Advance Blog

September 3, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 3 September 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports two newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,427 cases. Out of the total number, 3,277 have been discharged from hospital (at 95.62%); 92 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed case are Thai returned from the US and Indonesia. This is the 101st  consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.
  • Major international media has reported on His Majesty the King order on 28 August to reinstate his royal consort (returning the military ranks and royal titles) to the immaculate Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi a year after she fell from grace by trying to elevate herself to “the same state as the queen”. Historically, Major-General Sineenat was the first person to given the royal consort title in almost a century.–Reuters, AP, BBC, The Guardian, South China Morning Post, Bloomberg, Asian Nikkei Review, Aljazeera, Channel News Asia
    • The implication of the royal order against the backdrop of the student protests’ minor demand in reforming the monarchy.—Sydney Morning Herald

Politics

  • After much speculation of the political future, the Police Chief has announced in a gathering event that he is going to run for the Bangkok Governor after his retirement in the end of September. It is expected that the top law enforcer will run under the nomination of either Democrat Party or as independent. The capital governorship has been appointed by PM Prayut during military government using Article 44.—Inside Thailand
  • After the resignation of the Finance Minister Mr. Predee Daochai amidst the economic turbulence, the PM has assured the people in his press briefing that the government will still be able to work because regulations are in place to govern the running of the country and that he is still taking the lead of the country’s economic team.—all media outlet
  • There are more complementary theories on why the Minister resigned from his post, despite a more official reason citing health issues:
    • Intra-ministry conflict with his Deputy Minister on the nomination of the director-general of the Excise Department.—Neaw Na, Bangkok Post
    • Deputy PM and main ruling Palang Pracharat Party’s leader Gen Prawit would like to support Deputy Finance Minister Santi to replace Mr Predee and to nominate the former government spokesperson and current Deputy Labour Minister Narumon to replace Santi as Deputy Finance Minister.—Siam Rath
    • A big name in the Finance Ministry has asked all State-owned Banks’ board to submit the letter of resignation without stating any particular reason. The Finance Minister did not agree on this, leading to his resignation.—Than Settakij
    • Predee Daochai was forced to sign the extension of concession for BTS to operate its main Green Line without any price competition. The operator of a main mass transport system in Bangkok has got the green light from the Interior Ministry to extend the concession without any auction, but failed to obtain the freshly resigned Finance Minister’s blessing in the weekly cabinet meeting last Tuesday.–ThaiPBS
    • The attempt to get rid of Predee is to replace the portfolio with someone who is ‘easier to control’, orchestrated by ‘Vajiravudh clique’ with one of the PM’s inner circles. The close aide to the PM is reportedly cited the PM, asking the Finance Minister to appoint someone in PM favour for higher positions in the Ministry. The PM; however, was left in the dark on this matter. The close aide, since serving times in the Army with the PM, is now working for a businessperson aiming to steer the Finance Minister post into the business’s interest. The report said that the conflict between the main ruling Palang Pracharat and Predee is just a façade for a political scapegoat. Vendetta from Deputy PM Prawit’s gang is looming large.—Voice TV
  • Minute coalition parties came out to support the PM to take the Finance portfolio and give the Defence Minister seat to Deputy PM and Palang Pracharat Party’s leader Prawit.—

Business:

Akara Gold Mine/Kingsgate

  • Local communities in Chantaburi province will convene on 4 September to protest against attempts by entities to operate mines in the province.  The move came after provincial authorities notified the local community on 27 August that a land survey will be conducted for a gold mine operation as requested by Richphoom Mining company, a subsidiary of Akara Resources and Australia’s Kingsgate companies.  Local communities fear that the gold mine will damage the environment and affect their agricultural produce, citing Akara Gold Mine as an example.  Source:  Nation TV
  • The Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand debunked the rumour that the Thai government has lost the  arbitration process with Akara Gold Mine.  Source:  Matichon Weekly

Economic Stimulus Package

Others

  • Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) has approved a new 45 billion Baht stimulus package.  This will involve giving out 3,000 Baht of cash electronically to 15 million Thai adults, which will generate 90 billion Baht for the economy and boost growth by 0.25 percent.  The cash must be spent within 3 months to buy necessities from outlets that have registered to join the program.  Spending is capped at 100-250 Baht per head per day, with the government subsidising 50 percent of the spending.
  • CESA did not approve of the Phuket travel bubble model.
  • CESA also approved a 23-billion Baht employment package targeted at 260,000 new graduates, starting from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021.  The funding for this package will come from the 400-billion Baht loan borrowed by Finance Ministry.  The government will bear 50 percent of the graduates’ salaries, with the rest paid by their employers on the condition that employers do not lay off more than 15 percent of their current workforce. The pay is capped at 7,500 for university graduates.  The private sector queries the effectiveness of the scheme and prefers that the government not allow any lay-offs at all.  The government will also organise the Thailand Job Expo 2020 job fair at the end of September.  Source:  Thai PBS WorldBangkok PostBangkok Post
  • Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has given assurances that the abrupt resignation of Finance Minister Predee Daochai will not affect investor confidence, saying he will do his best as head of the economic team to steer the economy forward.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • Bloomberg notes that although Thailand marks 100 days without any local virus cases, it is a bittersweet milestone since the country now faces the dilemma of balancing public health with economic survival.  Thailand’s success relies on months-long closure of its borders – a strategy that came at great cost for one of the world’s most tourism-reliant economies.  Thailand’s other economic pillar, namely manufacturing, has also been battered by a global sump.  Economists said the government must now focus on reviving the economy, since that business exit and workforce cuts could curb Thailand’s long-term growth by 0.5 percent.  The government has in principle agreed to open to tourists, but has yet to release the details.  Source:  Bloomberg
  • Reuters reported that a selloff in the baht, underperforming stocks and pressure on the bond market reflect growing concern from global investors over political instability and the growth outlook in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.  While Thailand is suffering its deepest economic contraction in two decades, it is also facing a student protest movement and disruption to its policy following the resignation its Finance Minister Predee.  Widening corporate credit spreads, as investors demand a greater premium for lending to Thai firms, is signalling creeping default risk.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Exporters are being urged to maximise the use of existing free trade agreements (FTAs) to boost export of medical supplies, particularly for syringes and medical needles in the wake of the pandemic outbreak.  Commerce Ministry said Thailand has high potential for syringe export as it ranks number 1 for syringe production in ASEAN and number 6 in the world.  In the first six months of 2020, Thailand exported medical needles and syringes worth USD 200 million, up 10.6 percent YoY.  Demand is anticipated to surge further once a vaccine is developed.  Source:  Bangkok Post

ASEAN/World

  • The Thai authority’s aspiration to connect the Indian Ocean with the Thai Gulf (to South China Sea) would put the Thai Canal under the global and regional geopolitical confrontations. The Thai Canal would fit into Beijing’s ‘string of pearls’ to push for strategic dominance in the region and to deter Indian naval presence. The Canal might also jeopardise the territorial integrity of Thailand, separating the conflict-ridden most Southern provinces and the rest of the country. The report also said that should Bangkok turned hostile against Beijing, it is feasible that Beijing will support Southern insurgency to seek independence, which is ultimately against Bangkok’s interest.—Foreign Policy

Australia The Embassy organised-Old Masters art exhibition is on display at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre from today until 13 September on 5th floor, curved wall.—Siam Rath, Krungthep Turakij

The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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