Thailand Clippings: Thailand - US trade reviving

Top Story of the Week: Thailand - US trade reviving  

LOOKING AHEAD
+ Roundtable with Industry Minister Pongsavas Svasti, 10:30-12:00PM, September 27th, 2012, New York. Please contact Carr Slayton at cslayton@usasean.org  for more information.
+ Luncheon with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 12:00-2:00PM, September 27th, 2012, New York. Please contact Carr Slayton at cslayton@usasean.org for more information.
+ LMI Public Private Cooperation Meeting, Westin Bay Resort, Phuket, Thailand, September 28th, 2012. Please click here for agenda and here for registration form. 
+ For more information on the Council’s Thailand program, please contact Carr Slayton at cslayton@usasean.org or Fon Wanlapa Komkai at fwanlapa@usasean.org
 

IN THIS UPDATE:

Defense & Security
+ Talks with RKK 'separatists in South
+ 100 suspected Insurgents surrender in Thailand’s restive south
+ Steps Being Taken To Stabilise Southern Thailand Region
+ Public Discussions Proposed for National Reconciliation
          

Customs
+ Thailand’s National Single Window to Be Linked with ASEAN
Energy
+ IPP bidding scheduled for late 2013
+ New ADB-funded solar power plants open
Legislative Tracker
+ Health commission opposes medical tax privileges
           

Disaster & Flood Recovery
+ Govt seeks to allay fear of flooding in Bangkok
+ 15 provinces affected by flooding; EMIT sends in medical teams
+ Govt plans to go ahead with dam as Sukhothai inundated
+ 'No repeat of 2011' flood horror
+ Wet season a fact of life, estates say
+ Fresh Floods in Northern Thailand Renew Fears
      

Economics
+ Commerce Ministry maintains 15 per cent growth target for exports
+ PM Yingluck invites AMCHAM-Thailand to help make Thai-U.S. trade/investment relations number one 
+ Thailand - US trade reviving 
+ Minimum wage ball in govt court
+ Thailand 'well placed' amid crises 

        

Financial Services 
+ Banker believes Thai SMEs will endure
Thai banks need for dollars makes uneconomic bonds appetizing
+ Thailand: a defiant hold 
+ Disaster fund to mull premium rates 

Food & Agriculture 
+ Boonsong: 7.3m tonnes of rice sold
+ Thailand's sugar exports to ease in 2012/13-industry official 
+ Farmers urge specialised rice zones 
+ Second round of rice bidding next week 
+ High hopes for cane output 
+ Govt, private sector put 16 key farm products into clusters 
            

Foreign Affairs
+ S. Korea, Thailand foreign ministers hold talks to expand cooperation at APEC
+ PM affirms Thailand supports APEC role on trade, investment 
+ Thailand urges greater cooperation among Apec peers
+ Thailand to plead against trade blocs 

Health & Life Sciences
+ Thai and migrant children to receive free health care coverage
+ Sanofi dengue vaccine less effective than hoped 
ICT
+ Loxley gets Google Apps contract 
NSTDA to push R&D activities
+ Thailand seeks China's help to crack down on fake goods 
+ Thailand to hold long-awaited 3G auction mid-October 

        

Infrastructure
+ Saraburi, Prachin Buri industrial land attractive in wake of floods 
+ Thai Government to invest $19 billion in Bangkok commuter rail lines 
+ Thailand plans to borrow $70.8bn for infrastructure 
+ Ministry keen on Dawei project 
+ ADB urges Thailand to build cross-border route to Dawei 

Manufacturing
+ BMW wants Thailand for big bike hub 
+ Thailand's output ahead of schedule
Other
+  Thailand’s anti-corruption score improves
+  China nominates Gates, Annan, Thailand PM for peace prize
+ Thailand's Yingluck Govt, One Year On 

Customs

Thailand’s National Single Window to Be Linked with ASEAN, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 12

The establishment of Thailand’s National Single Window will be fully completed in late 2013, and it will be linked with other ASEAN countries by 2014. The Ministry of Finance cited the establishment of the National Single Window as one of its achievements during the past one year. 

The National Single Window is an electronic system to facilitate Thailand’s international trade by enhancing its competitiveness and reducing costs. Thailand and its ASEAN partners signed an agreement to establish and implement the ASEAN Single Window in December 2005.

Defense & Security

Talks with RKK 'separatists in South, The Nation, Sept. 12

One hundred suspected insurgents led by a man allegedly involved in the 2004 military camp raid yesterday met the Fourth Army region commander in Narathiwat to declare they would cease fighting in the strife-torn Deep South.

Army Commander in Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha hailed the historic meeting that took place in the Narathiwat Islam Committee office as a great step and achievement by both sides. The group was led by Wae-ali Copter Waji, alias, Jeh Ali, who has a bounty of Bt1 million on him for alleged involvement in a notorious raid at an army camp in the same province eight years ago, in which four officers were killed. The raiders snatched a large batch of weapons from the camp.

100 suspected Insurgents surrender in Thailand’s restive south, Washington Post, Sept. 11

Officials say about 100 suspected insurgents have surrendered to authorities in Thailand’s restive south, including the alleged leader of a 2004 attack that reignited longstanding violence in the region.

Army regional commander Lt. Gen. Udomchai Thammasaroratch says the group surrendered Tuesday and told authorities they wanted to stop fighting. They included Wae-ali Copter Waji, who allegedly led an attack on an army base in 2004 in which weapons were stolen and four soldiers were killed. A $32,000 reward had been offered for his arrest.

Steps Being Taken To Stabilise Southern Thailand Region, Says Najib, Bernama, Sept. 8

Thailand is taking steps to stabilise its southern region, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak following a bilateral meeting with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on the sidelines of the ongoing APEC 2012 Economic Leaders Meeting, here.

He said that during his meeting with Shinawatra, he was informed that the steps taken were focused on education, training and the provision of assistance to small traders in the region.

Public Discussions Proposed for National Reconciliation, Government Public Relations, Sept. 7

Public discussions have been proposed on the issue of the root causes of the conflict and ways to achieve reconciliation. The proposal was made by the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand at the fifth meeting of the Committee to Coordinate and Follow Up on Actions Taken to Implement the Recommendations of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand at Government House.

The outcomes of the meeting, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyoot Wichaidit on 30 August 2012, would be reported to the Cabinet. According to the meeting, the public discussions for reconciliation would be held three times in each of the 23 locations (in Bangkok and 22 provinces; 69 times in all), and participation is expected to reach 67,000-69,000 persons. 

Disaster & Flood Recovery

Govt seeks to allay fear of flooding in Bangkok, Bangkok Post, Sept. 12

The flooding in the Yom River basin is not an indication that Bangkok will again be flooded this year, it's a normal occurrence, government deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said on Wednesday.

Mr Anusorn was responding to a prediction by members of the opposition Democrat Party that Bangkok would again be hit by floods because the government was unable to cope with the problem. He said the Democrat Party, in saying this, was manipulating people's fears as a political tool to discredit the government, instead of suggesting appropriate preventive measures.

15 provinces affected by flooding; EMIT sends in medical teams, The Nation, Sept. 12

Dr Chatree Charoencheevakul, secretary general of the Emergency Medical Institute of Thailand, said on Wednesday that the provinces now affected by flooding are Sukothai, Angthong, Pichit, Ayutthaya, Uthai Thani, Chai Nat, Uttaradit, Chiang Rai, Nakhon Sawan, Lampang, Lamphun, Suphan Buri, Sa Kaew, Phetchabun and Saraburi. The first five provinces have been hardest hit.

EMIT has sent rapid medical assessment teams to the areas to evaluate the damage and conduct a survey of medical needs in coordination with local authorities

Govt plans to go ahead with dam as Sukhothai inundated, The Nation, Sept. 12

The government is likely to go ahead with plans to construct the Kaeng Sue Ten Dam in Phrae to prevent flooding in Sukhothai and lower northern regions.

Natural Resources and Environ-ment Minister Preecha Rengsom-boonsuk said yesterday that he would ask Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to consider building a dam in Tambon Sa-Iab to hold back the Yom River and reduce flooding in Sukhothai. This was after he spoke to locals affected by flooding in the province.

Preecha said the ministry had studied two projects - building the Kaeng Sue Ten Dam and other permanent reservoirs in the upper and lower parts of the Yom River.

'No repeat of 2011' flood horror, The Nation, Sept. 12

Key figures on the Water and Flood Management Commission are trying their utmost to allay mounting fears the flood season this year, which has caused widespread chaos in many provinces already, will turn into a replay of last year's massive crisis.

"Flooding may hit some areas this year but definitely not on the scale seen in 2011," Royol Chitradon, director of the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute and a member of a WFMC committee, said yesterday. "The number of storms will be fewer than that in 2011," he said. The heart of Sukhothai is already ravaged, while Phichit, Phitsanulok and Ayutthaya are also struggling with flood water. Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadee, head of the WFMC, said authorities would try today to plug all holes in the floodwall in Sukhothai that allowed the town centre swamped.

Wet season a fact of life, estates say, Bangkok Post, Sept. 11

Operators of industrial estates hit by severe floods last year played down threats of prolonged floods in Ayutthaya this year, saying the estates are well protected with permanent floodwalls as well as prevention measures in place. Even though some areas of the province near Bangkok have already experienced flooding, industrial estate operators say it is normal situation that happens every year during the rainy season.

"Ayutthaya faces flash floods every year, with water flowing from northern provinces such as Chiang Mai, and recently there was a flood in Sukhothai," said Thavich Taychanavakul, the managing director of Hi-Tech Industrial Estate. "We hope the current flood in Ayutthaya will pass as quickly as usual."

Fresh Floods in Northern Thailand Renew Fears, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11

Concerns about Thailand's antiflood defenses are growing after parts of a city in the country's north were inundated by as much as a meter (around three feet) of floodwater early Monday, nearly a year after parts of Bangkok and other important industrial sites were struck by some of the worst flooding in the country's history.

Local residents and business owners in Sukhothai—about 427 kilometers (265 miles) north of the capital—were sent fleeing Monday morning after a series of levees broke along the River Yom after days of heavy rains. The river is one of four waterways that converge to form the Chao Phraya River that runs south through major industrial areas to Bangkok.

Economics

Commerce Ministry maintains 15 per cent growth target for exports, The Nation, Sept. 12

The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday announced it was maintaining its export target for this year at 15 per cent growth despite various worrying factors including the damage caused by last year massive floods and the crisis in the Euro zone.

 Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom said that the country’s exports in the first seven months of this year surged by 2.2 per cent year on year with a value of Bt4.7 trillion. Meanwhile, other neighbouring markets faced negative export figures, such as India, which saw a 1.77 per cent year on year drop in exports in same period. Taiwan and Korea also posted declines in exports at 5.80 per cent and 0.84 per cent respectively in the first seven months of this year compared to the same period last year. 

PM Yingluck invites AMCHAM-Thailand to help make Thai-U.S. trade/investment relations number one, Royal Thai Embassy, Sept. 10

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra praised the long relationship between the United States and Thailand and invited U.S. companies to invest and trade more with Thailand during a recent speech to the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Thailand. “Being educated in the U.S., I know Americans do not like being third, so let’s work together to make our trade and investment relations to be number one!” the Prime Minister said during the August 31 dinner speech.  Meanwhile, two-thirds of AMCHAM Thailand’s member companies stated in a survey that they plan to expand investment in Thailand over the next year.

Thailand - US trade reviving, Phuket Gazette, Sept. 10

More than 700 American companies will have a combined investment of US$40 billion – approximately 1.25 trillion baht – in Thailand by the end of 2012, a business leader recently told the Thai government.

The president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), Joe Mannix revealed the figure in a speech given at a thank-you function for the government, hosted by AMCHAM in Bangkok. Mr Mannix praised the Yingluck administration’s efforts to push the 2012 GDP to a projected 5% growth, which is equal to the anticipated growth for the greater Southeast Asia region.

Minimum wage ball in govt court, The Nation, Sept. 6

Central committee says study did not find any adverse impact on economy; all 70 provinces to implement hike from January 1.

With wobbling GDP growth to protect and a key election promise to deliver on, the Yingluck government now faces a major dilemma after the Central Wage Committee yesterday gave the go-ahead to the contentious plan for a nationwide increase in the daily minimum wage to Bt300, effective in January.

The Wage Committee's decision means only a government about-face can now block full implementation of a policy that is bemoaned by business leaders and some academics as a potential source of economic calamity. Their fears were echoed yesterday, with critics of the minimum wage hike foreseeing bankruptcy for countless small and medium-scale businesses and migration of some foreign investors out of Thailand.

Thailand 'well placed' amid crises, Bangkok Post, Aug. 29

Thailand still has strong economic fundamentals and will survive the prolonged eurozone debt crisis and widespread economic recession, Charumporn Chotikasathien, president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said on Wednesday.

In his speech entitled “Thailand and a preparation for new growth” presented to the “Thailand Focus 2012” seminar, the SET chief said he believed all list companies were still strong in the midst of global crises.

The seminar was jointly organised by Phatra Securities, Bank of America and Merlin Lynch, and attended by top management of more than 90 listed companies.

Thailand Focus lures foreigners, Bangkok Post, Aug. 30

Thailand Focus 2012, the country's biggest investment event, has seen twice as many foreign visitors as last year, says the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

The annual expo offers a glimpse of the Thai capital market to analysts, brokers, high-ranking officials and top executives from around the world.

This year's theme is "Positioning Thailand for the Next Growth Phase". Some 89 SET-listed firms, representing 70% of total market capitalisation, will hold more than 1,000 meetings with investors.

Energy

IPP bidding scheduled for late 2013, The Nation, Sept. 11

The Energy Regulatory Commission expects to open the bidding for six new power plants under the independent power producer (IPP) scheme late next year.

The ERC is in the process of selecting an adviser who will complete the bidding terms of reference (ToR), said Pallapa Ruangrong, a member of the commission. She said PricewaterhouseCoopers, which assisted the previous round of IPP bidding, might win the contract. As the ToR may require 12 months to complete, the ERC expects the bidding to take place late 2013 at the earliest, she added. 

New ADB-funded solar power plants open, Royal Thai Embassy, Sept. 10

On an appropriately sunny day in central Thailand, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the official opening on September 4 of two new solar power plants that will provide clean energy to Thai consumers. The two plants, located in Ayutthaya province, were partially funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and are owned and operated by Bangchak Petroleum, a private energy firm.

Thailand has set an ambitious goal of deriving 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2021, and the ADB said the new plants will make a strong contribution to achieving that goal. “By diversifying its energy sources and meeting some of its growing demand through renewables like solar, Thailand can generate fewer greenhouse gases and act as a model to other countries in the region,” said Christopher Thieme, Director of ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department.

Financial Services

Banker believes Thai SMEs will endure, Bangkok Post, Sept. 11

Thai small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should be able to cope with the fallout from the euro-zone debt crisis and the stagnant US economy thanks to the lessons learned from the 1997 financial crisis, says a foreign banker.

SMEs in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia should be able to survive current global economic risk, said Tim Hinton, the global head for SME banking at Standard Chartered Bank. Exports still drive the Thai economy, but continuing adjustments and good preparations by SMEs in searching for new markets and diversifying will strengthen the sector, he said.

the fund raised the sub-limit from 30 per cent to 50 per cent for compensating losses from natural disasters.

Thai banks need for dollars makes uneconomic bonds appetizing, Reuters, Sept. 11

A sudden flurry of dollar deals from Thai banks could be a sign of a dearth of trade finance availability in Bangkok as European banks accelerate their exit from Asia. Luckily for Thai lenders, the dollar market is wide open just as they need to find alternative sources of hard currency funding.

On Monday, Siam Commercial Bank surprised the market with a drive-by US$500m reopening of its bond due September 19 2017, originally priced in March this year. The deal would be viewed as just an opportunistic tap if it were not conspicuously coming at the same time as deals for Kasikornbank and Bangkok Bank.

Thailand: a defiant hold, Financial Times, Sept. 5

The Bank of Thailand’s decision on Wednesday to hold interest rates at 3 per cent for the fifth consecutive month says as much about its strongly guarded independence as its view of monetary conditions.

The bank’s monetary policy committee met amidst rare public debate over the central bank’s mandate, after the new government-appointed central bank chairman, Virabongsa Ramangkura, joined by Kittirat Na-Ranong, deputy prime minister and finance minister, urged the Bank to cut rates to weaken the currency and boost Thai exports. The Bank’s governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul described the public interventions as “unhelpful”, and some analysts have suggested the monetary policy committee’s vote showed more than a shade of defiance of government pressure.

Disaster fund to mull premium rates, The Nation, Sept. 4

The government-sponsored natural-catastrophe insurance fund will this week discuss appropriate premium rates and pick a financial adviser for selecting international reinsurers. Payungsak Chartsutipol, chairman of the fund, said yesterday that the committee would meet today and tomorrow to discuss premium rates. The fund aims to bring down market rates further.

The proposal will be submitted to the board on Friday, he said. Currently, the fund charges households 0.5 per cent per year, small and medium-sized enterprises 1 per cent and large firms 1.25 per cent. Those rates will not be changed, he said. Foreign investors have expressed confidence after

Food & Agriculture

Boonsong: 7.3m tonnes of rice sold, The Nation, Sept. 12

Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom says Thailand has concluded six export deals for a combined a total 7.328 million tonnes of rice under government-to-government transactions.

He said Indonesia, the Philippines, China and west Africa's Ivory Coast were the buying countries. The sales would cut the stockpile to 4.175 million tonnes. Mr Boonsong was confident that rice exports will reach 8.5 million tonnes in 2012, far higher than the 6.5 million tonnes targeted by exporters.

Thailand's sugar exports to ease in 2012/13-industry official, Reuters, Sept. 11

Sugar exports from Thailand, the world's No.2 exporter, are likely ease to 7.5 million tonnes in 2012/13 from 7.7 million tonnes in the current year as production falls on poor rainfall in cane-growing areas, a leading producer said on Tuesday.

The country is likely to produce 9.5 million to 10 million tonnes of sugar in the 2012/13 year starting from November, compared with an estimate of 10.2 million tonnes for the current year, Kannika Vongkusolkit, research and marketing strategist at Mitr Phol Sugar Corp, told reporters. "The lower production estimate is due to poor rains over the growing region during June-July," she said.

Farmers urge specialised rice zones, The Nation, Sept. 11

Farmers have urged the Agriculture Ministry to create rice zones so that better breeds can be developed, as the government's high subsidies have emboldened farmers to ignore quality and concentrate on quantity instead, critics say.

"The government should draw up zones and fix the proper type of rice for each zone to serve the market's need and ensure high prices," Prasit Booncheoy, president of the Thai Farmers Association, said yesterday. After the government announced a price subsidy for all rice farmers, they have done everything to boost harvests as much as they can to maximise their benefits from the price pledging programme, which is designed to accept all grains offered.

Second round of rice bidding next week, Bangkok Post, Sept. 11

The Commerce Ministry will call a second round of bidding next week to sell the remaining 500,000 tonnes of rice left over from last month's tenders. Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said only 229,661 tonnes of the 753,000 tonnes offered in the first round were sold due to inappropriate bids. He said last week's round earned the government 3.97 billion baht.

High hopes for cane output, Bangkok Post, Sept. 11

Thai sugar millers expect annual sugar cane production will reach 150 million tonnes within the next three years from just over 90 million tonnes this year thanks to improved technology.

Cherdpong Siriwit, newly appointed chairman of the Thai Sugar Millers Corporation, said the goal can be accomplished if requests by millers to upgrade their production are supported by relevant agencies. But this year's production will likely fall below the 97.98 million tonnes a year recorded in earlier years due to less rain, while some areas, especially in the upper North and lower Northeast, are experiencing drought.

Rice exporters urge govt to face up to tough competitors, The Nation, Sept. 7

The government should be keeping a close eye on Thailand's rice export, especially since it fell to third place in world rankings in July. The industry has to be closely monitored because competition is getting tougher. Last month, Vietnam knocked India off the top rice-exporter spot. 

However, there seem to be no signs of Thailand beating Vietnam or India as No 1 this year. In fact, many leading Thai rice exporters expect that the Kingdom will lose its status as a top rice exporter for good. 

Govt, private sector put 16 key farm products into clusters, The Nation, Sept. 6

The Agriculture Ministry has identified 16 flagship products and grouped them into clusters with a view to further penetration of the regional market and cashing in on the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC).

Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut yesterday said a meeting of the joint government-private sector subcommittee had held an in-depth discussion regarding agricultural products with high potential for further marketing within Asean.

Foreign Affairs

S. Korea, Thailand foreign ministers hold talks to expand cooperation at APEC, Yonhap News, Sept. 9

Foreign ministers of South Korea and Thailand held talks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting to discuss ways to further bilateral cooperation, the government said Sunday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the talks held in Vladivostok, Russia touched on such issues as cooperation in the civil aviation sector and exchanged views on recent headway made into water resources management.

PM affirms Thailand supports APEC role on trade, investment, Pattaya Mail, Sept. 8

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday affirmed Thailand's support for APEC's role on trade and investment expansion in the Pacific Rim and the integration under free trade agreements which would lead to the formation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

PM Yingluck on Saturday joined the retreat session 1 on “Establishing Reliable Supply Chains,” and was scheduled to attend the retreat session 2 on “Establishing Reliable Supply Chains” on Sunday.

Thailand urges greater cooperation among Apec peers, Bangkok Post, Sept. 8

Thailand has encouraged Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) member countries to strengthen connectivity in all dimensions as a key to fostering reliable supply chains.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said all Apec members should take serious measures related to both software and hardware connectivity, which would complement the connectivity work in Asean and Asean+3 frameworks. The Apec Ministerial Meeting, which came to an end on Thursday, discussed the establishment of reliable supply chains and intensive cooperation in fostering innovative growth.

The Apec leaders' meeting is being staged over this weekend. Mr Surapong said Thailand is committed to working with the Apec member countries to improve supply chain performance in the grouping by 10% by 2015, the same year that Asean will become a single economic community.

Thailand to plead against trade blocs, Bangkok Post, Aug. 31

Thailand will call on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) member countries not to create trade blocs among themselves to avoid hurting individual member countries' labour forces.

Economic Affairs Department deputy director-general Chutintorn Gongsakdi yesterday said Apec leaders should consider that if they create trade blocs to protect their own interests from other member countries, this will impact employment figures in each country. Mr Chutitorn was speaking ahead of a week-long series of senior-level Apec meetings starting on Sunday on Russky Island in Vladivostok, Russia.

Health & Life Sciences

Thai and migrant children to receive free health care coverage, Royal Thai Embassy, Sept. 12

All children under age six, including children of migrant workers, will receive cards entitling them to free health care coverage, including vaccinations, according to a new policy unveiled by the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

Minister of Public Health Witthaya Buranasiri announced the new policy, saying his ministry was committed to improving health care for both women and children, including those who are migrant workers. Access to health care by women and children is often viewed as a barometer of a country’s overall health care coverage, the equitable distribution of that coverage, and the general level of a country’s development.

Sanofi dengue vaccine less effective than hoped, Reuters, Sept. 11

The world's most advanced vaccine against dengue fever, being developed by French drugmaker Sanofi SA, proved only 30 percent effective in a large clinical trial in Thailand - far less than hoped.

The result leaves uncertain the future of a product that Sanofi has previously said could generate more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in yearly sales. But researchers said it did show for the first time that a safe vaccine was possible. The disappointing outcome was down to the vaccine's failure to protect against one type of dengue virus, which turned out to be the prevalent one in Thailand at the time of the study.

ICT

Loxley gets Google Apps contract, Bangkok Post, Sept. 12

Loxley Plc has been appointed the sole partner for Google to customise the search engine giant's applications and services to suit the needs of companies in Southeast Asia. The trading and technology firm targets at least 20 corporate customers using Google's three main products: Google Geo (map and data service), Google Search and Google Apps, said Vasant Chatikavanij, senior executive vice-president of Loxley.

Under the partnership, Loxley will provide advice, design and install the products, and train and offer maintenance service. Mr Vasant said the corporate versions have more features than the free apps and services Google offers to the public.

NSTDA to push R&D activities, Bangkok Post, Sept. 11

The National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) has come up with 50 research projects that will be available for private companies to buy and use to develop their own products.

The research is in a variety of fields including food, agriculture, medicine, energy, the environment, safety, services and manufacturing. Studies gathered by the NSTDA and its nationwide network of research houses will be presented to Thai firms at Investors' Day on Sept 20.

Thailand seeks China's help to crack down on fake goods, The Nation, Sept. 10

The Thai Intellectual Property Department will join forces with the Customs Department in China's Yunnan province to crack down on counterfeit goods being brought across the border.

This pact has been drawn up to solve the widespread trade in counterfeit products in China, Thailand and the rest of the Asean region. The Customs Department in Yunnan will closely inspect all products heading for Thailand, especially since many fake products such as CDs, clothes, leather goods and handbags found in Thai markets originated in China.

Pajchima Tanasanti, director-general of the Intellectual Property Department, said China's customs department has been urged to inspect goods to see if they infringe any rights before exporting.

Thailand to hold long-awaited 3G auction mid-October, Reuters, Aug. 28

Thailand's telecoms regulator will hold a long-awaited auction of 3G mobile-phone licences on Oct 15 or Oct 16, a key step towards reforms in the sector, which will enable operators to tap more revenue from fast-growing data services.

"The exact date will be decided by the NBTC board," Thakorn Tantasit, secretary general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), told a news conference.

Thailand is among the last Asian countries to hold an auction for the 2.1 GHz spectrum, which is expected to generate at least 40.5 billion baht ($1.3 billion) for the state.

Infrastructure

Saraburi, Prachin Buri industrial land attractive in wake of floods, The Nation, Sept. 13

More than 110,000 rai (17,600 hectares) of land in industrial estates was developed in the first quarter, up 1.6 per cent over the same quarter last year, according to Knight Frank Chartered (Thailand).

About 74 per cent of the factories damaged by last year's massive flood have assumed normal operations, while 30 per cent are still rehabilitating. About 62 per cent of the flood-hit factories decided to relocate to industrial estates in drier areas such as in Saraburi, Prachin Buri and Rayong. Demand for industrial land has shifted from flood areas to the Eastern Seaboard and new locations including Saraburi and Prachin Buri.

Thai Government to invest $19 billion in Bangkok commuter rail lines, Royal Thai Embassy, Sept. 12

Thailand’s capital is set to increase its competitiveness and become an even more livable city with the announcement last week by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRT) that the government will invest US$19 billion to build six new commuter rail lines in Bangkok by 2020. The new lines are expected to carry more than 3 million of the capital’s commuters each day and cover large new swaths of territory that until now were served only by road traffic.

The new rail lines are an indication of the strong commitment by Thailand’s government to expand and increase investment in vital infrastructure designed to boost the economic competitiveness of the capital and the country.  Land along the current commuter rail lines in Bangkok has become prime property and risen substantially in value as businesses and real estate developers choose to locate and build as close to the routes as possible.

Thailand plans to borrow $70.8bn for infrastructure, Daily Times, Sept. 11

Thailand plans to introduce a bill letting it borrow 2.2 trillion baht ($70.8 billion) for infrastructure projects over the next seven years, the finance minister said on Monday.

Even with the increased borrowing, to boost the economy following last year’s devastating floods, the government still aims for a balanced budget in 2017, Kittirat Na Ranong told a briefing. Earlier, the plan was to borrow 1.6-2.0 trillion baht, but the amount has been increased to include utilities and telecommunications project, he said.

Ministry keen on Dawei project, The Nation, Sept. 5

The Finance Ministry says it trying hard to ensure the success of the Dawei mega-project in Myanmar, the construction contract for which was won by Italian-Thai Development (ITD). Areepong Bhoocha-oom, the ministry's permanent secretary, said yesterday that it had paved the way to move forward on the project, which includes a deep-sea port and a heavy-industry estate.

The project has been progressing slowly, as it is 10 times the size of Thailand's own Map Ta Phut industrial complex in Rayong province. The Dawei project will be developed on 200 square kilometres. Total investment is expected to be at least US$8.6 billion (Bt270 billion).

ADB urges Thailand to build cross-border route to Dawei, Bangkok Post, Aug. 30

The Asian Development Bank has advised the Thai government to invest in transport and infrastructure development in Myanmar to make international investors and financiers feel more comfortable about taking part in the massive Dawei project.

Craig Steffensen, the ADB's Thailand country director, yesterday said in addition to the motorway planned between Nonthaburi's Bang Yai district and Kanchanaburi province, the Thai government should look at running a road or railway across the border to improve access to Dawei. "It doesn't need to be a massive investment, just an initial amount that can get the Dawei project off the ground," he said. He was speaking at the Thailand Focus 2012 forum being held at the Four Seasons Hotel on Ratchadamri Road.

Legislative Tracker

Health commission opposes medical tax privileges, The Nation, Sept. 12

The National Health Commission Office (NHCO) is opposing a proposed change to the 2009 national health charter that would enable the government to grant tax and investment privileges to commercial health service companies under the new medical hub policy.

 The NHCO says the proposal would exacerbate the shortage of doctors in state hospitals and reduce poor people's access to quality medical treatment. The Private Hospital Association (PHA) proposed the legal amendments, saying they would help promote Thailand as a medical hub and increase its competitiveness among Asian countries.

 The Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association and the Institute for Small and Medium Enterprises Development back the medical-hub policy. Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri has already announced the government's Medical Hub and Wellness policy. The proposal is among 37 current proposed changes to corporate and environmental laws.

Manufacturing

BMW wants Thailand for big bike hub, Bangkok Post, Sept. 8

BMW AG, the German carmaker, is keen on making Thailand its factory hub for big bikes, says Industry Minister M.R. Pongsvas Svasti. The plan fits the goal of the Board of Investment (BoI) to promote the country as a production centre for big bikes. The agency recently agreed to let big bikes of at least 250cc apply for BoI incentives compared with the previous condition of at least 500cc.

M.R. Pongsvas made his statement after a meeting with executives from BMW AG and BMW Group Thailand. BMW already has a car assembly plant in Rayong province, but details of the new investment remain unclear and executives declined to comment yesterday.

Thailand's output ahead of schedule, Bangkok Post, Aug. 31

Thailand's car production is expected to hit 3 million units in the next 18 months, much faster than a previous projection of the next three years or by 2015, says the Thailand Automotive Institute (TAI).

Speaking at the Thailand Focus 2012 forum, TAI president Patima Jeerapaet said manufacturing volume is estimated at 2.2 million units this year, up from 1.5 million last year, with motorcycle production hitting 2.5 million units. Production in Southeast Asia reached 3 million units last year with overall domestic sales of 2.6 million. Under the current forecast, Thai automobile output will reach 3 million units by 2015, moving the country to 11th place from 15th.

Other

Thailand’s anti-corruption score improves, Royal Thai Embassy, Sept. 12

Thailand’s recent measures to counter corruption have been recognized by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC).  PERC raised the government’s anti-corruption efficiency score as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra presided over the launch of a new public campaign against graft last week.

In its 2012 report on perceptions of corruption in Asia, PERC gave Thailand a score of 6.57 out of 10, with 10 being the most corrupt. That was a marked improvement over Thailand’s score of 7.55 in 2011, and was the best score for Thailand during the past decade. PERC’s scores are the results of a survey of expatriates on their perceptions of the extent of corruption in the countries in which they live.

China nominates Gates, Annan, Thailand PM for peace prize, The China Post, Sept. 10

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Thailand's prime minister and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are among those nominated for a Chinese alternative “peace prize.” Organizers of the Confucius Peace Prize announced the nominees Sunday for the accolade that last year went to Russia's Vladimir Putin for enhancing his country's status and crushing anti-government forces in Chechnya.

The China International Peace Research Center launched the prize in 2010 in an apparent attempt to counter that year's Nobel Peace Prize which went to jailed Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. He is serving an 11-year prison sentence for co-authoring an appeal for political reform.

Thailand's Yingluck Govt, One Year On, Jakarta Globe, Aug. 29

The government of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has marked one year in office with little fanfare. It has a clear electoral mandate and a large coalition majority in government but its policy directions have been hesitant and haphazard, destabilized and hemmed in by conservative forces arrayed against her exiled brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who ruled from 2001 to 2006 before his ouster by a military coup. Yingluck's immediate task ahead is to hold the ground, generate policy thrust and promote a compromise that will allow Thailand to move ahead.