Advance Blog

August 31, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 31 August 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports a newly confirmed cases, a total of 3,412 cases. Out of the total number, 3,252 have been discharged from hospital (at 95.31%); 102 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed case is Thai returned from UK. This is the 98th consecutive day that there is no local transmission in Thailand.

Politics

  • Sunday seen another protest in a contrast political spectrum from the pro-democracy student movements:
    • About 1,200 Thai royalists gathered at a Bangkok Metropolitan Administration owned stadium to support the monarchy. The ‘Loyal Thai’ group turned down the three demands of the younger protestors by counter-proposing no dissolution of parliament, maximum legal action against anyone who seeks to topple the monarchy, with no change to the constitution except via the “proper channel”.—Reuters and all media outlet
    • The former Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvigrom who launched the Loyal Thai Group said that he will be at the Japanese Embassy at 10.30am to hand over the demands to extradite Thai dissent Pavin in Japan to return to Thailand.
  • The issue of Royal Thai Navy (RTN) submarine procurement has a significant development this morning as the government spokesperson informed the press that the PM has instructed the RTN to defer the procurement of the second and third Chinese-made submarine until next year. The PM is scheduled to discuss with relevant Chinese authorities in a Defence Council this afternoon.—Thai Rath
    • Earlier, the House Committee on Budget is scheduled to vote on the approval of the procurement today.—all media outlet
  • The coalition is set to hand over the Charter amendment draft motion to the House Speaker tomorrow. The content of the draft will incorporate the Opposition backed draft: pledge not to meddle with Article 1 (Form of State) and 2 (Monarchy) and the designation of the Constitutional Drafting Assemble to be comprised of 200 members. Out of the total number, 150 are from election; the other 50 are from selection: 20 from appointment by the Parliament; 20 from Thai Rector Council (academia from different fields); 10 from students under 240 days’ time-frame.—Krungthep Turakij
  • A far-right group in Thailand is trying to connect the student protestors and civil rights groups with George Soros and the US government trying to topple the Prayut government and the monarchy in Thailand.–ThisRupt

Business:

Kingsgate/Akara Mine

  • An inquiry panel looking into kickback allegations revealed it found emails indicating that Kingsgate paid bribes to Thai state officials to secure concessions and authorisations for the explorations and operations of its Akara mine in Saraburi, Phetchabu, Phicit and Phitsanulok provinces.  The emails showed the bribery money being wired to Hong Kong and Singapore. This new evidence still awaits verification and is part of the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s (NACC) investigation into the corruption, launched since October 2015. 
  • Industry Minister Suriya confirms that the arbitration process between Kingsgate and the Thai government under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement is ongoing.  The Thai government has set up a 20-member negotiation committee and is hoping to be able to negotiate with Kingsgate separately before the arbitration process wraps up at the end of this year.
  • The media reported that there are indications Kingsgate is keen to resume its operation in Thailand, possibly through joint venture or greenfield investment. 
  • A document circulated on social media showing that the Industry Ministry had allocated more than 111 million Baht in the government’s FY21 budget to pay legal fees for its dispute with Kingsgate.  Industry Ministry insists it has sought this budget allocation for the arbitration process.  Pheu Thai Party called for this budget to be removed, contending that the government has no right to use taxpayer’s money to pay for a decision PM Prayut made unlawfully under military dictatorship regime years back.  Sources:  Matichon newspaper, 30 August and 31 August 2020, ThansettakijBangkok Post

Pesticide Banning

  • Agriculture Minister Chalermchai plans to ask the National Hazardous Substance Committee to review its decision to ban paraquat and chlorpyrifos and allow farmers to resume using them.  In response to this, Minister of Public Health Anutin reiterates his opposition against the use of these pesticides to protect the health of the Thai people.  If the 27-member Committee were to review its decision, there is a possibility the ban will could revoked as Ministry of Public Health has only 2 representatives in the Committee.  Source:  Thai Rath

RCEP

  • At the 8th RCEP video conference last week, ministers from the 16 participating countries reaffirmed their commitment to signing the agreement in November and to welcoming India to return to the negotiation table.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • ASEAN is scheduled to clinch a pact on mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs) for automobiles and building and construction materials next month to reduce production costs and foster trade among members.  The group is also scheduled to implement the ASEAN-wide Self-Certification regime in September, which will allow certified exporters to self-certify the origin of their goods and enjoy preferential treatment.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The government has set aside a budget to repay principal government debt related to COVID-19 at 3 percent of its total expenditure budget, the highest ratio ever, to maintain fiscal 2021 strength.  This is still below the international standard of 10 percent as well as the 3.5 percent standard set by Thailand’s State Financial and Fiscal Discipline Act of 2018.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Following a meeting between PM Prayut and domestic low-cost airlines, the government will make available a 24-billion Baht soft loan to 7 airlines from October onward.  In turn, the airlines have responded to the government’s request that they retain their approximately 20,000 staff through the COVID-19 crisis despite behind one of the hardest-hit industries.  The government is also extending the 50 percent cut in landing and take-off charges as well as air craft storage fee until March 2021.  Source:  Thai Pbs World

Opinion/analysis

  • An opinion piece pondering why freshly resigned economic tsar Deputy PM Somkid’s magic did not cast enough spell effects under PM Prayut, comparing to under former PM Thaksin’s administration. The marketing academia-turned-politician Somkid served both Thaksin and Prayut, but the latter lacked understanding of economic policy. It is likely that Somkid will one day return to political stage.—Nikkei Asian Review

Australia

  • The declassified cable from the National Archives of Australia showed that the current King faced somewhat difficult experiences when studying in Australia in ‘The miseducation of King Rama X’—Sydney Morning Herald
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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