the post COVID-19 environment.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Critics query if the CESA is a front for business lobbyist to influence government policies rather than an entity dedicated to public interest.  Although the economy is ravaged more by COVID-19 than the student-led protests, domestic political uncertainty has undeniably rattled investor sentiment in the capital market.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • State-owned Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation has approved 57 billion Baht worth of loan guarantees for SMEs qualified under the Bank of Thailand’s soft loan scheme.  However, the SMEs have yet to receive the soft loans because of the concerns financial institutions have with non-performing loans.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Chinese investors are accelerating their investments in aluminium smelting factories in Thailand as China can no longer import aluminium from the US due to the trade war.  China envisages Thailand as a new location for smelting aluminium, which will be re-exported back to China as well as sold to the domestic market.  Communities in Chonburi province are complaining that these Chinese factories have created pollution, while the private sector is concerned over the prospect of Chinese dumping their products into the Thai market.  Source:  Prachachat Turakij
  • Thailand’s Durian export in the first six months of 2020 grew by 72.6 percent, valued at 1.41 billion USD.  This is partly due to the strong demand from China, where export rose by 140 percent, valued at 1 billion USD.  Thailand is also a monopoly supplier of Durian to China, which leaves little room for other countries to compete.  Source:  Trade Policy and Strategy Office press release
  • Industry Ministry believes Thailand will maintain its status as a major car production base in the post pandemic period, with the Japanese carmaker Nissan relocating production from Indonesia.  This results in Thailand becoming Nissan’s sole production base in Southeast Asia, where it eyes manufacturing both electric and hybrid cars.   Source: Bangkok Post

Opinion:

  • Bhumjaithai party is playing a double game, as there is a rumour that in the next cabinet reshuffle the PM would like to get the Transport portfolio, currently under Bhumjaithai’s,  back to be under PM’s direct quota. The move of the second largest coalition party to call for Charter amendment is to threaten the PM that the 61 seats party would leave the coalition.—Nation Weekend
  • The next mass protest that Thammat and Protest group is calling on 19 September will be a significant juncture for the next political movements to come. Historically, the conflict or coup usually happen in September or October as the bureaucratic retirement tenure, including the military is until 30 September.—MCOTคุยรอบทิศ

Australia:

  • Where are Prayut’s children? Became heated hashtag on Twitter as some anti-governments are questioning the money Prayut’s children are using.  Reference to Australia has been made as it is reported that the PM’s twin daughters are studying in Australia.
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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