Thailand Clippings: Prime Minister Visits the United States for the United Nations General Assembly

Top Story of the Week:  Prime Minister Visits the United States for the United Nations General Assembly

LOOKING AHEAD

+ 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:

UNGA
+ Yingluck leads Thailand's roadshow in New York
+ Thailand Recognizes the Rule of Law, Government Public Relations Dept. 
+ Providing Women and Children with Greater Access to Affordable Health Care 
+ Any strategy to promote growth must put people first  
+ Prime Minister Cites Food Safety as Thailand’s Top Priority
+ Thailand the First Country to Be Party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child 
+ Yingluck Glides at Asia Society 
+ Yingluck Shinawatra: Moving Forward in the Asia-Pacific Century 
+ Thai Premier Looks to Boost Domestic Consumption 
+ Prime Minister Visits the United States for the United Nations General Assembly 

Defense & Security
+ Cabinet to consider life improvement proposal for southern Muslims
+ Malaysia Supports Thailand for Solutions to Southern Problems

Corporate
+ Mining growth in Laos to boost MMG's Caterpillar sales
+ Pepsi to build 2 new plants

Other
+ Flooding stabilises in Kanchanaburi
+ Gaemi bows out with whimper
+ Gaemi enters Thailand; downpours hit provinces
Thailand shares experiences on drug eradication
TIME Asian Hero turns focus to education for the poor 


           

Economics
+ Thailand’s Investment Growth and Its Developed Infrastructure Making ASEAN More Attractive to Investors
+ 2012 East Asia growth set to slow before recovery next year 
+ Export strategy adjusted with focus on regional markets, FTAs
+ Investment could take up the torch 
+ SEC wants to develop GMS nations 
+ Asia urged to focus more on services as slowdown worse than expected 

Energy
+ Nuclear power study planned: minister
+ Chevron plans 100 more Caltex stations by 2015 
Financial Services 
+ Thai government eyes 100% debt in local currency 
+ BOT targeting some suspicious lending by non-bank institutions 
+ Ageing population may overwhelm Thai pension system 
+ Thai capital markets third best in Asia on corporate governance
+ Policy Interest Rate Remains Unchanged 
+ General Electric trims stake in Thailand's Bank of Ayudhya 
            

Food & Agriculture
+ Court rejects challenge to rice pledging scheme
+ NFI forecasts 5-15 % increase in food exports 
+ Government’s Explanation of Its Rice-pledging Scheme 

Health & Life Sciences
Baxter invests in kidney solution plant here 

ICT
+ 3G auction: NBTC 'happy' regardless
+ Microsoft partners with top IT distributors to penetrate provinces
+ Using genuine software: an ethical choice for business success
+ NASA climate project aiming for revival next year
+ Microsoft invites Thais to donate to realise dreams of youth
+ New ICT Project to Boost Thailand’s Tourism Income
+ Dell announces two new services for IT firm's enterprise clients
            

Infrastructure
Yingluck, Thein Sein sign pact
National water plan based on zoning
+ Amata foresees brisk sales 
+ New airline boss vows no political meddling 
+ New Bangkok bus lines to Laos 
+ Dawei 'back on track' after meet 
+ Thailand, Burma agree to stronger coordination on Dawei project 
+ Don Mueang Airport to Be in Full Service Operation in October 

Legislative Tracker
+ Tax rebates begin under first-car scheme

Politics
+ Thai court issues arrest warrant against Thaksin
+ UN honours Yingluck 
+ Viroj named acting Pheu Thai leader 
+ PM reassigns Yongyuth portfolios to ministers 
+ Yingluck: No talks yet on cabinet reshuffle 


UNGA

Yingluck leads Thailand's roadshow in New York, The Nation, Oct. 2

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra led a delegation of chiefs of public and private organisations in a roadshow, aiming to lure more investment from the US to Thailand.

The roadshow entitled "Thailand: Positioning for Growth and Stability" took place on Sept 27, attended by over 60 fund managers. According to the information on the Thai government’s website, representing Thailand were chiefs of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Fiscal Policy Office, Public Debt Management Office, Federation of Capital Markets Association, Association of Securities Companies and Association of Investment Management Companies.

In her opening speech, Yingluck assured the investors of continued growth and stability in the economic stability, underpineed by political stability and strong economic fundamentals - sufficient reserves for short-term debt, low public debt to GDP and appropriate inflation. She noted that the stock market in the past few years has been riding on the strengths. 

Thailand Recognizes the Rule of Law, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 28

Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha has stated that Thailand recognizes the rule of law as an essential element in addressing issues of global concern, such as corruption, transnational organized crime, terrorism, drug trafficking, and trafficking in persons.  The statement was made in New York at the High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels on 24 September 2012.

Her Royal Highness spoke at the meeting on behalf of the 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). At the same meeting, she also delivered the Thai national statement. Her Royal Highness said that adherence to the rule of law is a core principle under the ASEAN Charter that binds all ASEAN member states. She explained that ASEAN leaders recognize the crucial role of the rule of law in ensuring justice, equality, stability, and sustainable prosperity, and at the international level, respect for the fundamental principles of international law, including those regarding the sovereign equality of states. ASEAN has strengthened its cooperation with the United Nations, through the adoption of the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations in 2011, aimed at expanding cooperation in areas including human rights, good governance, democracy, and the rule of law through consultation, information-sharing, and capacity-building.

Providing Women and Children with Greater Access to Affordable Health Care, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 28

Thailand is paying special attention to women and children by providing them with greater access to affordable health care, including reproductive health care, essential drugs, health promotion, and family planning services.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she believed that equal access to healthcare for all, regardless of gender or race, is a basic element of human rights and security. The statement was made at the “Every Woman, Every Child” Dinner, held in New York on 25 September 2012, as part of her trip to the United States for the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Prime Minister Yingluck said that promoting good health for women and children would help support efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals. For these reasons, improving access and quality of health care for all became one of her top priorities to be implemented in her first year as Prime Minister. This commitment has led to the improvement of the one-dollar Universal Health Coverage scheme, which has been Thailand’s flagship policy since 2002 and covers over 99 percent of the population. Thailand has also expanded its HIV treatment program to cover all infected persons, in particular, HIV infected pregnant women, to prevent transmission from mother to child.

Any strategy to promote growth must put people first : Yingluck, The Nation, Sept. 28

Economic development must go hand in hand with political advancement, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand told the United Nations General Assembly today.

"During this period of economic uncertainties, we must not consider economic growth alone. It is important to put people at the front and centre of the development agenda," she said in an address to the Assembly's General Debate, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York. "This is what every government should do: putting people at the heart of the country's economic development strategy," she said. "Because we believe that the greatest asset of any country is its people, and how much a country can excel depends on how much its people can fully realize their potential."

Prime Minister Cites Food Safety as Thailand’s Top Priority, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 27

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, during her visit to the United States from 23 to 29 September 2012, cited food safety as Thailand’s top priority.

The Prime Minister stated that food and agricultural food products are not only a key export and industry but also an important part of Thailand’s cultural heritage. In her remarks at the “Kitchen to the World Event,” held at the Plaza Athénée Hotel in New York, the Prime Minister said that Thailand is proud to promote Thai food and agricultural products, as well as Thai restaurants overseas. With annual revenue from food exports exceeding 20 billion US dollars a year and as the world’s largest exporter of rice in 2012, she said, Thailand has become a major provider of food and agricultural products to the world. The country’s success is due to the strength of its farmers and natural resources, advanced technology in food processing, innovative product development, and strategic marketing. 

Thailand the First Country to Be Party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 27

Thailand has signed and deposited an instrument of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure.

With the signing of the instrument, Thailand is the first country to become Party to the Optional Protocol. Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul on 25 September 2012 signed the Optional Protocol on behalf of Thailand with Ms. Patricia O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, during the Treaty Event at the sidelines of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  According to a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a strong advocate of children’s issues, presided over the event as witness.

Yingluck Glides at Asia Society, Forbes, Sept. 26

In an appearance at the Asia Society in New York today, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra touched on the expected topics of Burma/Myanmar, China, the ASEAN pact and investment flows into her country. Particularly in a follow-up session with former U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Eric John, she spoke fluidly in what continues to be a surprisingly popular reign for someone widely viewed as an accidental leader at the outset of her time in office 14 months ago.

The Thai economy has improved noticeably since 2010 and urban street demonstrations have receded. Matters of income divide and rural poverty continue to fester, and 45-year-old Yingluck’s efforts to date such as through tinkering with rice prices have yielded little gain.

Yingluck Shinawatra: Moving Forward in the Asia-Pacific Century, Asia Society, Sept. 26

Following is the complete text of remarks by Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand, at Asia Society New York on September 26, 2012.

Excellencies,

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the kind introduction. It is an honor to be here at the Asia Society and to meet all of you who have helped develop ties between America and Asia.

As many of you know, I had the pleasure of attending university here in the United States and consider the U.S. as somewhat of a second home. Thank you for being here tonight to welcome me back on my first trip to the U.S. as the Prime Minister of Thailand.

For the complete text, please click on the headline.

Thai Premier Looks to Boost Domestic Consumption, WSJ, Sept. 26

Thailand's economic policy is focused on boosting domestic consumption as exports are hit by slowing global growth, the country's prime minister said Wednesday.

Exports to China, Europe and the U.S. have long fueled the Southeast Asian nation's economic growth. But as the global economy slows, so too has export demand. That is forcing the government to look to its consumer base to drive its economy. "Our policies are to accelerate domestic consumption--it will strengthen us in the long run," said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Prime Minister Visits the United States for the United Nations General Assembly, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 21

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will visit the United States from 23 to 29 September 2012 for the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, to be held in New York.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by several Cabinet members, namely Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri, and Industry Minister M.R. Pongsvas Svasti. Members of the private sector will also join this trip, which also aims to restore confidence in Thailand and promote the country’s trade and investment. The Prime Minister will give an opening speech at a seminar "The State of the Thai Economy” in order to boost the Thai economy, especially in the fields of finance and the capital market. She will open the Executive Luncheon Meeting, organized by the Ministry of Industry and the Board of Investment. Members of the Thai private sector and American investors will participate in this meeting.

Corporate

Mining growth in Laos to boost MMG's Caterpillar sales, The Nation, Oct. 11

Metro Machinery Group (MMG) will provide more than Bt1.5 billion worth of Caterpillar construction and mining equipment to a gold and copper mine in Laos as part of its plan to boost its sales there to Bt10 billion this year.

"The company has put a focus on the Laotian market because of its very high mining growth. About 400 executives and technicians from Thailand have been dispatched to Laos in an attempt to expand the market and provide 24-hour maintenance," Thongsai Burapachaisri, chairman of Bangkok-based Metro-Cat, said yesterday. In Thailand, Metro-Cat forecasts its sales to grow 20 per cent to Bt8 billion this year thanks to demand for replacement of machinery after last year's devastating floods. 

Pepsi to build 2 new plants, The Nation, Oct. 5

PepsiCo Inc continues to boost its snack and beverage business with plans to invest in two new plants, taking its total investment in the Kingdom since 2000 to US$2.9 billion (Bt90 billion).

One plant at the Amata City Industrial Estate in Rayong province, bought from San Miguel in February for Bt2 billion, would serve as a bottling plant of Pepsi-Cola drinks, as its bottling contract with Serm Suk Plc, its partner for nearly 60 years, ends at the end of October. It was reported that Serm Suk would immediately launch its own carbonated soft-drink brand on November 1. Meanwhile, continuous investment has been made in salty snack production, including at one manufacturing plant in Lamphun, with full production capacity of 45,000 tonnes a year and five distribution centres. PepsiCo decided this year to invest in a second snack plant in Rojana Industrial Park, Ayutthaya, which won investment promotion privileges from the Board of Investment.

Defense & Security

Cabinet to consider life improvement proposal for southern Muslims, The Nation, Oct. 11

A five-point proposal to improve the quality of life of Thai Muslims possibly a non-violent solution to the long-standing crisis in the deep south - is to be submitted to the cabinet for approval, said senior official of the PM's Office.

PM’s Office permanent secretary Tongthong Chandrangsu said the proposed measures would include mental and physical rehabilitation, additional welfare, better education and housing, and frequent visits to villages by provincial and national government figures to create better understanding among local people. The proposal emerged from a meeting of the committee on rehabilitation of people affected by the southern unrest on Wednesday chaired by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok, Thai News Agency reported.

Malaysia Supports Thailand for Solutions to Southern Problems, Government Public Relations Dept., Oct. 10

Malaysia has supported Thailand’s efforts to cope with unrest in the southern border provinces, which share borders with Malaysia. The issue was among various topics of discussion during the official visit of Foreign Minister Surapong Tohvichakchaikul to Malaysia on 7-8 October 2012, when he met Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Malaysian counterpart Anifah Aman. Foreign Minister Surapong said that Prime Minister Najib had suggested that talks should be held to create better understanding between the authorities and the perpetrators of unrest. 

Economics

Thailand’s Investment Growth and Its Developed Infrastructure Making ASEAN More Attractive to Investors, Government Public Relations Dept., Oct. 10

Investment in Thailand continues to grow at a satisfactory level. The country’s developed infrastructure contributes to ASEAN, making the region more attractive to investors. 

A report from the Office of the Board of Investment (BOI) shows that the number of investment project applications from January to September 2012 exceeded the set target. Investors sought BOI promotional privileges for a total of 1,583 projects, valued at 804 billion baht, during the nine-month period. The number of projects represents an increase of 21.6 percent over the same period of 2011, when only 1,302 projects were submitted. The investment value accounts for a rise of 97 percent, compared with only 407 billion baht recorded in the same period of 2011. 

2012 East Asia growth set to slow before recovery next year: WB, The Nation, Oct. 9

Economic growth in the East Asia and Pacific region - covering 14 countries, including Thailand - may slow by a full percentage point to 7.2 per cent this year, before recovering to 7.6 per cent next year, according to a World Bank report.

Economic rebalancing continues as domestic demand, propelled by huge investment in infrastructure in several countries, will play a significant role to offset negative impacts on the export sector, according to the WB's "East Asia and Pacific Economic Data Monitor", released yesterday. Excluding China, the average growth rate for Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor is predicted to be 5.3 per cent this year and 5.5 per cent in 2013. The WB forecasts for Thailand's gross domestic product are 4.5 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

Export strategy adjusted with focus on regional markets, FTAs, The Nation, Oct. 8

The Commerce Ministry is rushing to adjust its export strategy for major traditional markets, particularly Asean and other trading partners with free trade agreements with Thailand.

It is also drawing up a plan to facilitate exports of SMEs.  Srirat Ratthapana, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said last week that the global economic crisis in major traditional markets particularly the United States, European Union and Japan has caused Thailand to face an export drop. As part of the strategy, Thai Trade Centres overseas would provide trading information to Thai exporters to encourage them to access those targeted markets more.

Investment could take up the torch, Bangkok Post, Oct. 8

Boosting domestic demand through efficient and transparent public investment will help the Thai economy maintain strong growth even as weak global conditions affect exports, according to Prasarn Trairatvorakul, the governor of the Bank of Thailand.

The central bank projects that global economic growth will be mute for a prolonged period, due to the euro zone's public debt crisis and subdued growth in the United States. Dr Prasarn said the Yingluck Shinawatra government had launched a number of spending programmes to boost consumption in its first year in office.

SEC wants to develop GMS nations, Bangkok Post, Oct. 6

The Securities and Exchange Commission plans to use the Thai capital market as an intermediary exchange providing funds for economic development projects in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Vorapol Socatiyanurak, the SEC secretary-general, told a seminar on the challenge of GMS economic development at the Thailand Investment Conference forum yesterday that the SEC has designed new products and implemented new rules and regulations for potential investors in the region. "We have designed these products to serve the needs of the region's development," said Dr Vorapol.

Asia urged to focus more on services as slowdown worse than expected, The Nation, Oct. 4

Economic growth in developing Asia is slowing down faster than previously anticipated due to the continuing slump in global demand, said the Asian Development Bank, which has urged Thailand and other countries to pay attention to the service sector as it has the potential to be a new source of growth.

The ADB projects developing Asia's gross-domestic-product growth dropping to 6.1 per cent this year, against the 6.9 per cent projected in April, Luxmon Attapich, senior country economist at the bank's Thailand resident mission, said yesterday. The regional economy is expected to expand 6.7 per cent next year, with growth rates this year and next down significantly from the 7.2 per cent experienced in 2011.

Energy

Nuclear power study planned: minister, The Nation, Oct. 6

Thailand will conduct a study on the construction of a nuclear power plant, the energy minister said.

Speaking after a seminar on "No Shortage of Thai Energy: Thai Logistics in Progress", Arak Chonlatanon said the ministry was preparing the country's new power production capacity development plan (PDP 2012) to ensure energy sufficiency. Thailand has utilised about 70 per cent of its natural gas and the resource is expected to be depleted within the next 10 years.

Chevron plans 100 more Caltex stations by 2015, The Nation, Sept. 24

Chevron (Thailand) will add 100 new Caltex petrol retail stations to the existing 450 across the country in the next three years as part of a move to boost its market share from 8 to 10 per cent by 2015, general manager for products Adrian Bendeck said.

He added that some 30 additional stations should be set up this year at a cost of Bt30 million each, not including the cost of land. He said the project was open to those who wish to invest in the petrol business, and Caltex would provide the logo and the oil, and share revenue.

Financial Services

Thai government eyes 100% debt in local currency, Reuters, Oct. 11

The Kingdom of Thailand is planning to turn 100% of its debt into local currency by repaying upcoming yen and dollar maturities with money raised in the local markets, Chularat Suteethorn, director general of the Public Debt Management Office told IFR in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. However, Suteethorn said that Thailand might still return to the G3 market in the next five to seven years to fund infrastructure projects. "Our priority is to use the domestic market, but we will closely monitor the international markets and evaluate" the relative cost of funding, said Suteethorn.

BOT targeting some suspicious lending by non-bank institutions, The Nation, Oct. 10

The Bank of Thailand is turning its radar towards non-bank financial institutions, which are disguising personal loans as hire-purchase loans to charge a higher interest rate illegally.

By doing so, they can charge more than 15 per cent per annum, while the maximum rate for personal loans as specified in the Civil and Commercial Code is 15 per cent. "The central bank is considering options to tackle these institutions," Bank of Thailand Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul said yesterday. "As far as we know, some companies seem to extend credit for purchasing products but the products are returned in only one day. Actually, this is classified as a personal loan.

"They use this method as hire-purchase loans are excluded from the civil law that requires them to charge interest rates of no more than 15 per cent. Trading transactions are not counted as lending," he said.  The authorities are considering proper ways to handle the situation and these institutions, Prasarn said.

Ageing population may overwhelm Thai pension system: research, The Nation, Oct. 9

Asia may have escaped the financial crisis relatively unscathed, but there is a challenge building in this region that has gone largely unnoticed by the West - rapidly ageing populations that put the sustainability of pension plans in doubt.

Over the past 15 years, Thailand had resolutely developed its pension system. Among Asia's emerging markets, it is the only one with a comprehensive and mature public pension pillar, at least in the private sector. However, like other Asian countries, Thailand faces changes that could see the nation rapidly age and threaten its pension system. In addition to a rising old-age-dependency ratio, it is hampered by a low retirement age (55), while the average life expectancy at birth is currently 74.4 years. Despite its efforts, the system also only provides sporadic coverage of its citizens.

Thai capital markets third best in Asia on corporate governance, Royal Thai Embassy, Oct. 8

Thailand’s capital markets have strengthened corporate governance to such a degree that they are now rated third best in Asia, according to the latest rankings from the Asian Corporate Governance Association and Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia-Pacific Markets (CLSA) contained in their Corporate Governance Watch 2012 report. 

Thailand trails only Singapore and Hong Kong in the 2012 rankings, and its gains have placed it ahead of Japan and Malaysia, which tied for fourth place. In addition to corporate governance, Thailand’s markets have been strong earnings performers this year, with the Stock Exchange of Thailand index reaching its highest levels in 16 years.

Policy Interest Rate Remains Unchanged, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 28

The Bank of Thailand has reaffirmed its decision to keep the policy interest rate unchanged at 3 percent per annum. Governor of the Bank of Thailand, Prasarn Trairatvorakul, said that commercial banks were competing in mobilizing deposits and extending credit. The reduction in the interest rate might give a erroneous signal and affect the country’s economic system. So the policy interest rate should remain unchanged.

He explained that the interest rate could be used as a major tool in maintaining economic equilibrium, in addition to the use of the current inflation-targeting framework, which would provide a degree of flexibility in implementing the monetary policy. Mr. Prasarn said that, during the past few years, Thailand had been affected by major economic crises in foreign countries, such as the subprime loan crisis in the United States and the eurozone crisis.

General Electric trims stake in Thailand's Bank of Ayudhya, Reuters, Sept. 26

General Electric Co (GE) (GE.N) sold about a quarter of its stake in Bank of Ayudhya BAY.BK under a global plan to shed non-core assets, after the value of its five-year investment in Thailand's most profitable bank more than doubled.

The U.S. conglomerate sold a 7.6 percent stake in a block trade to institutional investors, GE Capital, a unit of GE, said on Wednesday, confirming an earlier Reuters story. That cut GE's share in the bank to 25.3 percent, worth about $1.65 billion.

 

Food & Agriculture

Court rejects challenge to rice pledging scheme, Bangkok Post, Oct. 10

The Constitution Court on Wednesday rejected a challenge to the government's rice pledging scheme, saying the petition is outside its jurisdiction. The petitioners were not the party whose rights and liberties had allegedly been violated by the scheme, the court ruled.

Court spokesman Pimol Thampithakpong said the ruling was unanimous, with a vote of 9-0. The petition, which sought a court injunction halting the scheme, was filed by academics and students from Thammasat University and the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) led by Adis Israngkura na Ayutthaya, dean of Nida's School of Development Economics.

The petition said that the pledging principle required that the pledged price should be lower than the market price, to allow farmers to redeem their rice when the price goes up. Under the rice pledging scheme, the government intentionally fixed a much higher pledged price than the market price, with no intention of farmers ever redeeming their rice.

NFI forecasts 5-15 % increase in food exports, The Nation, Oct. 9

Thailand's food exports are expected to jump 5-10 per cent to Bt1 trillion next year as the effect of the global economic slowdown has already been discounted in the world market, according to the National Food Institute.

Amorn Ngammongkolrat, the NFI's executive vice president, said yesterday that the country's food exports would reach between Bt1.03 trillion and Bt1.08 trillion in 2013, up 5-10 per cent from this year. The forecast is based on global economic growth of 3 per cent, an exchange rate of Bt30 per US dollar and a 5-per-cent rise in food-product prices. However, the global economic recovery will likely remain uncertain, and other negative variables include possible higher production costs and a higher baht after the third round of US quantitative easing.

Government’s Explanation of Its Rice-pledging Scheme, Government Public Relations Dept., Oct. 5

The Government has explained that its rice-pledging scheme would benefit farmers, as it would boost the paddy price and farmers would be able to sell rice at a higher price.

The explanation came after strong criticism by the Opposition and some academics, who called for the scrapping of the scheme. Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom cited the scheme as a policy in the Pheu Thai Party’s election campaign in 2011. He said that, as the ruling party, Pheu Thai intended to help all groups of people and that farmers, being the majority of the Thai population, should receive greater attention. The project is part of the Government’s urgent policies to be implemented in its first year in office in order to provide income security for farmers and improve their quality of life. 

Health & Life Sciences

Baxter invests in kidney solution plant here, The Nation, Sept. 21

US-based Baxter International is pouring US$70 million (Bt2.24 billion) into producing peritoneal dialysis solution in Thailand, encouraged by the policy of the National Health Security Office (NHSO) to extend coverage to patients with chronic kidney failure.

Gerald Lema, corporate vice president and president of Baxter's Asia-Pacific region, said the investment affirmed the company's commitment to establish a long-term production base in Thailand and services to Thai patients. 

The factory will be on a 30-rai (4.8-hectare) plot in Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate in Rayong. Aiming to create 400 jobs, the plant is scheduled to begin production in mid-2013. The location was chosen because of its proximity to Bangkok and logistics network, said Tippawan Jitpimolmard, country manager at Baxter Healthcare (Thailand).

ICT

3G auction: NBTC 'happy' regardless, The Nation, Oct. 10

Despite possible low competition among the three bidders for 3G-2.1GHz licences, the telecom regulator insisted yesterday that it would be satisfied with whatever the outcome of its auction was next week.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) faces its first legal challenge to the auction today when telecom activist Anupap Tiralap petitions the Administrative Court for a temporary injunction against the auction.

He will cite the lack of quality standards for third-generation wireless broadband service, of a cap on 3G data-service fees, of a guarantee of equal 3G access for all Thais, and of an explanation of how the proceeds from the auction will be used to benefit the public. The legal move is aimed at protecting consumer rights, he said.

Microsoft partners with top IT distributors to penetrate provinces, The Nation, Oct. 10

Microsoft (Thailand) yesterday announced its "Geo Expansion" strategy, joining with the two largest information-technology distributors in the country, Synnex and Ingram Micro, aiming to double revenue within the next 12 months.

The move is meant to pave the way for delivering new products from Microsoft, including Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, and Office 365, as well as existing products such as Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure. Birathon Kasemsri Na Ayudhaya, managing director of Microsoft (Thailand), said Geo Expansion was a strategy designed and developed to target small and medium-sized enterprises with the aim to increase SME customers from 20,000 to 40,000 over the next year. 

Using genuine software: an ethical choice for business success, The Nation, Oct. 9

The competitive business world can be easily compared to elite sports. In both, the stakes for winning or losing are extremely high, with people being stretched to constantly deliver the best results.

At sports events, ethical behaviour and values such as respect, honour and sportsmanship get utmost importance. Cheating is not tolerated in world-class sports. And in exactly the same vein, cheating or any type of unethical behavior should not be tolerated in the world of business. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) reported in its 2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study that the commercial value of software piracy in Thailand stood at Bt26.4 billion, with 59 per cent of the respondents admitting to buying pirated software "all the time".

NASA climate project aiming for revival next year, Royal Thai Embassy, Oct. 8

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is in discussions with the government of Thailand to revive a regional climate study of Southeast Asia in the hope of conducting the experiments next year, Minister of Foreign Affairs Surapong Tovichakchaikul told parliament last week. 

NASA is seeking permission to use U-Tapao military air base in Thailand for the project.  NASA cancelled the study, originally planned for this year, when it became apparent there was insufficient time to gain the necessary parliamentary approval before the original launch date.  Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra personally expressed her regret over the matter to U.S. President Barack Obama when both attended the opening of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York City two weeks ago.

Microsoft invites Thais to donate to realise dreams of youth, The Nation, Oct. 2

Microsoft has launched www.GiveforYouth.org, a global MicroGiving website, that allows people to fund and follow the dreams of young people around the world, including Thailand.

Give for Youth is a unique online marketplace that allows donors to support specific youth projects of non-profit and social enterprises around the world. The people of Thailand are invited to join the project by making donations from as little as Bt300. The website currently lists hundreds of micro-projects from all over the world. Specifically, these micro-projects support young people in their quest to obtain the tools and resources they need to find a job, continue their education and training, or start a business or social venture. A micro-project is limited to a budget of US$250 to $10,000 (Bt7,500 - Bt300,000).

New ICT Project to Boost Thailand’s Tourism Income, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 28

The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to carry out jointly the “ICT Free Wi-Fi for Tourism” project. 

Under the project, more than 1,600 free Wi-Fi routers will be installed at major tourism spots across Thailand to offer high-speed internet service for tourists. Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Group Captain Anudith Nakornthap, revealed that TOT Public Company and CAT Telecom Public Company had been assigned to provide the free wireless Internet service around the country. 

Dell announces two new services for IT firm's enterprise clients, The Nation, Sept. 25

Dell Corporation (Thailand) has announced two new services to support enterprise customers and expects them to be key for potential business in the near future.

Moreover, it will announce a new tablet based on Windows 8 in the fourth quarter of this year. Ekaraj Panjavnin, country manager of Dell Thailand, said the two new services would be for applications and security solutions. With the first one, it will provide modernisation services for applications, including integration of legacy systems into open platforms. 

Infrastructure

Yingluck, Thein Sein sign pact, Bangkok Post, Oct. 11

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Myanmar president Thein Sein are set to announce a joint partnership to support the Dawei deep-sea port megaproject at the Asean Summit in mid-November. Ms Yingluck directed ministers on Tuesday to accelerate planning in six sectors related to the Dawei project. Located in southern Myanmar, plans call for the creation of a special economic zone near the city with sea, land and rail links to Thailand. Construction giant Italian-Thai Development is the lead investor in the project.

National water plan based on zoning, The Nation, Oct. 11

Zoning will play a key role in the country's water-management plan, according to the Office of the National Water and Flood Management Policy.

ONWFMP secretary-general Supoj Towichukchaikul yesterday said the zoning would help determine the goals and necessary preparations for each zone. In addition to the country's floodplains, flood-prone areas and headwater zones, a total of 10 million rai (1.6 million hectares) of land has complete irrigation systems, 22 million rai has nearly complete irrigation systems and 68 million rai is without irrigation, Supoj said.

Amata foresees brisk sales, Bangkok Post, Oct. 10

Amata Corporation, the SET-listed industrial estate developer, has revised up its full-year land sales target to 3,500 rai from a previous 3,000 because of strong demand for industrial land from both Thai and foreign firms.

Amata sold nearly 2,000 rai in the first six months and prospects are better for the latter half, said managing director Viboon Kromadit, adding that deals for 800 rai of land are waiting to be signed. Most of the customers are still Japanese investors from the automotive, agriculture and consumer goods sectors. Japanese car makers are expanding their production lines, driving parts makers to expand too, said Mr Viboon. "Foreign investors will come to our estates as a result of growing conflicts between China and Japan concerning area ownership, and the situation is expected to be prolonged," he said.

New airline boss vows no political meddling, Bangkok Post, Oct. 10

Sorajak Kasemsuvan, the new president of state-owned Thai Airways International (THAI), says he is free from political influence.

Taking office yesterday, Mr Sorajak said his work would not suffer from political interference. "I do not receive orders from any politician. That said, it is normal for a state enterprise owned by the Finance Ministry to be supervised by politicians when it comes to policies, but such political involvement is at a normal level. "However, to free THAI completely from political influence, it would have to cease to be a state enterprise, and that is impossible," Mr Sorajak said.

New Bangkok bus lines to Laos, Bangkok Post, Oct. 1

The state-run Transport Co Ltd will offer direct coach services between Bangkok and Vientiane and Bangkok to Pakse in Laos under a policy to boost transport networks with neighbouring countries. Each destination will have one service a day using standard airconditioned buses and the one-way fare for both routes is 900 baht. The route from Bangkok to Vientiane will take 11 hours, leaving Bangkok at 8pm while the bus for Pakse leaves at 9pm and will take 13 hours.

Wuthichart Kalayanamit, president of Transport Co, said the two routes are an extension of two other routes while it has another seven routes running between Thailand and Laos such as Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and Khon Kaen to Vientiane. There are currently around 20,000 passengers travelling on the existing routes a year but the company expects 200,000 a year using intra-country service if there are more connections with other neighbouring countries. It plans two more routes to Cambodia this year 2012 and one to Myanmar in early 2013.

Dawei 'back on track' after meet, Bangkok Post, Oct. 5

The delayed Dawei mega-project is expected to forge ahead again soon, after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Myanmar President Thein Sein discussed the issue on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

The leaders of the two nations plan to visit the site of the Dawei deep-sea port and industrial project. Meanwhile, Italian-Thai Development is expected to sign a contract for construction of the port and the road connection from the Thai border this month. "Initially, the governments of the two countries will put themselves behind a budget for the project to send a signal to private sector of their support," said Pansak Vinyarath, chief of the prime minister's economic advisory board and director of the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development.

Thailand, Burma agree to stronger coordination on Dawei project, Mizzima, Sept. 28

Thailand and Burma agreed to put together a high-level coordinating committee to speed up the Dawei deep-sea port project, following a meeting between Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Burma’s President Thein Sein on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Thursday. The plan puts together a “three-level” group of key government officials from each country to steer the financially troubled project forward.

Don Mueang Airport to Be in Full Service Operation in October, Government Public Relations Dept., Sept. 25

Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok is ready to be in full service operation in October 2012. Tests have been conducted before the airport resumes its full-scale services.

According to Airports of Thailand Public Company, Don Mueang Airport is now well-protected from flooding, with the installation of 16 water pumps and the construction of floodwalls. Located north of Bangkok and about 30 kilometers northwest of Suvarnabhumi Airport, Don Mueang is being developed to ease air traffic congestion at Suvarnabhumi Airport and promote Thailand’s air transport business.

Legislative Tracker

Tax rebates begin under first-car scheme, The Nation, Oct. 2

The Finance Ministry yesterday started paying tax rebates to first-car owners. So far 250,000 buyers have applied for rebates worth Bt18 billion. Toyota Vios, Mazda2 and Honda Brio cars and Isuzu and Toyota pickup trucks are the preferred brands under the scheme.

The new-auto market is expected to reach an all-time high of 1.2 million units this year, thanks to stimulus programmes such as the first-car-buyer scheme as well as the launch of many new or redesigned models. Deputy Finance Minister Viroon Tejapaibul transferred Bt3.56 million to 47 car buyers who have met the eligibility requirement of owning their car for one year.

Politics

Thai court issues arrest warrant against Thaksin, AFP, Oct. 11

Thailand's Supreme Court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in the latest abuse of power charges brought against the controversial tycoon.

Thaksin, who was removed from power in a 2006 military coup and lives abroad to avoid a separate jail term for corruption, is one of 27 defendants facing trial over loans issued by the state-run Krung Thai Bank.

The former prime minister's absence from the Bangkok court "shows signs of evasion", said one of the nine presiding judges. "The court decides to issue an arrest warrant only against the first defendant (Thaksin) and his trial will be pending until the prosecutor can bring him to court," he said.

UN honours Yingluck, The Nation, Oct. 11

The United Nations will present a plaque to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in recognition of her role in encouraging more women to get involved in disaster-reduction efforts in Asia.

Margareta Wahlstrom, the UN secretary-general's special representative for disaster-risk reduction, will presenting the plaque to Yingluck at a ceremony to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction at Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus tomorrow. The theme for the day this year is "Women and Girls: The Invisible Force of Resilience". The prime minister is being recognised for "her commitment to empower more women on disaster-risk reduction in Asia", the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said. 

Viroj named acting Pheu Thai leader, Bangkok Post, Oct. 9

The Pheu Thai executive board yesterday named Viroj Pao-in acting party leader following the resignation last month of previous leader Yongyuth Wichaidit over the Alpine land controversy. Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Pol Lt Gen Viroj was elected due to his seniority and legal expertise. He dismissed speculation that the appointment was predestined.

Mr Prompong said Pol Lt Gen Viroj would serve as the acting leader until Oct 30, when a special assembly would be held to select a new leader and a new executive board. A source said an acting leader is needed to make sure routine work will not be disrupted.

PM reassigns Yongyuth portfolios to ministers, Bangkok Post, Oct. 3

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has allocated the work of former deputy minister and interior minister Yongyuth Wichaidit to cabinet ministers and insisted there will not be a cabinet shake-up for the time being.

Her move came amid reported lobbying for cabinet seats among Pheu Thai Party factions following Mr Yongyuth's resignation last week. Ms Yingluck yesterday said there would be no immediate cabinet reshuffle as the government wanted to speed up flood prevention measures and solve problems affecting people.

Yingluck: No talks yet on cabinet reshuffle, Bangkok Post, Oct. 2

The government has not discussed the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle yet because it wants to concentrate on solving the country's problems, according to the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Tuesday that she had assigned ministers to temporarily take over the responsibilities of Yongyuth Wichaidit, who has resigned as deputy prime minister and interior minister. The government had to concentrate on the issues at hand, and especially at this moment the preparations to cope with a tropical storm expected to hit the country from Oct 5-8, she added.

Other

Flooding stabilises in Kanchanaburi, The Nation, Oct. 10

Kanchanaburi governor Chaiwat Limpawantha, distributed relief supplies to flood victims in Dan Makham Tia district. Part of the province was hit by flash flooding on Monday night and water is now receding in some areas. However, the water level in one creek is flowing rapidly and has overflowed, inundating 4,000 acres of farmland and at least 500 houses.

The province declared Dan Makham Tia a disaster zone. A survey is being conducted to decide whether three other districts should also be considered disaster zones. The situation is expected to return to normal in the next 2-3 days if there is no more flash flooding from the mountain range.

Gaemi bows out with whimper, The Nation, Oct. 9

Tropical storm Gaemi - the source of much anxiety across the country, thanks to severe warnings by government officials - had weakened to a tropical depression by the time it hit Thailand late on Sunday.

It was just a low-pressure cell yesterday and its impact likely end soon, weather officials said. The Meteorological Department said Gaemi would cause downpours in some provinces for just the next couple of days. The low-pressure cell was expected to reach Myanmar by today. The storm spread heavy rain across the North, Central and Northeast regions.

Gaemi enters Thailand; downpours hit provinces, The Nation, Oct. 8

Downgraded to depression, but officials prepared to tackle floods and traffic jams

Tropical depression Gaemi has entered Thailand, spreading downpours over many provinces across the country. 
Sa Kaeo, Buri Ram and Si Sa Ket are among provinces facing moderate to heavy rain even before the depression arrived last night. 

Bangkok is now under the influence of Gaemi too. The Meteorological Department said the capital would experience direct impacts of the tropical depression today. "We are worried about flooded roads because they can cause traffic congestion," Traffic Police Division commander Maj-General Piya Tawi-chai said yesterday.

TIME Asian Hero turns focus to education for the poor, Royal Thai Embassy, Oct. 8

Having won international recognition for his work on family planning and in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS, Thai innovator Mechai Viravaidya has turned his focus to a problem that has bedeviled the country for decades: improving education for the rural poor. 

Since 2009, hundreds of children in northeastern Buriram province have been receiving a progressive education at the Mechai Pattana (Development) Bamboo School, named for the locally-grown natural material from which it is constructed. The curriculum shuns the rote learning methods common in many schools in Thailand and in Asia.  Critical and creative thinking are encouraged, as children from rural communities gain knowledge in a wide range of practical subjects from how to raise pigs and chickens, to how to conduct research on the internet. The school has a partnership with Microsoft Corporation for its IT lab, and adults from the community can also learn there.

Thailand shares experiences on drug eradication through alternative development with audience in Washington D.C., Royal Thai Embassy, Oct. 8

A top aide to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week shared with U.S. lawmakers and law enforcement personnel Thailand’s lessons and experiences in eradicating narcotics through sustainable alternative livelihood development.  In meetings with staffers from the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a special lecture at the Drug Enforcement Administration, Disnadda Diskul detailed how the king’s approach to ending poverty has resulted in thousands of tons of narcotics never reaching the U.S. and other countries.

By providing alternative means of earning a living to poor farmers in northern Thailand, “we have stopped $48 billion of drugs from entering the U.S., European or other markets,’’ said Disnadda, who is the Secretary-General of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, established by King Bhumibol’s late mother to bring development to tribal people and the poor.  The Foundation estimates that for the past 24 years, alternative livelihoods for farmers have resulted in a reduction of 100 tons of opium, the raw material for heroin, being grown each year, for a total of 2,400 tons.