Advance Blog

September 9, 2020
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 9 September 2020

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
    • Today, Thailand reports a newly confirmed case, a total of 3,447 cases. Out of the total number, 3,286 have been discharged from hospital (at 95.33%); 103 are being hospitalised. The death toll is at 58. The newly confirmed case is Japanese national and has been in state quarantine since.

Politics

  • The National Anti-Corruption Commission is pressing allegations of false asset declaration and forest encroachment against vocal Palang Pracharat Party MP Pareena Kraikup.—all media outlet
  • After the weekly cabinet meeting, the PM addressed on the cost of referendum in the ‘new normal’ pandemic as the cabinet has approved a bill to pave the way for national referendum of charter rejig. The Election Commission has informed the cabinet that at least two referendum are required (one on charter amendment process, the other on the approving the new Constitution). The cost of the rejig would be as much as 10 billion THB.—all media outlet
  • There are more developments regarding the Constitution Amendment:
    • Opposition Move Forward Party managed to gather 99 MPs to submit their amendment draft which includes the scrapping of Section 272 (in the 5 years interim period, the PM nomination needs to get more than half of the votes from both Houses). Under the current Constitution, one-fifth of the House MPs is required for any proposal, or at 98 MPs. Out of 99 MPs, 76 are from the Opposition; 16 from Coalition Democrat; one each from seven coalition parties. Interestingly, there are no support from the main Opposition Pheu Thai Party.–Prachachart
    • On the same day, Pheu Thai Party’s chief strategist outlined the party four main criteria for amending the military-drafted constitution, very similar to the proposal of the 99 MPs group. The four criteria includes scrapping the Senator’s authority in voting the PM; scrapping the NCPO junta orders (which grants NCPO full amnesty and superiority over the Constitution); scrapping the Senators’ authority in the countries reforms and in boycotting any legislation; and getting back the two voting card system following the 1997 Constitution. This criteria is different from the party’s resolution earlier that does not touch upon the Senate—Sudarat FB
    • Breaking: At today’s House session, more than 8 MPs (5 from Democrat; and 3 from other coalition parties) pulled out from the Move Forward Party’s proposal with reported pressure from big names in parties.—Thai Rath. This would mean the Move Forward Party proposal is rendered impossible to get to the House. However, the Secretary-general of the MFP said that the Pheu Thai’s yesterday proposal is almost the same as the MFP’s one and MFP MPs will vote for it. If Pheu Thai Party submits their proposal today, the proposal can be discussed and the first agenda could be voted within this House session.—The Standard
    • After the establishment of 60 senators under ‘The Independent’ group who are reportedly supports the charter amendment, but the amendment should be conducted in a section-by-section basis, not all charter by the Constitutional Drafting Assembly, the group seems to be in disarray. Yesterday, the group was scheduled to hold a meeting but ended up with two senators shown up. The Line Group of the 60 senators also witnessed a great exodus as more than half of the group members left the chatroom.—Naew Na
  • There are developments on government mega-projects:
    • After the weekly cabinet meeting, the government spokesperson said that the PM has instructed related authorities to study ‘Land Bridge’ project connecting Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The project under the Transport Ministry includes the development of deep-sea ports in Ranong and Chumphon provinces and constructing motorways and train routes. The Transport Minister said that should the cargo ships from Southern Vietnam use the land bridge service, it could save two days and a half transportation time.—Krungthep Turakij
    • Thai logistics firm Best Group (recently a joint venture with Chinese developer)has submitted their Thai Canal development proposal to the House sub-committee to study Thai Canal, proposing to develop not only the water way but underground city urbanisation. The canal will be 1,000 metres wide and 32 meters deep. The CEO of the firm who is an advisor to the head of the sub-committee said that the development would be beneficial to Thai people.—Than Settakij

Business:

Akara Mine

  • A group of 20 people dedicated to reforming the environment and gold submitted a letter to PM Prayut, demanding that the Industry Ministry revoke the license for Akara Resources Company to operate their mine.  They also demanded that Industry Minister Suriya be removed from his ministerial post as he did not enforce a law to protect gold since it is a commodity that affects the national security.  Source:  Khaosod

Cabinet’s Decisions, 8 September 2020

  • Approved measures worth 23.48 billion Baht to create jobs for 260,000 graduates, with the government paying half of their salaries for 1 year, starting from October 2020.  Salaries are set at 15,000 Baht for university graduates; 11,500 Baht for those with advanced vocational certificates and 9,400 Baht for those with standard vocational certificates.  Eligible employers must be registered with the social security system and must not layoff more than 15 percent of their workforce throughout the duration of the program.
  • Approved in principle measures to stimulate domestic consumption.  However, PM Prayut disclosed that the cabinet did not yet approve of the plan for the 3,000 Baht cash-handout to individual consumers.  Source:  Bangkok Post

Others

  • Alcohol sales via electronic channel is prohibited in Thailand, as published in the Royal Gazette on 8 September.  The ban will take effect within 90 days of being announced in the Royal Gazette.  This includes direct selling, persuading, introducing the product or related services through electronic channels that enable sellers and consumers to complete a sale transaction without physically meeting.   The prohibition aims to prevent youth from having easy access to alcohol.  Source:  National News Bureau Thailand fb page, 9 September, Prachachat Turakij  The Nation
  • Nissan Thailand is terminating the production and distribution of Sylphy, Teana and X-Trail models in Thailand, effective since 1 September 2020.  Nissan’s decision reflects its plan to adjust car manufacturing operation in Thailand in the wake of the pandemic.  Previously, Nissan reiterated that it remains confident in Thailand where it will be moving towards the production of new-generation cars, such as electric and hybrid cars.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The government is revamping the plan to open up Phuket to international tourists after the original proposals drew backlash from the local community.  The plan will be revised and submitted for the approval of the CCSA, CESA and the cabinet this month.  The Phuket Hotels Association said some 86,000 registered rooms in Phuket cannot break even or maintain positive cash flow if international tourists are not allowed to enter, which may result in 50,000 job losses.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Thai National Shippers’ Council (TNSC) urged the government to curb the rising logistic costs.  The international logistics costs for Thai exporters have risen by some 30 percent from July because international shipping lines allocate more containers to goods from China and Vietnam where demands are high.  This means a smaller portion of containers is set aside for Thai goods.  TNSC also calls for the government to expedite the National Single Window System to allow complete submission of electronic documents by traders.  TNSC maintains its export forecast at 10 percent contraction this year.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • The Industrial Promotion Department teams up with the private sector and universities to provide the technologies and know-how for 20 SMEs to upgrade their manufacturing facilities into ‘smart factories’ in accordance with the Thailand 4.0 policies.  The participating SMEs are from the food and plastic sectors.  Source:  Bangkok Post
  • Outgoing Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said public debt restrictions should be eased beyond 60 percent to enable the government to spend more as monetary policy options dwindle with interest rates already at an all-time low.  Source:  Bangkok Post

ASEAN/World

  • In the ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, it is expected that Beijing looks to use infrastructure financing and its vaccine candidates to sway ASEAN members to its side and strengthen its hold on the South China Sea.—Nikkei Asia Review

Analysis/opinion

  • The power of the PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha is built on five pillars: the Military Establishment; the Civil Service, Palang Pracharat Party, the Senate and Independent Organizations.—This Rupt

Australia

The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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