Top Story of the Week: Thai Economy Continues to Be Stable
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Thailand is “not likely” to stop imports of U.S. beef at this time, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said, reversing comments the trade group made yesterday following last week’s case of mad cow disease.
“There’s a good chance Thailand will stay open,” Joe Schuele, a spokesman for the Denver-based group, said in a telephone interview. “We don’t think that market will close. It just appears that whatever thoughts they had about closing appear to have subsided at this time.”
Defense & SecurityGovernment workshop seeks fresh insight, cooperation to resolve southern violence, MCOT News, May 1
The government would hold a workshop on May 17 to integrate work of 17 ministries to better resolve southern violence after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra admitted the lack in solidarity in taming violence in the southern region, according to Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa.
Gen Yuthasak told reporters after today’s weekly Cabinet meeting that the prime minister assigned him to oversee the integration of all agencies to ensure they foll ow the government's policy and strategy. The premier wants unity in tackling southern security problems during the next two years, 2012-2014, and wants to see planned policy implemented, he said. The strategy of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Organisation would be combined into a unified operation.
It is necessary for the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) and Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) as well as other agencies to integrate their work in order to tackle problems in the restive South, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Sunday.
Ms Yingluck made the comment after a meeting with government officials from all units and community and religious leaders at the forward headquarters of the Region 4 Internal Security Operations Command at Sirindhorn camp in Pattani's Yarang district. The prime minister said she listened to a situation briefing, exchanged opinions with those attending the meeting, and took the opportunity to stress the need for all to comply with His Majesty the King's advice to adhere to the principle of sufficiency economy and take care of the people through peaceful approaches.
Disaster & Flood RecoveryMore rainmaking launched as drought bites in North, The Nation, May 2While many parts of Thailand suffer from heat and drought, authorities have launched rainmaking operations in the lower northern region to assist farmers.
Kitti Thupsri, technical specialist at the Phitsanulok rainmaking operation centre, said yesterday that since March the centre - covering seven lower northern provinces - had dispatched 137 rainmaking flights using 150 tonnes of chemicals which induced 32 days of rain and helped many farmers.
However, as the drought becomes more severe farmers - especially those growing rice, corn and sugarcane - are calling for more rainmaking operations. Kitti said the centre, that can send out two to three plane flights a day, yesterday dispatched aircraft to spray raininducing chemicals in Tak, Phitsanulok and Khamphaeng Phetch. He said if the drought remained severe, the rainmaking operations would need to continue until October.Thai Parliament hosts ASEAN parliamentarians at disaster management meeting, MCOT News, May 1
The Thai Parliament today welcomed the 4th ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Caucus focusing on natural disaster management and the readiness of the regional bloc for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.
Parliamentarians from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries are meeting April 30-May 3 at the Imperial Queen's Park Hotel in Bangkok. House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont who presided at the official opening ceremony today said AIPA has worked shoulder to shoulder with ASEAN and the gathering this year would be an opportunity for the member countries to strengthen multilateral cooperation in building regional potential to respond to natural disasters.
A new water foundation to help in water management has been established, with His Majesty the King’s donation of 84 million baht to the start-up fund. The Secretary-General of the Chaipattana Foundation, Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, serves as Chairman of the new organization, named “Utokapat Foundation under the Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King.”
The Director of the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute, Mr. Royol Chitradon, said that the royal donation was granted following a request by the institute, which is a public organization under the Ministry of Science and Technology. His Majesty also allowed the use of Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut, the Great Crown of Victory, as the logo of the foundation. Mr. Royol said that the Utokapat Foundation will work with various water-related agencies in handling water management in Thailand appropriately, in line with the conditions of each area. During the severe flooding in Thailand in 2011, the country’s water management faced a problem and needed to be improved for greater efficiency. The Utokapat Foundation also serves as a water research agency and provides financial support for water research projects.
The Thai economy continues to enjoy stability after its economic performance in the first quarter of 2012, especially in March, showed positive signs.
Director-General of the Fiscal Policy Office, Somchai Sujjapongse, said that despite positive signs, Thailand needed to monitor the risk situation closely, as a consequence of the European debt crisis and the slowdown of the Chinese economy.
Although the situation was starting to affect Thai exports, he believed that the Thai economy would continue to show an upward trend. Another supporting factor is that the Government has implemented several measures to stimulate investments and build confidence among both investors and consumers. In this regard, the Fiscal Policy Office expects that the Thai economy in 2012 will expand by 5-6 percent, as earlier predicted.
The Central Wage Committee on Wednesday voted by a majority not to postpone the planned increase in the daily minimum wage to 300 baht per day in the 70 remaining provinces, set for Jan 1 next year, as proposed by the employers' representatives.
The daily minimum wage has already been increased to 300 baht in seven provinces - Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom and Phuket - since April 1. The government plans to increase the minimum wage in the other 70 provinces to 300 baht per day from the New Year.Foreign business approvals up, The Nation, May 2Approvals for foreign companies setting up businesses in Thailand last month jumped 63 per cent year on year to 31, bringing in initial investment capital of Bt1.65 billion as well as creation of 400 jobs.
The figures indicated high investor confidence in the country's strong economic growth, according to a report released yesterday by the Business Development Department. Newly set-up foreign firms in April dropped 3 per cent from March in terms of volume, but rose by Bt1.09 billion in terms of initial capital investment, thanks to the fact that many of the new businesses are involved in financial services.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand are receiving a major boost, as the Cabinet has approved measures to assist them.
The Cabinet, during its meeting on 24 April 2012, gave the green light to the measures, proposed by the Ministry of Finance. The measures seek to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs by supporting production development and enabling them to have access to funding sources. They also aim to reduce production costs following an increase in the daily minimum wage. Financial assistance and tax breaks under these measures are also intended to help SMEs affected by the severe flooding in 2011.
The Government is stepping up efforts to build economic confidence in the three southern border provinces, namely Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said that the Government is accelerating mega-projects to develop infrastructure as part of an economic stimulus package in the deep South. The statement was made during his visit to Yala on 28 April 2012, when he attended a dinner talk on economic confidence in the three southern border provinces. The event was organized jointly by the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center and the Yala Chamber of Commerce in order to restore confidence of southern investors and business people. More than 1,000 entrepreneurs and officials in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat took part in the event.
The Labour Ministry will monitor the cost of living over the next three months to determine if any additional adjustment is needed to the minimum daily wage.
From April 1, workers in seven provinces have already earned at least Bt300 (S$12) a day thanks to a significant hike pushed by the Pheu Thai-led government and approved by the Central Wage Committee. And the daily minimum wage will soar to Bt300 in 70 other provinces from next January. And the daily minimum wage will soar to Bt300 in 70 other provinces from next January.Workers gather to mark Labour Day, submit 9-point petition to PM, MCOT News, May 1
Hundreds of Thai workers gathered at Royal Plaza in Bangkok this morning to mark Labour Day before proceeding to Sanam Luang for the annual rally, when plan to submit a nine-point petition to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra demanding an improved standard of living. The petition includes a demand that the government speed up Thailand’s process of adopting the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise; to establish an unemployment insurance fund, and to set up an institute to ensure safety, occupational health and environment in the workplace.
Financial ServicesBoT keeps policy rate unchanged, Bangkok Post, May 2
The meeting of the Bank of Thailand's monetary policy committee on Wednesday decides to keep the repurchase rate unchanged at 3.00 per cent, in line with the market's expectation.
The panel will also review its previous gross domestic growth projection for 2012 following the better and faster than expected economic recovery in the first quarter of the year.
Reports said the central bank's committee will also monitor the economy and stands ready to revise the key policy rate as necessary to suit the situation. Meanwhile, the Central Wage Committee voted by a majority not to postpone the planned increase in the daily minimum wage to 300 baht per day in the 70 remaining provinces, set for Jan 1 next year, as proposed by the employers' representatives.
Food & Agriculture
Thai government has launched a four-year public-private partnership called Thailand Food Valley with an initial 2012-2013 budget of up to US$2.5 million. The implementation of this initiative will be overseen by the Industry Ministry. Exports of Thai farm produce and processed food is expected to surpass more than $32 billion this year. The Thai government has established a goal of making Thailand Asia’s biggest distribution and trade center for food products.
Health & Life Sciences
Production of Thai medicines and pharmaceuticals increased 3 percent in 2011 with higher production volumes expected this year, primarily due to the universal health care scheme, according to Thailand’s Office of Industrial Economics (OIE). Exports have also increased, with US$215 million of pharmaceutical products exported last year mainly to Viet Nam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia and Japan. Thailand imported more than 38 million tons of pharmaceutical products worth $1.3 billion mostly from the U.S., India, UK, Germany and France. Increased productivity is expected with greater worldwide acceptance of the quality and adherence to international standards of Thai medicines and pharmaceutical products.
The Ministry of Commerce's Department of Intellectual Property is planning to develop cooperation on intellectual property with neighbouring countries as part of Thailand's preparations for the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.
The department's director-general, Pajchima Thanasanti, said her department will promote intellectual property to become Thailand's effective trade instrument through revamping its IT system to enhance efficiency in the registration and protection of intellectual property, Thai news agency reported. Pajchima said her department will also establish a national anti-piracy centre and develop experts with English language skills to suit ASEAN's single economic community.
Under the “Bangkok Wi-Fi” project to expand the service throughout the capital of Thailand, the BMA made a three-year agreement ending in April 2015 with True Internet, a subsidiary of True Corp, one of the country’s major mobile operator. Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said wireless internet access will narrow the digital divide. He also added that three more mobile operators and internet service providers are also planning to join the “Bangkok WiFi” project to expand the service throughout the capital. According to him, the coverage includes 450 schools under the BMA’s supervision, hospitals, transport stations, department stores, main streets and parks.Thailand remains on US IP piracy & counterfeit list, Bangkok Post, May 2
Thailand remains on the list of 13 countries the United States considers the most serious violators of intellectual property rights, according to a US Trade Representative (USTR) report released on Monday in Washington.
Other countries on the so-called Priority Watch List include China, Russia, Argentina, Canada, India, Algeria, Chile, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Ukraine and Venezuela. The report is significant because "IP-intensive industries support as many as 40 million American jobs and up to 60% of US exports," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.
Cambodia pressures Laosto halt work on Xayaburi dam, Asia Times, May 3
Cambodia has called for an immediate halt to the construction of the Xayaburi dam in an official protest note to Laos, officials said in a statement last week, as opposition to the hydropower project gained momentum in Thailand.
Lim Kean Hor, Cambodia's water resources minister and its representative to the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an intergovernmental body of four countries that share the river, demanded in a letter to his Lao counterpart Noulinh Sinbandhit that construction on the dam be suspended pending an environmental impact assessment. "Cambodia's position is that Laos should halt the dam construction while the environmental impact study is being carried out," the Cambodian minister said in the statement, according to Cambodian online newspaper CEN.
An environmental watchdog agency yesterday revealed that a major dam in Uthai Thani province has been unable to deliver sufficient water to farmers during the 10 years it has been in operation.
The amount of retained water in Tab Salao Dam, located on the Sakhaekrang River, is currently only 27 per cent of its capacity of 198 million cubic metres, said Adisak Janthawichanuwongse, secretary-general of the northern region's Environmental Board. According to Royal Irrigation Department records, the amount of retained water in the dam last month was 40 million cubic metres.
Thailand announced its plan to expand a port at Pak Bara in the southern province of Satun to serve as “Thailand’s West Gate” on the Andaman coastline. The planned expansion of the port, along with further plans to develop the supply chains, is part of the country’s efforts to position itself as a transportation hub in Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Pak Bara deep-sea port project has earlier passed an environmental impact assessment. Public concerns nevertheless remain, which the authorities will continue to address to ensure related activities not pose harm to the environment.Thailand pushes ahead US$ 2 Bil airport expansion, FutureGov, April 28
Thailand’s THB 62.5-billion project to expand Suvarnabhumi International Airport is likely to start this year, hoping for an expected passenger capacity handling to increase by 15 – 60 million.
The Airport of Thailand Plc (AoT) board is expected to appoint a project management consultant (PMC) next month and endorse at its May 17 one of the three firms vying for the lead role in the project. Somchai Sawasdeepon, general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport said that the project management consultant will finalise the design and choosing contractors to begin the project.
Ford Motor Corp is eyeing Indonesia as a production centre to help meet strong demand for cars in Southeast Asia but supply problems mean Thailand will remain its regional hub for the foreseeable future, company executives said.
More than 90 percent of Ford's production for the 10 countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is in Thailand, where it formally opened a new, $450 million manufacturing plant on Thursday. The U.S. auto maker has small operations in Vietnam and the Philippines. "Everyone in Thailand is trying to operate at maximum capacity and beyond now because the demand in Thailand and across ASEAN for products is very high. All of the markets are running strong," Ford ASEAN President Peter Fleet told reporters in Bangkok.
The automaker will begin producing its new Focus compact at the Rayong factory in eastern Thailand next month, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said in a statement today. The facility increases Ford’s annual capacity in Thailand to 445,000 vehicles as the automaker aims to boost global sales to 8 million units by 2015 with one-third of deliveries in Asia by 2020. The Rayong plant is capable of producing six vehicle models as Ford expects to widen its lineup in ASEAN countries, New Zealand and Australia to compete with bigger rivals Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Volkswagen AG. (VOW)
The 5th Thailand Auto Parts & Accessories Fair (TAPA) took place in Bangkok April 26-29, showcasing high-quality parts and accessories under the theme “Automotive Technology Innovations for a Sustainable Environment.” Held every two years, this year’s TAPA was the largest in the fair’s history and is one of the largest auto parts conferences in the region. About 400 leading Thai auto parts companies participated in the fair with estimated revenues of US$15 million. Projected exports for autos this year is expected to exceed US$13 billion, a nearly 9 percent increase over 2011, while exports for auto parts and accessories is expected to surpass US$10 billion, an increase of more than 10 percent over last year.
PoliticsThailand, EU affirm fostering strong bilateral ties, MCOT News, May 2
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday met the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton and affirmed her intention to foster strong bilateral economic and political relations between Thailand and Europe.
Ms Yingluck welcomed Ms Ashton at Government House and hailed the success of the 19th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Brunei April 26-27 which also marked the 35th anniversary of ASEAN-EU relations. Ms Ashton told the premier that she intended to visit Thailand after the Brunei meeting because the EU considers friendship with Thailand as important and wants to see stronger relations in the future.
Yingluck said that during her official trip to China from April 17 to 19, she met many top leaders and that the trip received a very good response from businesspeople. She said Thailand and China would have closer cooperation in areas of trade, tourism, energy, education, and culture, with bilateral trade projected to increase at least 20 per cent a year, investment by 15 per cent a year, and tourism 20 per cent a year.Thaksin back in UK, eyeing US, The Nation, April 29
Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in the United Kingdom on Friday night and would stay in that country for about a week, his spokesman said yesterday.
Noppadon Pattama, former foreign minister who also acts as Thaksin's legal adviser, said the fugitive former PM would travel to the UK more often although he would mostly live in the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. "He will travel more frequently between London and Dubai. He feels comfortable while in England. He has a house in London and the city is a centre of the world's news and information. He is likely to travel more often to England but he will mainly live in Dubai, where people can meet him more conveniently," he said.
Several plans are being worked out and studies are being undertaken to prepare Thai society for the realization of the ASEAN Community in 2015. Deputy Government Spokesman Anusorn Aimsaard said that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had instructed relevant government agencies to draw up plans for Thai people to adjust themselves when the region becomes one community in three years’ time.
He said that several agencies had made some progress on the preparations, but they still needed to work in an integrated manner in order to designate the branding of Thailand and set strategies. In this regard, the Secretariat to the Cabinet and the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board are joining hands in drawing up the “Action Plan: The Countdown to the Establishment of the ASEAN Community.” The action plan seeks to set timeframes and clear guidelines for kicking off projects to move Thailand toward the ASEAN Community.
OtherHydroplanes to land on Chao Phraya as offering to King, The Nation, May 3Four Thailandmade hydroplanes will soon land on Chao Phraya River right next to Siriraj Hospital as an offering to His Majesty the King if a Royal Thai Navy (RTN) plan goes as planned.
The Navy team is hoping to present the twoseat vehicles to the muchbeloved monarch, who has been undergoing treatment at the hospital. Vice Admiral Sommai Prakarnsamut, who heads the naval hydroplanedevelopment project, disclosed that he looked up to His Majesty every time he ran into problems and felt discouraged. "Now that we have successfully created these efficient hydroplanes, we really wish to present them to His Majesty," Sommai said.
Thailand has warned the population of a border area with Myanmar after "threats" by the leader of a Burmese ethnic rebel group who was recently included in a list of most wanted drug dealers by Bangkok.
The Thai government last week released the list of 25 names, including the leader of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) known as Na Kham Mwe. In response Na Kham Mwe allegedly issued a "threat" to Thais living in the Tak province which has a porous border with neighbouring Myanmar, the provincial governor told