Top Story of the Week: Thailand Intensifies Efforts To Suppress Counterfeit Goods; More Thai enterprises embrace-commerce
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Defense & Security
A special Cabinet meeting aimed at coping with a spike in insurgency violence in the South will be held today, bringing together officials from 17 ministries that will be grouped under the new "Pentagon II" command centre.
Government spokesman Sansanee Nakapong, quoting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, said the government's and security authorities' strategies in the South had been "right on track" but integration between relevant agencies was needed. Pentagon II aims to make coordination and integration easier.
Thailand’s multi-pronged efforts against terrorism have received a vote of confidence from the United States, as the State Department praised the kingdom’s security measures in its recently released annual Country Reports on Terrorism, and declared there is “no direct evidence” that international terrorists were operating within Thailand’s borders.
Their Majesties the King and Queen are concerned about the violence in the South and its impacts on the people there, including Buddhist monks in the region, Deputy Royal Aide-de-Camp General Naphol Boonthap said yesterday.
In addition, Her Majesty the Queen had graciously granted Bt20 million to help the 2,000 residents of Bangkok's Bon Kai area who were affected by the 2010 political riot, he said.
The cabinet has approved a rehabilitation plan proposed by the National Economic and Social Development Board, deputy government spokesman Chalitrat Chantharubeksa said on Tuesday.
Mr Chalitrat said the plan covers four urgent issues, as suggested by a meeting of the national strategic committee for rebuilding the country and future development.
They are as follows;
1) Investment policy over the next five to 10 years must focus on acquiring loans from domestic financial sources.
2) Upgrading cooperation with Burma in the Dawei deep seaport and industrial estate development project.
3) A development plan for the national rail system, particularly a high-speed train system.
4) Financial assistance for manufacturers affected by the great flood late last year.
The Board of Investment (BoI) vows full support for Thai entrepreneurs looking abroad, as outward investment may surge next year on growing pressure from labour costs and stiffer competition prompted by free trade in Asean.
Secretary-general Atchaka Sibunruang said the daily minimum wage in the remaining 70 provinces will rise to 300 baht next year after hikes in seven provinces this year. The increase is compelling more Thai firms to go abroad, said the BoI.
The Commerce Ministry is speeding up free trade talks with key trading partners as Thailand risks losing exports and direct investments from Europe as the euro-zone debt crisis drags on.
Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said Thailand will enter talks on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) early next year if the framework is endorsed by leaders at November's Asean Summit in Cambodia.
Concerned authorities in Thailand are going all out to suppress fake items and goods violating intellectual property rights after complaints were lodged by many consumers to the Commerce Ministry, said Pajchima Tanasanti, director-general of Commerce Ministry's Intellectual Property Department.
Thailand has temporarily eased standards on the quality of gasoline used in the country following a shortfall in supply due to a refinery outage, industry sources said on Tuesday.
The government has slightly relaxed requirements on the benzene and olefin content of gasoline, along with regulations on its reid vapour pressure, the traders said, as it looks to encourage imports and make it easier for refiners to divert export cargoes to the domestic market.
The Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) is looking to diversify into electricity generation from distribution now, according to governor Arthorn Sinsawad.
MEA and the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand are studying the feasibility of developing a combined heat and power plant (CHP) project in an industrial estate and along PTT Plc's gas pipeline.
Thailand's first station to charge electric vehicles (EV) opened Wednesday at the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA)'s headquarters on Phloenchit Road.
Although Thailand only has three EV cars, given to MEA by Mitsubishi Motors, MEA plans to raise awareness among the public about these environmentally friendly vehicles, said MEA governor Arthorn Sinsawad. Mitsubishi signed an agreement with MEA last September to start joint field testing of the Mitsubishi Innovative Electric vehicle (MiEV).
Thailand’s baht fell, snapping a two- day gain, after Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the currency needs to weaken and borrowing costs should be reduced to support Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
The baht declined 0.2 percent to 31.54 per dollar as of 3:16 p.m. in Bangkok, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Its three-month implied volatility, a measure of exchange-rate swings used to price options, fell 24 basis points, or 0.24 percentage point, to 6 percent. The yield on the 3.25 percent bonds due June 2017 held at 3.12 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
With the Thai economy likely to be adversely affected by the persistent euro-zone crisis and weaker global economy during the remainder of the year, the central bank should respond by cutting the policy interest rate in order to boost domestic demand, an economist and a business leader said yesterday.
Anusorn Tamajai, dean of the Faculty of Economics at Rangsit University, said the household-debt burden carried by the banking sector in the European Union coupled with the level of public debt had caused the crisis in the euro zone.
Bank of Thailand Chairman Virabongsa Ramangkura comments on inflation targeting. He made the remarks during a speech late yesterday in Bangkok.
Thailand’s central bank has used inflation targets since 2000 and aims to keep core inflation, which excludes fresh food and fuel prices, between 0.5 percent and 3 percent.
CIMB Research expects Thai shares to further extend their gains by up to 12 percent this year on the back of favourable second-quarter earnings and as private investment and consumer spending remain supportive.
The broker has a target of 1,350 and an 'overweight' rating on the benchmark SET index for end-2012. "We believe the Thai market will continue to do well...," CIMB said in a report. It also has an 'overweight' rating the agriculture, petrochemical, banking and healthcare sectors.
Thailand’s baht dropped after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi refrained from taking immediate measures to tackle the region’s debt crisis. Government bonds rose.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index (MXAP) of shares fell for a third day after Draghi signaled yesterday the monetary authority intends to join forces with governments to buy bonds in sufficient quantities to ease the crisis, while conceding that Germany has reservations about the plan. Non-manufacturing industries in China, Thailand’s biggest export market, expanded at a slower pace in July than the month before, official data showed today.
Food & Agriculture
The government rice pledging programme is rife with corruption and inefficiency, putting the entire industry at risk unless changes are made, local economists and rice experts said.
One of the most important economic policies of the Yingluck Shinawatra government, the programme represents a guarantee by the state to purchase unlimited amounts of rice from local farmers at prices as much as 50% higher than market value.
But economists said the programme, which has cost the state more than 200 billion baht to date, is one of the worst-designed and costliest policies enacted by the Yingluck government as it nears the end of its first year in office.
Food manufacturers have urged the government to reduce import tariffs on their raw materials to reverse a decline in exports and increase competitiveness for Thai products.
After a meeting with food producers and exporters yesterday, Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department of the Commerce Ministry, said food enterprises wanted the government to help reduce costs of production and eliminate tariff barriers since they are facing declining exports to many markets.
Farmers and trade bodies have called on the government to review urgently its rice-pledging policy on the grounds that it is distorting prices, benefiting the rich as well as foreign investors, damaging the Kingdom's competitiveness and discouraging the long-term development of Thai rice.
Many poor farmers said the fact that they have to rent plantation areas from landowners and other rich people had paved the way for those people, as well as foreign investors who have purchased Thai farmland, to hire them to grow rice on their land and reap the benefits from the government's high-subsidy price policy.
Amid debates about Thailand losing its status as the world's leading rice exporter, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) is more concerned about food security as new generations do not want to be farmers.
Ladawan Kumpa, deputy secretary-general of the think-tank, said Thailand should focus more on high-quality rice such as organic that commands a higher price in the global market. Thai rice is less competitive than Vietnamese rice because of the government's pledging programme, she said. Myanmar used to be a global leader in rice exports before the junta shuttered the country's resources, but it could again become a fierce competitor as it opens up, she added.
Health & Life Sciences
An innovative program targeting Thai communities for prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has received a $95,000 donation from U.S. oil giant Chevron corporation, in the latest example of how public-private partnerships are contributing to Thailand’s effective response to the HIV epidemic.
Myanmar and Thai health authorities are cooperating in containing the spread of malaria and dengue fever along the two countries' border after noticing severe outbreak of the two diseases, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.
Thai Public Health office in the border province of Ranong has agreed to cooperate with the malaria controlling centre under Myanmar's Ministry of Health in containing epidemic of the two diseases.
Corero Network Security plans to make inroads into the Thai market next year to capitalise on increased information security spending.
The US-based online security firm wants to tap the local telecommunications sector, government agencies and educational institutions. "We're looking to set up a local office here in 2013," said Eryin Halmen, Corero's newly appointed manager for Southeast Asia. Mr Halmen calls Thailand a key strategic country in Southeast Asia and one of its highest information-technology (IT) spenders.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is urging mobile operators to prepare for an anticipated surge in requests to change service providers after the third-generation (3G) wireless broadband service begins.
The expiring concession of third-ranked TrueMove and DPC Co in September 2013 will also likely spur demand for numbers, as the companies will need to migrate their customers to other mobile operators. TrueMove and DPC are concessionaires of CAT Telecom.
With the continuing growth of online trading, more Thai enterprises are choosing to set up e-commerce businesses alongside their normal operations in a bid to reach more consumers both at home and overseas.
Deputy Commerce Minister Siriwat Kachornprasart said yesterday that the value of online trading in Thailand had grown significantly in the past few years, reaching Bt1 trillion last year. With more people having access to the Internet, the value is expected to grow by 20 per cent this year.
The Information and Communications Technology Ministry will expand its free Wi-Fi project to 200,000 access points nationwide by the end of this year, up from around 76,000 points.
The ministry has joined with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and six telecom operators to implement the service expansion. It kicked off the project last year as part of the government's policy to promote equal Internet broadband access among Thais.
Myanmar's Dawei deep seaport, to be built by Italian-Thai Development, has plenty of choices for connecting with India as its aim to link Thailand via the Andaman Sea with the far edge of the Bay of Bengal comes true.
India has a very long coastline, totalling 7,517 kilometres and shared by nine states. The country has 12 major and 187 minor ports on its east, south and west coasts. The shortest and most direct route from Dawei is to Tamil Nadu's Coromandel Coast, where many ports have existed for a long time.
After a long delay caused by political changes in the country, three more mass transit rail routes are expected to be launched in Bangkok and its neighbouring provinces in the next five years, Thai News Agency reported.
Chula Sukmanop, director-general of Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, said the new routes will help improve urban communication and ease traffic congestion.
The Transport Ministry is planning to set up an infrastructure fund to raise capital to build new motorways. The plan will help the government finance five inner-city motorways that will cost more than 192 billion baht to build, said Deputy Transport Minister Chadchart Sittiphan.
Under the scheme, people can invest in the infrastructure fund through commercial banks, like a mutual fund, and earn interest on their investment, he explained. Meanwhile, the government will have more money to finance its projects without incurring new public debt, Mr Chadchart added.
The cabinet on Tuesday agreed to delay for another two years an increase in the value-added tax (VAT) proposed by the Finance Ministry, government spokeswoman Sansanee Nakpong said.
The delay is from Oct 1, 2012 to Sept 30, 2014. From Oct 1, 2014 the VAT levy will be 9 per cent. The VAT was originally scheduled to go up to 9 per cent from the currently 7 per cent from Oct 1 this year. The delay in the VAT increase would help people regain lost purchasing power and help the investment climate return to normal, Ms Sansanee said.
Two Prime Minister's Office announcements - one banning drinking of alcoholic beverages in vehicles and the other banning sales and drinking of alcohol in factories - have been published in the Royal Gazette and were effective from today, Aug 8. The two announcements were issued under the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2008.
Jadet Chaowilai, adviser of the Network of People Affected by Alcoholic Drinks, thanked Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for issuing the two laws which hopefully will reduce the number of deaths, injuries and disabilities as a result of drinking alcohol.
Car scheme conditions tweaked, Bangkok Post, Aug. 4
The government's first-time car buyer tax rebate scheme will help Thailand to maintain its position as a leading regional auto manufacturing hub, says Deputy Finance Minister Tanusak Lek-uthai.
The advent of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 will create a market of 601 million consumers and vast new opportunities for industries such as autos and auto parts.
In its quest to pursue a greener investment strategy, Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) is planning to designate electric cars as a “champion product” and is in talks with several major automotive companies about how best to make the kingdom a hub for electric car manufacturing.
In July, the BOI announced that it would begin changing the criteria for granting promotional privileges from a zone-based system designed to spread manufacturing to less developed areas of the country, to a system that will give the greatest rewards to those manufacturing green and renewable products, and to those who help build Thailand’s research and development capacity.
Local textile and garment manufacturers have urged the government to reduce tariff barriers, strengthen promotion activities in new targeted markets and support their investments in neighbouring countries as urgent steps to stimulate growth amid a severe export decline to Europe, as well as a labour shortage.
After a meeting with textile and garment exporters, Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said this group of exporters comprises one of the priority sectors that need the government’s help, as their shipments declined dramatically in the first half of this year. These products have relied mainly on the European Union, US and Japanese markets, all of which are facing slowing growth.
Fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra landed in New York on Tuesday, local time, and went for dinner at a downtown restaurant where supporters and opponents greeted him in a small kerbside demonstration.
Thaksin appeared to be accompanied by three Thai bodyguards in the typical red shirts. He was greeted by the owner and staff of the Pongsri Thai restaurant in the central Manhattan section of New York City. As he ate, a couple of dozen Thais were on the pavement outside. A few of the hand- and foot-clappers favoured at Bangkok rallies were seen, both in yellow and red. One Thai woman had a combination red-yellow clapper.
The media is partly to blame for the problems in the far South because they give the violence too much news coverage, and there are also evil politicians behind the insurgency, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said during the House meeting on Thursday.
Democrat MP for Narathiwat Surachet Wae-asae told the House that southern unrest had intensified since the first Thaksin Shinawatra administration. The government had not tackled the problem properly and there were human rights abuses in the region.
Monthian Buntan is living proof that those without sight can still have vision. Last week, the Royal Thai Government nominated the former senator Buntan for membership on the newly formed United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
As she marks a year in office this week as Thailand's first female prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra's biggest boast could be about what hasn't happened during that time: a return to the chaos that has wracked the country for much of the past six years.
Her achievement is all the more remarkable because she is the sister of the man at the center of Thailand's long-running political maelstrom, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a military coup in 2006 after being accused of corruption and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Students at selected schools, some near border areas, learning Burmese, Vietnamese, Malay in preparation for Asean community taking off in 2015
A Myanmar teacher was greeted "Mingalaba Sayama" - "Good afternoon, teacher" - and a Burmese-language class started for Thai students. Yesterday, Grade 9 or Matthayom 3/3 students at Samut Sakhon Burana School, in the province of the same name just south of Bangkok, studied Burmese words from passages about Myanmar journalists who called for an end to censorship last week.