Advance Blog

January 26, 2022
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 25 January 2022

News

Newly confirmed casesTotal CasesDeath tollHospitalised/ intensive care patients
6,178 (152 from aboard; 69 from prisons), excluding 2,032 ATKs2,384,639 (last seven days: 53,006)12 (last seven days: 101)81,532/ 548
Total vaccination1st dose vaccine recipients (from 28 Feb)2nd dose vaccine recipients (from 28 Feb)3rd dose vaccine recipients (from 16 July)
112,759,859 (+288,356)52,088,514 (+22,996)48,208,002 (+47,236)12,463,343 (+218,124)
  • The PM is leaving for the official visit to Saudi Arabia, the first time in more than three decades. The PM said before the departure that this is trip will be a great opportunity in restoring the sour relations between the two Kingdoms. The PM said that the trip will be an opportunity to discuss with Riyadh and will lead to the set-up of working panel in allowing the Thai labour to return to work in Saudi Arabia.—Krungthep Turakij
    • The Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Don gave an exclusive interview with Matichon on the PM official visit that the visit is happening due to the 6-year ongoing works. Thai top diplomat said that Prime Minister Prayut is key to making the visit happening. Don said that the two nations will go beyond the past conflicts and will focus on the future relations.–Matichon

Politics

  • The expulsion of 21 MPs led by Thammanat from the main-ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) has led to various development:
    • The government whip said that said that the coalition is at critical level as the coalition has only around 20 seats more than the majority. The government whip said that the coalition must work with the Opposition when the House is going to elaborate on the organic laws in relation to the electoral systems.—Krungthep Turakij
    • The Deputy PM and PPRP leader General Prawit said that the party has filed the expulsion to the Election Commission and has affirmed that the coalition remains stable despite losing 21 seats.—Krungthep Turakij
    • PPRP spokesperson said that despite the expulsion, the party remains united and will nominate General Prayut as its PM candidate in the next general election. The party spokesperson stressed that the relation between the PM and the PPRP leader remains warm.—Krungthep Turakij
  • The PPRP leader encountered with the hijack from student-led protestors for the first time when campaigning in the Laksi District in Bangkok. General Prawit was greeted with two main figures of the student protestors who showed three fingers salute—the symbol against the government.—Channel 7

Economic

Cabinet’s Decisions, 24 January 2022

  • Renewed the 4th phase of Finance Ministry’s Khon La Khrueng co-payment subsidy scheme from 1 Feb – 30 April with a budget of 34.8 billion Baht.  This time, the total subsidy granted is 1,200 Baht per person (maximum 150 Baht per person per day), down from the previous subsidy of 1,500 Baht per person.  Finance Ministry dismissed news that the government is broke, instead reasoning that the reduction is because average spending per head per day in previous phases was below the target, at only 158 Baht.   Sources:  Prachachat Turakij
  • Set aside 8.07 billion Baht to fund measures to strengthen the purchasing power of 13.5 million low-income earners state welfare cardholders and 1.35 billion Baht to 2.25 million vulnerable people.  They will receive cash handouts of 200 Baht monthly, from February to April. Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Approved of including chicken and chicken meat on the state price control list to help lower people’s living cost.  Cabinet also approved of extending price controls for another year on 4 products: face masks; synthetic fibres used in face mask production; products using alcohol as ingredients for hygiene; and waste paper and recycled paper.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • The Bank of Thailand (BOT) is deliberating on allowing the use of stablecoins to pay for goods and services for some use cases.  BOT is drafting the rules governing the use of digital assets, which are expected to be implemented in the near future.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) met with Dr Kobsak Pooltrakool, chairman of the business regulation reform a subcommittee set up by PM Prayut.  It was reported that the Regulatory Guillotine project had made significant progress.  In FY2021, the project had successfully tackled 424 processes and is working on another 514 processes.  Of these 514 processes, about 378 laws and regulations related to the hiring of foreign workers and the promotion of tourism businesses are currently being revised.  JSCCIB has asked the government to delegate more budget and manpower for the Regulatory Guillotine project in a bid to improve the Ease of Doing Business.  JSCCIB also proposed that further changes be made to help the economy recover from COVID-19, such as improving regulations to promote SMEs and startups; medical tourism & eco-tourism; e-commerce; the reuse and recycling of products and to revise immigration procedures to attract migrant workers.  Source: Post Today

Akara Mine

  • Australia’s Kingsgate Consolidated Limited notified the Australian Stock Exchange on 19 January that it had received from the Thai government 4 outstanding mining leases required to re-open the Chatree Gold Mine.  These leases comprise 3 Chatree South leases and 1 Quartz Lease.  The leases are in force for a period of 10 years, commencing 31 December 2021.  Kingsgate also advised that all the necessary steps for the renewal of the Metallurgical Processing License (MPL) are complete and approved.  These approvals now enable the Chatree Gold Mine to re-open and work is being finalized on the CAPEX required for the re-start.  Source:  Isara News  BBC Thai  Kingsgate Press Release
  • All eyes are now on the TAFTA arbitral tribunal, which will hold the award on the Akara Mine case on 31 January 2022.  This BBC report explores the 3 scenarios of the tribunal’s decisions.  The report also chronicles the events leading up the TAFTA arbitral tribunal.  Source:  BBC Thai
  • The Civic Group for Reform of Resources and Gold is looking to pursue legal actions against The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on the grounds that DSI has been negligent and has also been covering up its investigations on Akara Mine irregularities.  The group also wants to pursue legal actions against the Ministry of Industry for granting the mining leases that will allow Chatree Mine to reopen.  The group had also travelled to the Government House to petition the government to appoint Vicha Mahaguna to investigate DSI’s misdoings.  Sources:  Isara News Agency Nation TV

January 31 last year marked the 5th year in which Akara mine was ordered shut by PM Prayut’s then military regime through Article 44.  Despite news that the Thai government had granted Kingsgate the mining leases to reopen Chatree Mine, an undisclosed source claims that there were no movements to prepare the mine for the reopening because of the massive amount of funding required.  Villagers living in the mine’s vicinity is said to want the mine to re-open because it is a source of their income.  Source: Daily News

News

Newly confirmed casesTotal CasesDeath tollHospitalised/ intensive care patients
7,139 (195 from aboard; 20 from prisons), excluding 2,629 ATKs2,384,639 (last seven days: 53,225)13 (last seven days: 107)82,485/ 550
Total vaccination1st dose vaccine recipients (from 28 Feb)2nd dose vaccine recipients (from 28 Feb)3rd dose vaccine recipients (from 16 July)
112,471,503  (+588,908)52,065,518 (+49,456)48,160,766 (+101,051)12,245,219 (+438,401)
  • The government spokesperson said that the PM has concern over the perilous fine PM2.5 dust will spike from 25 to 28 January 2022. The Pollution Control Department warned people of doing outdoor exercise and activities.—Thai Rath

Politics

  • After having been rumoured over the weekend as the PM has ordered to change the weekly cabinet meeting from Tuesday to Monday, the government announced that the PM will travel to Saudi Arabia on an official visit to restore the bilateral ties on 25 to 26 January. The PM will travel to the middle eastern kingdom at the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia downgraded its diplomatic relations with Bangkok following the theft in 1989 of around $20 million of jewels by a Thai janitor working in the palace of a Saudi prince, in what became known as the “Blue Diamond Affair”.–Reuters
  • After much speculation and PR attempts, the opposition Move Forward Party has decided to file its MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn as Bangkok Governor Candidate. The vocal MP has vowed to be ready to fight for Bangkok residents on every circumstance.
    • Despite being regarded as the last remaining choice for the party’s candidate, Wiroj gave an interview to the media dismissed the reports that he was just the last choice of the party where no other figures were willing to step-in.—Inside Thailand
  • The Digital Economy Minister is tested Covid-positive. The minister who concurrently is taking the post of director of Bangkok by-election said that he has mild symptoms and is hospitalised. The minister said that he will work remotely.–Matichon
    • The government whip proposed with the House Speaker to halt the House meeting after the Minister and main figure in the PPRP is contacted with the pandemic.—Krungthep Turakij
  • After Thammanat brought 20 other MPs out of the PPRP, it is highly expected that the ‘Thai Economy Party’ will hold its meeting to determine the party’s strategy and policy by early-February.—Krungthep Turakij
    • The Deputy PM and Democrat leader said that the exodus of Thammanat and 20 other MPs will have an impacts on the coalition. The Democrat leader did not  make comment on the possibility of the House Dissolution.—Krungthep Turakij
    • The deputy government whip revealed that the 21 MPs have expressed their intention to join the coalition side.—Kom Chad Leuk  
  • There have been two major figures in the PPRP have expressed their intention to resign from the main-ruling party.
    • Sodsri Sattayatham, former Election Commissioner, has expressed her intention to resign citing personal reasons.—Krungthep Turakij
    • Ruangkrai Leekijwattana, legal advisor of the party, has submitted his resignation letter. Ruangkrai has not made his decision on whether to join Thammanat new party.—Krungthep Turakij
  • The PM on Friday opened the song “Let’s not surrender” during a meeting, signalling that even after he is facing political pressures, he will not surrender. Aom Sunisa, the singer, posted on her FB with a name of a song ‘Let’s Step Back’.—Thai Rath

Analysis/ opinion

  • Inside Thailand regarded the expulsion and the form up of a new political party led by Thammanat as a ploy to ‘escalate’ himself as a coalition party (from a PPRP member). Thammanat has gained political capital as a result. Inside Thailand outlined that there are four scenarios from the PM perspective:
  • Cabinet reshuffle: This means the PM is willing to give concession to Thammanat in an attempt to cling to power until APEC or until the House terms.
  • House Dissolution: With the coalition in jeopardy, the PM can dissolve the House soon and put the Thammanat’s game in his own hand.
  • Resignation: There are two possible explanations for this. The PM is giving up (which is less likely) or the PM is confident that even after resignation he can secure the vote to be back with the refreshed political mandate. 
  • ‘Thai’-styled solution, potentially with Constitutional Court verdict to dissolve some (Opposition) parties. This will make it impossible for any faction to take over the majority votes in the House.–Inside Thailand
  • Wassana Nanuam, an Army reporter, has a theory that Thammanat’s expulsion is Deputy PM and PPRP leader General Prawit’s plan which just arose days after the double losses in the by-elections. Wassana said that the ‘Thai Economy Party’ will be Prawit ‘own’ party which does not need to share the political base with the PM. But as the PM sent the strong signal that he will not do the cabinet reshuffle; or house dissolution, it is likely that the 21 MPs under Thammanat will join the Opposition in the votes. Wassana said that house dissolution can occur either before or after the organic laws are finalised. If it is before, the PM aims to strip Pheu Thai from its two ballot system-its forte. If it is after, it will surely be before May when the Opposition can file a censure debate which it is very likely that he will lose in the vote.–Ring Side 
  • Krungthep Turakij outlined three significant moments this year which could bring the PM to a political check-mate. 
  • The first is when the House is going to vote on significant bills, including the two organic laws expected to be in the House in late January and the 2023 budget bill expected in May. If the coalition could not secure enough votes, the PM has two options left to either resign or dissolve the House.
  • The second is the censure debate which could be filed anytime when the House is in the next session (from May). If the coalition cannot secure enough votes, the PM and the government will be out of power. 
  • The third is in August when the Opposition will file the complaint to the Constitutional Court on the tenure limits of eight years. General Prayut staged a coup back in 2014 and was appointed by the King as Prime Minister on 24 August, his tenure limit will be until 23 August. This is up to the Constitutional Court to decide.–Krungthep Turakij 

Australia

Economic

Long Term Resident Visa Package

  • CESA convened a meeting to discuss the details of the Long Term Resident (LTR) visa on Friday and had left 3 topics pending, namely 1) the raising of foreign ownership quota for condominiums to be above 49 percent; 2) extending property leasehold rights for foreigners from 30 to 50 years and 3) allowing foreigners to have land ownership of 1 rai for residential purposes.  Topics 1 and 2 solicited strong opposition from the Interior Minister, who objected that the existing conditions are appropriate.  If they are changed, the move could draw strong political oppositions.  CESA had only approved of topic 3 and had instructed the Land Ministry to conduct a feasibility studies and revert back with implementation details in 2 months. 
  • The Board of Investment (BOI) is currently drafting an announcement to pave way for the enforcement of the LTR visa.  BOI expects to submit the announcement for the cabinet’s consideration within January 2022.
  • Immigration Bureau will draft an announcement to exempt LTR visa holders from the 1:4 foreign: Thai worker quota after the Interior Ministry formally rolls out the scheme by publishing its announcement in the Royal Gazette.  Sources:  Krungthep Turakij  Bangkok Post newspaper, 22 January 2022
  • In the past 2 weeks, the government has been tackling the problems of rising commodity as well as fuel prices.  Bank of Thailand surmised that while such inflation will not lead to an economic recession, it could dampen prospect of Thailand’s economic recovery.  TDRI noted that even though prices are increasing, household income remains the same and inflation is also exacerbated by shortage of pork supply and rising oil price.  Ministry of Energy promises it will keep the price of diesel oil to 30 Baht per litre, while Ministry of Finance and Bank of Thailand will work to maintain inflation to be within the range of 1-3 percent.  Source:  Krungthep Turakij newspaper, 24 January 2022
  • While economists agree with the government’s attempt to curb inflation by offering discount scheme on essential commodities and food, they also urge the government to implement other measures concurrently, such as increasing minimum wage and doing capacity building activities for SMEs.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • Thailand’s export increased by 17 percent to reach 271 billion USD in year 2021, exceeding Commerce Ministry’s (MoC) target by 3-4 percent.  This is attributable to MoC’s proactive online marketing strategies and new market penetration through mini-FTAs; the recovery of global economies and weak Baht.  For December 2021, export grew by 24.2 percent (worth 24.9 billion USD) due to the expansion of agricultural good exports (+21.1 percent), for example Durian (+871.4 percent); agricultural industrial goods such as sugar (+123.9 percent) and industrial goods such as cars and automotive parts (+45 percent).  Export of rubber and pharmaceutical products also performed well.  In 2022, Thailand’s export is forecasted to expand by 3-4 percent, valued at 2.79-2.82 million USD due to the enforcement of RCEP and high demands for electronic equipment as digital economies proliferate.  Source:  Krungthep Turakij  Bangkok Post
  • Ministry of Industry expects the 2022 PMI index to see a 4-5 percent expansion and industrial GDP to expand by 2.5-3.5 percent.  This is made possible by the resumption of the Test & Go scheme, which is anticipated to draw foreign investments into the Eastern Economic Corridor.  Industry Ministry will also promote BCG industries.  For domestic investment, Industry Ministry is promoting bio-industries, which already drew 4 projects with investment worth 10.9 billion Baht.  In the pipeline are additional 5 projects, with investment value totalling 160 billion Baht.
  • Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is helping over 2,500 automotive manufacturers in Thailand transition into Electric Vehicles (EV) manufacturing.  The transition towards EV is expected to result in 700-800 of the total of 2,500 automotive and parts manufacturers divesting from the market. 
  • The Revenue Department is conducting a public hearing on digital asset tax, but expects the package to be finalised by the end of January to coincide with personal income tax payment deadline of 8 April.  Source:  Matichon newspaper, 24 January 2022

PM Prayut has confirmed Thailand is ready to host this year’s APEC meeting, with the overarching theme of BCG Economy.  Recently, the government and Thailand’s APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), organised an APEC Workshop on “Enhancing Green MSMEs’ Competitiveness for a Sustainable and Inclusive Asia Pacific: Food Sector Waste Reduction in Food Supply Chain”.  Source:  National News Bureau of Thailand  Bangkok Post

The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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