Advance Blog

August 26, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 26 August 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports a newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,403 cases. Out of the total number, 3,229 have been discharged from hospital (at 94.91%); 115 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed cases are Thais returned from Oman, Turkey, Indonesia, and the US. This is the 93rd consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.
    • Yesterday, the cabinet has sealed its stamp on the fifth extension of emergency decree, citing the need for administrative collaboration.—all media outlet
  • The PM said that following the advice of The Centre for Economic Situation Administration, the government aims to introduce ‘villa quarantine’ and wellness tourism as soon as October in a bid to revitalise the tourism sector. The PM added that domestic tourism alone could not help sustain a sector that account for a significant proportion of the country GDP.—The Standard
  • On Tuesday the criminal court in Bangkok approved a new arrest warrant for Vorayuth Yoovidhya, Red Bull heir, on a previous charges of reckless driving causing death and a new charge of drug use. Last month, Thai authorities dropped the case, sparking across-the-board criticism against the government and legal apparatus.—all media outlet

Politics

  • The Facebook decision to limit the access of ‘Royalist Marketplace’, a million member group with content critical to the Thai monarchy from users in Thailand has witnessed a swift U-turn as the social media giant plans to sue the Thai government.
    • The self-exiled academia Pavin Chachavalpongpun at Kyoto University interviewed with international media: NHK; Channel News Asia, criticising the geographical blockade as the impediment of Free Speech. He also boasted that the new group witness 500,000 members within a day.
    • The PM spoke in the press briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting that Facebook must abide by Thai law and that he was not fazed by the social media giant’s threat to sue the government for blocking access to accounts deemed defamatory to the monarchy.—Bangkok Post
    • The Digital Economy for Society Ministry alerted the press that they will hold a press briefing on the Facebook legal action against Thai government today at 11.30am
  • The issue of submarine procurement is still on agenda:
    • After passing through a slim majority on the sub-committee vote, today the committee scrutinising the budget bill for the 2021 fiscal year will cast a vote today whether to proceed with the procurement:
      • There are 72 members on the committee [18 from Cabinet; 30 from the Coalition; 24 from the Opposition]. The budget will be approved should they get the majority of the vote.
      • Within the Coalition quota, 13 belongs to Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP), 7 from Bhumjaithai Party; 6 from Democrats Party; one each for four smaller coalition parties. Deputy chair of the committee from Bhumjaithai Party gave a brief interview with a media saying that the party will vote based on the best of the people’s interest.—Inside Thailand
      • Yesterday, Democrat Party announced that they demands the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) to defer the submarine procurement. If there is no review, its MPs in the committee scrutinising the budget bill will veto the purchase.
      • On calculation, should the votes from Democrat and Bhumjaithai side with the Opposition, the procurement will not pass.
  • The opposition is in conflict on the constitutional amendment:
    • As the main opposition and biggest party in the House Pheu Thai Party casted a party vote on the charter rejig, 99.99% of its MPs turned down the Move Forward Party proposal to amend the constitution with scrapping the Senator’s power in voting for the PM, citing that doing so would mean one-third of the Senators, as indicated under the current Constitution, would surely not vote for the amendment.—all media outlet
    • The Move Forward Party held a press conference this morning saying that the party is siding with the idea of establishing Constitutional Drafting Assembly, but the party thinks that the Senate as hand-picked by the junta (now the PM) does not reflect the democratic polity. On the issue of the feasibility of amending without the Senate’s green light, the party said currently the constitutional amendment high-tide is not from the government or the Senate but the protestors. The protestors will pressure them to vote to scrap the Senate. –Move Forward Party FB
    • A source in the main ruling Palang Pracharat Party told a media that the cabinet wants to hold on to the senate as long as possible and will negotiate around the issue as they see the upper house as vital in their plans to prolong their rule.—Thai Enquirer
    • PM Prayut reiterated that he has no objection to amending the constitution, saying a rewrite has been on his government’s list of priorities since taking office.—Bangkok Post
  • The issue of student protests are still on bulletin:
    • Parit ‘Penguin’ Cheevarak, one of the student protest key figures announced earlier last night that he will hold a press conference at Alliance Française Bangkok today, but he posted again later saying that there are some misunderstandings with the venue, the new location will be announced.
    • ‘Bad Student’ Group who has organised a gathering in front of the Ministry of Education earlier last week announced that they will hold another mass gathering on 5 September, the venue will be announced.
    • In a movement seen as Thai ‘cancel culture’, an online campaign has been trending for the past week to boycott all Thai celebrities, who participated in the PDRC protests. Famous transgender TV personality Ornapa “Ma” Krisadee was forced to give up her job as co-host of two popular TV programs, as she was seen posting harassing comments against the student protestors (“Keep playing with your [expletive] at home. Don’t go to school, you demon kids,”).–ThaiPBSWorld, Thai Enquirer
      • In a related development, there has been the same cancel demands for the sponsors of hard-line pro-government Nation TV with some sponsors publicly announced that they either has suspended the sponsorship; or will review the sponsor policy more carefully.
    • On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Thai Bhakdi (Royalist Thai) announced through its Facebook page that they will organise a gathering on 30 August in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Business:

Cabinet’s Decisions, 25 August 2020

  • Funding worth 1 billion Baht will be allocated to the National Vaccine Institute to support the domestic development and production of vaccines against Covid-19 and other diseases.  The fund will come from emergency budget set aside for 2020.  Source:  The Nation  Bangkok Post
  • Agreed to upgrade the “Rao Tiew Duay Kan” (We Travel Together) tourism stimulus scheme by extending the period of subsidised stays for each traveller from 5 to 10 nights and the airfare subsidy support from 1,000 Baht to 2,000 Baht.  The original We Travel Together package received a low uptake, where only 660,000 of the 5 million nights of subsidised accommodation offered by the scheme have been booked by travellers since July.  Source: The Nation
  • Approved a 5.4-billion-Baht budget to develop a Sustainable Manufacturing Centre in the EEC.  The centre is conceived to develop aviation, robotics and artificial intelligence, healthcare, biotechnology and other industries within the EEC. 
  • Valued-added tax will be kept at 7 percent for another year to September 2021 to reduce living costs and lift business confidence.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Approved the Fruit Board’s proposal to provide 3.44 billion Baht in aid to longan farmers this year. The farmers will be paid 2,000 Baht per rai per household for up to 25 rai.  Source: The Nation

Infrastructure & EEC

  • The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is drafting a blueprint and preparing cost estimate to build the second phase of the high-speed train route in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) for the cabinet’s approval in 2021. If approved, the SRT would hold bidding in 2024 and services could commence in 2028.  The route stretches 190 km from U-Tapao Airport in Rayong province to Trat province.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Transport Ministry plans to accelerate spending on roads and rail projects in FY21 starting this October to spur the economy.  These include plans for domestic transport network, highway network connecting with neighbouring countries and high-speed rail connecting to China.  The challenge is the actual disbursement, wherein disbursement rate this fiscal year up to mid July was just 37 percent.  Critic notes that public spending has declined in recent years and the government is now focused on providing short-term boost to the economy.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • Commerce Ministry aims to raise Thailand’s international trade value to become Asia’s top 5 by 2027, up from 8th ranking in 2019, by focusing on value-added industries such as digital, food and healthcare. To achieve this, Thailand needs to fetch at least USD12 billion in export value a year.  Key drivers are the government’s policy to support S-curve industries in the EEC and Thailand’s capability in containing pandemic outbreak. MoC is also working on short, medium and long term strategic plans to seek new markets and diversify its products.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The floods hitting several Northern provinces have worsened the tourism outlook in Sukhothai as local travellers cancel trips to the area. Thai Hotels Association’s lower northern chapter said more than 30 percent of hotel bookings were cancelled due to the flooding, even though the deluge did not affect all parts of the province.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Commerce Ministry revealed the top 10 business sectors that have proliferated as a result of COVID-19, based on the number of new business registrations from January – July 2020.They include manufacturers of hygiene products and rubber pharmaceutical products;wholesale medical business; sanitization business; e-commerce; electronic equipment and parts wholesale business;building cleaning businesses; software; logistics; general wholesale business; and auditing and tax advisory business.  Source:  Thai Government FB page, 26 August

Australia & FIRB

  • Australia said Tuesday it “would be contrary to national interests” to allow a Chinese firm to buy a major dairy producer, the latest sign of souring relations between the two countries.  It is referring to the USD 430 million sale of Lion Dairy and Drinks (owned by Japan’s Kirin) to Mengniu Dairy, although the Chinese firm has already pulled out of the deal.  Earlier this year the Australian government moved to tighten rules covering foreign investment in the country.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Opinion/analysis

  • Former ‘Royalist’ PM Anand Panyarachun expressed his opinion towards the student protest’s dream of having a truly constitutional monarchy. The former premiere said this series of protests is not distinguished to Thailand, rather a global phenomenon. Anand said he thinks that now the issue of monarchy has already been one of the public issue for discussion. Even though he said the ‘dream’ might not simultaneously translate into reality, he called for restraints from both sides. In his words, he said that government should act more like the young and the young protestors should act more like an adult.—The Standard
  • The conflict between the Pheu Thai and Move Forward Party showed that the two biggest opposition parties have different visions on how to settle the current political conflicts. With Move Forward’s press briefing today, it might mean that the progressive Move Forward party might choose the path of independent Opposition.—Nation Weekend
  • International security specialist from Chulalongkorn University Professor Surachart Bamrungsuk criticised the RTN’s rationale of procuring the submarine for South China Sea conflicts is not sensible as Thailand is not part of the disputes. Even in the scenario of potential major powers’ trade blockade in the region, it is way beyond Thai military capability to counter that. The security academia said that RTN has the largest standing Navy personnel in the region (69,000 against Indonesian Navy at 65,000). Plus, Thailand is the only country with aircraft carrier which could already secure naval dominance. The professor said he saw no need for the procurement now and does not foresee any security threat without it, unless the procurement deal needs to be sealed before someone retired this September.–PPTV
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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