Thailand Update: Thailand Eases Rules on Foreign Business Ownership

Thailand Update | July 5, 2017
Authors: Matt Solomon and Timotheos Tan
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Thailand Eases Rules on Foreign Business Ownership

The Thai Ministry of Commerce has issued a regulation amending the Foreign Business Act, easing foreign majority ownership restrictions on 19 types of businesses, including finance, rail transportation, aviation, energy production, and petroleum exploration. The Act previously allowed foreigners to work or own a minority share in a business in specified fields, contingent on the approval of the Business Development Department of the Ministry of Commerce, which was often viewed as both cumbersome and time-consuming to obtain. According to Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn, the process has been made more efficient, allowing foreigners to apply for permission from the ministry or government agency that directly oversees one of the 19 sectors or professions instead. A list of the exempted businesses can be viewed here.

The change comes as the Kingdom is pushing forward with plans for a massive infrastructure upgrade and the construction of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) advanced development zone, and follows a promise from the Thai government to improve the ease of doing business in the country. Minister Apiradi expressed the hope that the elimination of “complicated paperwork asking for permission from Thai government agencies” and “more flexibility in doing business” would result in an increase in the level of foreign investment. The Council addressed these issues with Prime Minister Prayut, Minister Apiradi, and other economic Ministers during its recent Thailand Business Mission. In particular, the delegation offered its support to the Thai government in its efforts to strengthen the business enabling environment in areas such as infrastructure development and the digital economy.

Ministry of Commerce Outlines Flagship Projects Under Thailand-U.S. Strategic Partnership Initiative

The Department of Trade Negotiations under the Ministry of Commerce has issued a concept paper proposing flagship projects in a range of sectors under the U.S.-Thailand Strategic Partnership Initiative. The Department has requested that Council members review the document in order to identify opportunities for collaboration. Proposed projects include research and development in processed agricultural products, development of fulfillment centers for e-commerce business, and development of Smart SMEs. The full paper can be found here.

Thailand’s New Customs Act Becomes Law

On May 17, Thailand's new Customs Act, B.E. 2560 (2017), was formally confirmed as law in the Royal Gazette, replacing the Customs Act of 1926. It will come into effect 180 days from publication. The Act is expected to simplify some customs procedures and facilitate increased trade. It includes a trusted traders program and significantly scales back a system that gives Thai customs officers financial rewards for finding violations. The new Act also reduces the time for customs audits, reduces penalties from 4 times the combined price of good plus duty to between 0.5 to 4 times the amount of duty evaded, and allows courts to exercise discretion in calculating fines. Traders should expect that Thai Customs will intensify efforts to complete open cases and audits before the new rules enter force in November. The Act, published in the Royal Gazette Volume 134 Part 53, may be found here (in Thai).

Thailand Looks to Amend the 2002 National Health Security Act

Thailand's Office of the Council of State is reviewing the 2002 National Health Security Act, potentially changing 14 areas. Some areas of revision include the definition of "public health services," and the financial support that the National Health Security Office (NHSO) receives, and prices set for medical services by the committee on public health quality and service improvement. The government said the changes aim to tackle the challenges NHSO has been facing in ensuring the sustainability of the Universal Health Coverage scheme. Public consultations on the draft National Health Security Bill were held in June. There were public hearings held in Songkhla province (June 10), Chang Mai (June 11), Khon Kaen (June 17) and Bangkok (June 18). A public consultation with industry experts was held June 20 and 21.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Thailand to develop master plan for closer ties with CLMV

National Affairs
US envoy talks up Prayut invitation
Thailand again fails trafficking test
Thai bill extends military’s authority 20 years beyond elections
Thailand’s Junta Is Seeking a Return to Normalcy With the United States
Small step up in competitiveness ranks

Customs
Parsing e-commerce tax options
Mukdahan envisions border bonanza
Carmakers keen to grab EV privileges
Important changes in the New Customs Act
Japan-Thai pact overhaul eyed
The Future of Asia 2017: Deputy PM: Thailand wary, but still interested in TPP
AMCHAM Thailand applauds new customs act, urges continued reforms

Defense & Security
U.S. plans to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Thailand
Arms sales not focus of Prayut's US trip
CARAT Thailand concludes following eight days of Bilateral Training, Operations at sea
Top US Pacific commander visits Thailand to strengthen ties
Thailand’s New Army Chief Makes First Singapore Visit
Thailand looks to acquire US platforms
Thailand confirms order of VN-1 APCs from China
Army defends armoured vehicle splurge
Thailand proposes defence procurement reform
US looking forward to closer Thai military ties

Economics
Bank of Thailand holds rate, raises GDP growth
Thailand's bad-loan ratio seen nearing peak
This Country's Bad Loan Ratio Is Worse Than China's
CIMB predicts good economic growth in Thailand
Bank of Thailand chief: No trace of a bubble
Thailand has policy room to help low growth, inflation: IMF
Thailand's PMI falls to 49.7 in May

Energy
Thailand’s ‘solar gold rush’ could see public selling rooftop power from September
Thailand: Amendments to the Petroleum Act and Petroleum Income Tax Act
Thailand energy firm PTT investigating JDA A-18 gas field shutdown
Renewable Energy in Thailand 2017: Market Size, Retailer Strategies and Competitor Performance
Thailand plans to sign electricity accord with Laos and Malaysia
Qatar crisis deemed unlikely to hurt Thai oil and gas trade
Thailand to reinforce Energy 4.0 policy at international forum

Financial Services
Liberalization of the Exchange Control Regime

Food & Agriculture
Rice from Thailand safe for consumption
Upturn in fortunes forecast for Thai rice
Thailand takes steps to help rubber farmers cope with low prices
Thailand expects cap on sugar content by 2018

Health & Life Sciences
Thailand private hospitals increasingly dependent on international patients
Sugar fixed?
Group wants equality in healthcare
Medical worker shortage constrain hub plans
Medical tourism vs. universal healthcare for all Thais
Health bill to sail through despite strong opposition
Health Ministry to provide free HPV vaccine to Thai children
Thailand aims to end rabies by 2020
Children still on losing side of health care
‘Sell health insurance to migrants’
Winai warns healthcare will be ‘distorted’ by changes
Fears mount over imminent changes to healthcare
Activists Protest Any Rollback of National Health Care

ICT
Reform body votes for tight social media censorship
NBTC eases up pressure on OTT
NBTC urges wayward OTT ban
Cybersecurity pros lacking in Thailand
Thailand advised to take proactive cyberlaw stance
Thailand to regulate on-demand video streaming as internet censorship heightens in the country
New delivery options brighten SE Asia's e-commerce outlook
AI at 4.0 forefront

Infrastructure
Thailand vows to force through China railway
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Thailand to develop master plan for closer ties with CLMV The Nation 18th Jun 2017
Thailand is initiating a master plan for trade and investment collaboration with the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) subregion to ensure all five countries continue to prosper amid strong global competition, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said recently “We started to write a master plan to develop trade and investment with Laos after visiting Laos early this month. This is a pilot project to negotiate with Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam later this year. “The master plan will focus on trade and investment between Thailand and the CLMV countries. They will double the value of their trade with us and while Thai investment in CLMV increases, and will open opportunities for businesses in CLMV countries to expand their investฌment in Thailand,” Somkid said.

National Affairs

US envoy talks up Prayut invitation Bangkok Post 1st Jul 2017
The US Ambassador to Thailand has shed light on US President Donald Trump's invitation to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to visit Washington, saying people have a "misconception" that Washington halted diplomatic relations with Bangkok following the coup. "People have a bit of a misconception about our relationship. They think the relationship ended after the coup, that we stopped working together. That's not true," Glyn Davies told the Bangkok Post during an exclusive interview. "It's true that our previous administration criticised the coup. Three years after the coup, you had a referendum on your constitution. Your government has said there will be elections next year. So this allows opportunities to talk more with each other," he said.

Thailand again fails trafficking test Bangkok Post 29th Jun 2017
Thailand is disappointed with the US decision to keep the country on the Tier 2 Watchlist of its latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report but insists the latest ranking will not affect the country's export growth expected at 5% this year. "Thailand views the report has not done justice to the significant and tangible progress Thailand has made in various areas during the past year," the Foreign Ministry said in response to the US TIP report which keeps Thailand on the same ranking with Myanmar and Laos. What the country had done on anti-human trafficking includes: "Policy initiatives, prosecution of wrong-doers and complicit officials, prevention of potential victims, witness and victim protection, and partnership with various groups of stakeholders, both domestic and abroad," the ministry said. The government remains committed to strenuously addressing human trafficking, while seeking to further strengthen and expand cooperation with truly concerned partners, it said.

Thai bill extends military’s authority 20 years beyond elections South China Morning Post 22nd Jun 2017
Thailand’s military-installed parliament on Thursday passed a bill that allows the ruling junta to continue to impose its policies after it holds elections and officially relinquishes power. The National Legislative Assembly voted 281-0 in favour of the legislation, which calls for establishment of a national strategy committee to oversee the long-term plans of governments over the next two decades. The committee’s primary task is to set new goals every five years, with the proclaimed intent of facilitating social, political and economic development, which the military claims have been hindered by politicians in elected governments. Government spokesman Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak said in March that reforming Thailand requires a long-term 20-year strategy to address issues such as corruption and the economy because previous governments were unsuccessful in tackling them.

Thailand’s Junta Is Seeking a Return to Normalcy With the United States World Politics Review 21st Jun 2017
In July, according to spokespeople for Thailand’s government, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will come to Washington for a White House visit. It promises to be a substantial diplomatic and reputational boost for both Prayuth, who led the coup in May 2014 that deposed Thailand’s most recent elected government, and the junta running Thailand, which remains a U.S. treaty ally. Former President Barack Obama did not offer Prayuth a White House invitation, although Obama did meet with him as part of a summit in California of Southeast Asian leaders in February 2016. The Thai junta repeatedly expressed anger at the Obama administration for the steps it took to condemn the military’s intervention in politics in 2014.

Small step up in competitiveness ranks Bangkok Post 1st Jun 2017
Thailand's world competitiveness ranking edged up one spot this year, helped by improvements in the economy and institutional framework. According to the latest edition from the World Competitiveness Center, a research group at IMD business school in Switzerland, Thailand's ranking rose to 27th from 28th in 2016. Arturo Bris, director of the World Competitiveness Center, said that while Thailand's rise in the rankings may seem insignificant, it's worth mentioning the better performance of the Thai economy and improvements in adaptability of government, central bank policy and effectiveness of government decisions. Infrastructure, health and education persist as weaknesses of the economy, Mr Bris said.

Customs

Parsing e-commerce tax options Bangkok Post 19th Jun 2017
E-commerce, the online trading phenomenon breaching global boundaries, has enabled companies and even individual vendors to increasingly engage in transactions with customers without any of the contacts traditionally associated with sales of goods and services. With an estimated value that runs into trillions of baht a year, it's little surprise that the Revenue Department has been tempted to claim a piece of the online business pie. The department last week announced its plan to catch up with the booming e-commerce business by levying a 5% withholding tax on all online purchase payments to be collected at the banks, which will then it to the tax-collecting agency.

Mukdahan envisions border bonanza Bangkok Post 13th Jun 2017
Thailand plans to promote the northeastern city of Mukdahan to be a trading and logistics centre of Asean, expecting to pour investment into infrastructure in the province to help increase annual border trade to 200 billion baht by 2019. Mukdahan governor Sorasit Ritsorakai said the area is in a perfect location to make use of the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) that links Myanmar's Myawaddy city through Tak and Mukdahan in Thailand to Laos's Savannakhet and eventually Vietnam, passing by millions of people along the route. The government plans to promote new investment in Mukdahan by setting up a special economic zone (SEZ) with full infrastructure and facilities as well as incentives from the Board of Investment, he said.

Carmakers keen to grab EV privileges Bangkok Post 6th Jun 2017
Since the government unveiled its investment privileges for electric vehicles in late March, several carmakers are keen to invest a combined 20 billion baht in making EVs in Thailand, according to the Thailand Automotive Institute. Acting president Nattapol Rangsitpol said both existing manufacturers and newcomers are interested in the government's EV promotional privileges, which will be open for applications during 2017-18. The BoI in March approved promotional privileges for EVs, including tax holidays of five to eight years. The privileges focus on production of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Important changes in the New Customs Act Bangkok Post 23rd Jun 2017
The government has enacted a new Customs Act BE 2560 (2017), published in the Royal Gazette on May 17 and will become effective 180 days from the publication date. This article describes some of the Act's key points that will affect business operators, importers and exporters.

Japan-Thai pact overhaul eyed Bangkok Post 9th Jun 2017
Tokyo: Japan and Thailand are set to revise a free-trade pact under the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) to cover cooperation on innovation, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who met Japan's high-ranking officials led by Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, and Nobuo Kishi, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, the 10-year-old trade pact needs to be revised. "Technology has changed over the last 10 years and we see it as imperative for the revision to cover more innovation, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things," he said. "Negotiations on further [tariff] reductions are continuing."

The Future of Asia 2017: Deputy PM: Thailand wary, but still interested in TPP Nikkei Asian Review 6th Jun 2017
Although not fully on board, Thailand is warming to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact despite the withdrawal of the U.S., according to Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. "Our view on the values of the TPP remains unchanged," Somkid said in an interview on Tuesday with the Nikkei on the sidelines of the annual International Conference on The Future of Asia. "TPP represents the national interest and social benefit of many countries," he added. Somkid said that Thailand is considering expressing its willingness to take part in the free-trade deal depending on how discussions between the remaining 11 member countries pan out. "We cannot yet fully accept the TPP's provisions," he said, adding that "there are some sensitive issues." Indeed, the country's huge agricultural sector, which accounts for roughly 40% of the economy, has opposed Thailand's joining the pact, as it would mean opening a long protected market.

AMCHAM Thailand applauds new customs act, urges continued reforms The Nation 5th Jun 2017
AMCHAM Thailand has been working with the government for the past 12 years on amending the outdated Customs Act of 1926 and advocating for a law that would increase the ease of doing business in Thailand and stimulate the economy. While it says the new law is a significant step in the right direction, the chamber has urged further reforms to the Customs Act that would bring it closer to international standards. AMCHAM Thailand says it believes that the Customs Act should fully meet standards established by the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonisation of Customs Procedures (the Kyoto Convention) and that Thailand should become a signatory of the Kyoto Convention. More specifically, AMCHAM Thailand recommends an eventual elimination of the reward-sharing scheme rather than a decrease in the percentage and a cap on rewards.

Defense & Security

U.S. plans to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Thailand Reuters 29th Jun 2017
The United States plans to sell four Black Hawk helicopters to Thailand after initially suspending their sale following a 2014 military coup. "The United States government has approved our purchase order for the four helicopters," army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart told reporters on Thursday, adding that the army already had 12 Black Hawk helicopters. "The matter will now be forwarded to Congress for approval," he said. The U.S. embassy in Bangkok confirmed the plan to sell the four helicopters, adding that Thailand and the United States had a "long-standing security relationship". Thailand's military, which has a long history of intervention in politics, ousted a democratically elected government in May 2014 saying it had to step in to end a period of political turmoil.

Arms sales not focus of Prayut's US trip Bangkok Post 28th Jun 2017
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon insisted yesterday a weapons purchase programme was not on the agenda for the prime minister's planned trip to the United States next month. Speculation that Thailand might purchase military hardware from the US was high after Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said on Monday the armed forces were being asked to compile information about US-made weapons and equipment as part of preparatory work ahead of the visit.

CARAT Thailand concludes following eight days of Bilateral Training, Operations at sea Stripes Okinawa 6th Jun 2017
After eight days of bilateral training events ashore and at sea, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Thai Navy (RTN) concluded the 23rd-annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, at Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand, June 6. As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces, and develop sustained naval partnerships with nations across South and Southeast Asia. The Royal Thai Navy has been a participant in the CARAT series since the exercises began in 1995. "Over the past eight days our Sailors and Marines worked side-by-side with their Thai counterparts in conducting a variety of training events ashore and operations at sea," said Capt. Alexis Walker, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. "Through 23 years of operating together, CARAT exercises allow us to incorporate new training topics and sea-based operations each year, furthering our interoperability and joint capabilities."

Top US Pacific commander visits Thailand to strengthen ties The Nation 5th Jun 2017
Brown held talks with Thai military commander-in-chief General Surapong Suwanna-art on Monday with an emphasis on Cobra Gold, the largest Asia-Pacific exercise held annually in Thailand, with seven countries participating.  An official guest of the Royal Thai Army, Brown is scheduled to stay in Thailand from Saturday to Wednesday. Yesterday, he also met with Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart and today is scheduled to visit the 31st Infantry Regiment King’s Guard in Lopburi.

Thailand’s New Army Chief Makes First Singapore Visit The Diplomat 1st Jun 2017
Thailand’s army chief paid his first visit to Singapore this week in a trip that underscored the defense ties between the two Southeast Asian states. Singapore and Thailand have a close defense relationship. Bilaterally, beyond traditional aspects like exchanges, visits and exercises, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has also had an overseas training area in Thailand, one of several arrangements it has with countries including Australia and the United States. The two countries are also involved in multilateral interactions, whether it be established ones like Singapore’s full participation in the Cobra Gold exercises since 2000, or newer manifestations of trilateral cooperation between the two countries and the United States.

Thailand looks to acquire US platforms Jane's 360 27th Jun 2017
The Royal Thai Armed Forces is preparing a list of military equipment to procure from the United States as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral defence ties. Major General Kongcheep Tantravanich, spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Defence, said on 26 June that the military had been requested to formalise lists of procurement targets ahead of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Washington in July. The targets will also consider US platforms that the Thai military could procure through aid mechanisms such as the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme. High on the agenda is likely to be spare parts to support US platforms – particularly helicopters – in operation in Thailand.

Thailand confirms order of VN-1 APCs from China Jane's 360 15th Jun 2017
The Thai government has confirmed that it will spend THB2.3 billion (USD68 million) on procuring an initial batch of 34 8x8 VN-1 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from China. The vehicles – produced by China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) – will be supplied to the Royal Thai Army (RTA) before the end of the decade. While Jane’s understands that the VN-1 order progressed through official channels earlier this year, the government announced on 15 June that funding for the purchase will be sourced from the defence budgets over the next four fiscal years.

Army defends armoured vehicle splurge Bangkok Post 15th Jun 2017
The army and the government on Wednesday defended a decision to buy 34 armoured vehicles worth 2.3 billion baht from China, saying the procurement is in line with the country's defence needs and its national development plan. Army commander Chalermchai Sittisart said the scheme to purchase VN-1 rubber-wheel armoured vehicles was studied thoroughly by an army committee that considered bidders from several countries including Russia and Ukraine.

Thailand proposes defence procurement reform Jane's 360 12th Jun 2017
Thailand is proposing to restructure its defence procurement mechanisms by expanding the remit of the Defence Technology Institute (DTI), a Ministry of Defence (MoD) body currently with remit for research and development (R&D) and defence industry development. Under proposed legislation recently drafted by the government, the DTI will become the Defence Technology Agency (DTA) and will act as a centralised procurement administrator for the Royal Thai Armed Forces and MoD. The changes, which are outlined in draft legislation published recently on the DTI’s website, are intended to support the development of local industry as well as introduce greater efficiencies in defence procurement processes, which are currently largely decentralised across the three armed forces and the MoD itself.

US looking forward to closer Thai military ties Bangkok Post 4th Jun 2017
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said he looks forward to Thailand's return to democracy and to expand military cooperation with the country. He reiterated America's commitment to Asia-Pacific but urged the countries in the region, including Thailand, to play a greater role in their own security. "We call upon all countries to contribute sufficiently to their own security. At the same time, we encourage them to actively seek out opportunities and partnerships with other like-minded nations, and we do the same, to sustain and maintain the peace," Mr Mattis said during a speech at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday. "We will continue to engage closely with our partners, building on recent progress. We are exploring new ways to address challenges, from maritime security to the growing threat posed by the spread of terrorism in Southeast Asia."

Economics

Bank of Thailand holds rate, raises GDP growth Bangkok Post 5th Jul 2017
The Bank of Thailand on Wednesday held the policy rate near a record low, seeking to preserve policy room despite signs that the economy is heading deeper into deflation again. The one-day bond repurchase rate was left at 1.5%, with Monetary Policy Committee members voting unanimously in favour, the BoT said on Wednesday. All 21 economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted the decision. Policy makers are struggling to get inflation back into the 1% to 4% target range. After about a year of low but positive inflation, consumer prices declined for a second month in June, prompting the government to lower its outlook for this year. Even so, the central bank has been reluctant to cut interest rates despite a stronger currency and amid worries over consumer debt levels.

Thailand's bad-loan ratio seen nearing peak Bangkok Post 21st Jun 2017
Nonperforming loans at Thailand’s banks are set to peak toward the end of 2017, according to Fitch Ratings, an outlook that may salve investor sentiment in one of Asia’s worst-performing stock markets this year. Thai economic growth is subdued but relatively stable at about 3%, signaling a slower expansion in bad loans in the months ahead and an eventual peak by year’s end or just after, said Parson Singha, senior director for financial institutions at Fitch Ratings in Bangkok. "It depends a lot on how the economic cycle goes," Mr Parson said in an interview Monday. "Growth has been relatively weak for the past several years, but at the same time it does look like the business environment has not been fundamentally poor, and banks have been tightening their underwriting standards."

This Country's Bad Loan Ratio Is Worse Than China's Bloomberg.com 20th Jun 2017
Nonperforming loans at Thailand’s banks are set to peak toward the end of 2017, according to Fitch Ratings, an outlook that may salve investor sentiment in one of Asia’s worst-performing stock markets this year. Thai economic growth is subdued but relatively stable at about 3 percent, signaling a slower expansion in bad loans in the months ahead and an eventual peak by year’s end or just after, said Parson Singha, senior director for financial institutions at Fitch Ratings in Bangkok.

CIMB predicts good economic growth in Thailand Pattaya Mail 6th Jun 2017
CIMB Thailand is forecasting the Thai economy will expand 3.2 percent this year after seeing 3.3 percent growth in the first quarter. CIMB Thailand’s Senior Director of Research, Amornthep Chawala pointed out that Thailand saw 3.3 percent growth in the first quarter of this year after seeing 3.1 percent in the same period last year. The stronger rise was due to an increased supply of farm produce, which brought higher incomes for growers, as well as recovery in the export sector and the strengthening of the oil price. He also mentioned greater demand on the world stage for electronics and state spending in the Kingdom as helping to drive up the economy.

Bank of Thailand chief: No trace of a bubble Bangkok Post 2nd Jun 2017
There are no signs of dramatic growth in borrowing for property speculation activities, while banks have been better at managing risks associated with project financing, says Bank of Thailand governor Veerathai Santiprabhob. His comments dispelled concerns over a real estate bubble after Supachai Panitchpakdi, a former director-general of the World Trade Organization and secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, earlier warned that most domestic private investment was concentrated in the property sector, which could cause a bubble. "We did not see strong growth in loans used for speculation on property prices compared with overall housing loans," Mr Veerathai said Thursday on the sidelines of the Greater Mekong Investment Forum.

Thailand has policy room to help low growth, inflation: IMF Bangkok Post 1st Jun 2017
Thailand can deploy monetary and fiscal steps to cushion the effects of low inflation and slow economic growth as the country's recovery remains modest and there are downside risks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday. The recovery is expected to advance at a moderate pace in the near to medium term amid risks such as global uncertainty and financial volatility, the IMF said in a statement after completing its annual review of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy. "A mutually reinforcing policy mix of fiscal and monetary stimulus, coupled with structural reforms and a flexible exchange rate, can support domestic demand in the short run and boost potential growth over the long run," the IMF said. "Policy space and ample buffers can be deployed to minimise the risk of a low-inflation, low-growth trap," it said.

Thailand's PMI falls to 49.7 in May Nikkei Asian Review 1st Jun 2017
The Nikkei Thailand Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, or PMI, fell marginally to 49.7 in May from 49.8 in April. A reading above 50 indicates economic expansion, while one below 50 points toward contraction. May's data marked the second consecutive month of contraction. "Latest survey data showed a dip in output for the first time since November, albeit only negligibly, while new orders barely increased," said Bernard Aw, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey. "That together with lower employment, reduced inventories and a lack of supply chain constraints pushed the headline index further below the no-change mark of 50.0 in May," he added.

Energy

Thailand’s ‘solar gold rush’ could see public selling rooftop power from September Asian Correspondent 2nd Jun 2017
Thailand may allow households and factories with solar rooftops to start selling excess electricity to the national power grid from September, in a bid by the kingdom to slash power bills and increase emphasis on renewable energy. Thailand is already Southeast Asia’s leading solar market; there were 2.75GW of new solar power installations by the end of September 2016, a marked increase from 722MW installations in 2015 and 470MW in 2014, according to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The kingdom’s integrated energy blueprint and focus on renewable power sources will ensure these numbers will grow over the year and beyond, says Legal Business Online.

Thailand: Amendments to the Petroleum Act and Petroleum Income Tax Act Lexology 30th Jun 2017
On June 17, 2017, the Petroleum Act (No. 7) B.E. 2560 and the Petroleum Income Tax Act (No. 7) B.E. 2560 were both enacted, amending their predecessor laws. The amendments to both statutes entered into force on June 23, 2017. The amendments had been anticipated for some time, introducing production sharing agreements (PSAs) and service contracts as alternative host government instruments by which upstream oil and gas producers may invest in Thailand. Traditionally, the concession has been the sole means by which oil and gas could be explored for or produced in Thailand. Acting similarly to a license, the Thai concession stipulates that petroleum is the property of the state, though ownership transfers to the concessionaire at the wellhead. The amendments to the Petroleum Act do not eliminate the potential use of concessions, but rather provide two new instruments for the Ministry of Energy (MOE) to utilize when contracting with petroleum producers. The MOE will now be permitted to define appropriate blocks to be explored and produced by way of a PSA. Sections 53/1 through 53/8 of the Petroleum Act now outline a number of basic principles relating to PSAs and clauses to be found in the PSA itself, including the following: Unlike concessions, under the PSA the Thai state will retain ownership over a portion of the petroleum after it has been produced. Similar to PSAs, the MOE will now be permitted to determine appropriate blocks to be exploited via a service contract. Unlike the PSA or the concession, where the private oil and gas producer obtains ownership in some or all of the produced petroleum, produced petroleum under the service contract belongs exclusively to the Thai state.

Thailand energy firm PTT investigating JDA A-18 gas field shutdown ETEnergyworld.com 26th Jun 2017
Thai energy company PTT is investigating a shutdown at a natural gas field in the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area (JDA) in the Gulf of Thailand, it said on Sunday. PTT is also carrying out relief measures to power plants and gas stations after the JDA's A-18 block stopped operating on Saturday. Operations have yet to resume, but PTT said the shutdown is temporary.

Renewable Energy in Thailand 2017: Market Size, Retailer Strategies and Competitor Performance Satprnews 22nd Jun 2017
Orbis Research has announced the addition of the “Thailand Renewable Energy Policy Handbook 2017” to store by company, by country, and by application/type for the competitive landscape analysis. Thailand Renewable Energy Policy Handbook 2017” is among the latest country specific policy reports from GlobalData, the industry analysis specialist that offers comprehensive information on major policies governing renewable energy market in the country.

Thailand plans to sign electricity accord with Laos and Malaysia The Nation 19th Jun 2017
Energy Ministry permanent secretary Areepong Bhoocha-Oom said the agreement would pave the way for the Laos-Thailand-Malaysia electricity deal, enabling the Asean Power Grid to materialise. “The agreement will be for the sale and purchase of electricity between Laos and Malaysia, using Thailand’s transmission system. We will be the link for the two neighbours,” he said. “The volume of electricity involved is 100 megawatts.”  The concept of an Asean Power Grid was first floated at an informal Asean summit in late 1997. Areepong said this upcoming agreement could make the grid a reality. The signing of the historic agreement is set to take place at the Asean Ministers of Energy Meeting, which will be held in Manila between September 17 and 22. 

Qatar crisis deemed unlikely to hurt Thai oil and gas trade Bangkok Post 7th Jun 2017
The Arab world's severance of diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday is unlikely to have any major impact on the Thai economy, particularly on oil and gas business, as experts and industry officials say the incident is seen as a short-term disruption. In contrast the rift is expected to weigh on global oil prices, keeping them at the relatively low US$50-$55 a barrel, they said.

Thailand to reinforce Energy 4.0 policy at international forum The Nation 2nd Jun 2017
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) of Thailand will host the 6th International Energy Forum 2017 under the theme “Towards Smart Regulation” to reinforce the “Thailand 4.0” and “Energy 4.0” policies. The event will be held on June 30 at Plaza Athénée Bangkok. ERC commissioner Viraphol Jirapraditkul said the ERC had been organising the forum annually since 2010. It had been successful in creating the Asean Energy Regulators’ Network, to forge cooperation and good relations among energy regulatory agencies in Asean. 

Financial Services

Liberalization of the Exchange Control Regime Lexology 19th Jun 2017
In an active effort to promote private-sector investment in Thailand, the exchange control law and regulations have been amended by the Bank of Thailand (the BOT), and became effective from 5 June 2017 onwards.

Food & Agriculture

Rice from Thailand safe for consumption The Nation 29th Jun 2017
The Royal Thai Embassy in Brunei Darussalam wishes to refer to the video that had gone viral via social media about rice supplied to Brunei. “Although the rice packaging shown in the video is not from Thailand, we, on behalf of the Government of Thailand, wish to assure that the rice supplied and sold in this country is absolutely safe for human consumption,” the Royal Thai Embassy said in a statement. “Every delivery of rice is accredited with Phytosanitary Certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Bangkok, Thailand, and Certificate of Quality issued by the authorities in Thailand in accordance with the terms stipulated in the contract between the Government of Brunei Darussalam and the supplier from Thailand.” According to the Royal Thai Embassy, the rice supplier from Thailand and the Thai Government firmly value the good and long term business cooperation with the Government of Brunei Darussalam.

Upturn in fortunes forecast for Thai rice Bangkok Post 20th Jun 2017
With state rice stockpiles nearly sold off and major rice-producing nations suffering bad weather, Thai rice exports are likely to hit a record high this year, say government and industry officials. Thailand's 2017 rice exports are tipped to reach 11 million tonnes, the most ever, because of rising demand in rice-importing countries at a time that production in grower countries is falling. Duangporn Rodphaya, director-general of the Commerce Ministry's Foreign Trade Department, said several rice-importing countries have approached Thailand asking to buy more rice. She said falling state rice stocks have ignited concerns that supply in rice-exporting countries is falling, spurring buyers to rush to secure supply.

Thailand takes steps to help rubber farmers cope with low prices Reuters 13th Jun 2017
Thailand's cabinet on Tuesday approved measures to help rubber farmers and stabilise falling prices, the country's prime minister said. These include an extension to a 10 billion baht ($294.90 million) loan programme for agricultural cooperatives for three more years, and another 10 billion baht loan program for rubber businesses. "The government is trying to solve the problem. Rubber prices, like rice prices, have highs and lows," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting. The government will also continue to pay a direct subsidy of 1,500 baht ($44.23) per rai (0.17 hectares) for up to 15 rai per household to help to cover the costs of rubber production as well as living expenses for rubber farmers.

Thailand expects cap on sugar content by 2018 FoodNavigator-Asia.com 5th Jun 2017
Thailand is expected to introduce a sugar cap by next year, according to the national food regulator.  The Food and Drug Administration said a bill to legislate for a maximum of 10% sugar and sweetener content in foods has been submitted to the government. It is expected to pass through parliament over the coming months. Those operating with a higher proportion of sugar and sweeteners would be forced to pay higher taxes, said Tipvon Parinyasiri, director of the FDA’s Food Control Division, who was outlining the sugar control measures as part of a draft of the new Excise Act. 

Health & Life Sciences

Thailand private hospitals increasingly dependent on international patients International Medical Travel Journal 28th Jun 2017
Thailand is looking to medical tourism to improve it's private hospital business, according to Kasikorn Research Centre.

Sugar fixed? Bangkok Post 26th Jun 2017
Back in 2007, the average Thai consumed 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. But the worst was yet to come. Three years later, the estimated daily sugar intake was 23 teaspoons per person. Now the number is 28 teaspoons.

Group wants equality in healthcare Thai Visa 22nd Jun 2017
Rallying under the banner of the People Health Systems Movement (PHSM), the activists are battling health authorities over the National Health Security Bill that focuses on the very essence of people’s rights to medical care.   

Medical worker shortage constrain hub plans Bangkok Post 21st Jun 2017
Thailand faces a slew of formidable challenges in its aim to become a medical and wellness tourism hub in Southeast Asia, as the shortage of doctors and nurses poses a significant obstacle to development.

Medical tourism vs. universal healthcare for all Thais Bangkok Post 21st Jun 2017
New law threatens universal healthcare. Also a threat is medical tourism & better pay for doctors at private hospitals.

Health bill to sail through despite strong opposition Eleven Myanmar 19th Jun 2017
The People’s Health Systems Movement (PHSM) demanded yesterday that the whole drafting process begin anew to include participation from all sides. But it was clear their demand would not be met by authorities promoting the plan.

Health Ministry to provide free HPV vaccine to Thai children Pattaya Mail 16th Jun 2017
The Permanent Secretary of the Public Health Ministry disclosed that free HPV vaccine will be distributed to Thai children this July to maximize the prevention of rectal cancer in Thailand next year. Public Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Sophon Mekthon said the Ministry of Public Health’s objective is to make sure Thai people are healthy and to drive the Kingdom to its goal of Thailand 4.0. Many projects covering all age groups have been approved by the government, and the HPV vaccine will be distributed to Grade 5 students free of charge this July, with free rectal cancer screenings planned for next year.

Thailand aims to end rabies by 2020 Pattaya Mail 16th Jun 2017
With more than a dozen fatalities in the past two years, Thailand is stepping up efforts to eliminate rabies entirely.

Children still on losing side of health care Bangkok Post 15th Jun 2017
The regime's attempt to reform Thailand's national healthcare service by revising the 2002 National Health Security Act is not responsive to the needs of ethnic minorities, especially women and children.

‘Sell health insurance to migrants’ Thai Visa 12th Jun 2017
THE PUBLIC Health Ministry should force public hospitals to sell health insurance to all foreign workers to tackle the financial deficit from providing healthcare to migrant workers and solve the issue of abandoned stateless children, experts suggested.

Winai warns healthcare will be ‘distorted’ by changes The Nation 11th Jun 2017
ONGOING efforts to amend the National Health Security Act will distort the universal healthcare scheme, but should not bring about its abrupt end, according to the man who oversaw the scheme for nearly eight years. 

Fears mount over imminent changes to healthcare Thai Visa 7th Jun 2017
One of the most important healthcare laws is being revised amid concerns expressed from all sides.    Many are worried that the revisions will disrupt the National Health Security Office (NHSO) and the universal healthcare scheme, which has long been under its care. Other critics fear that the amendment to the National Health Security Act – as framed by the draft National Health Security Bill – will fail to solve problems that have long plagued the scheme and hospitals that support it. 

Activists Protest Any Rollback of National Health Care Khaosod English 6th Jun 2017
Those looking to protect Thailand’s universal health care benefits defied the junta’s assembly ban on Tuesday to protest proposed amendments to the law which would remake the much-praised system that has been in place since 2002.

ICT

Reform body votes for tight social media censorship Bangkok Post 5th Jul 2017
The junta's chief reform body has voted almost unanimously for a complicated set of stringent restrictions including mandatory fingerprint and face scanning even to buy time to use a mobile phone. The National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) passed the 84-page set of proposed new rules for online conduct on Monday by a vote of 144-to-1. If adopted by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and its appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA), smartphone and internet users are in for some major changes. The NRSA measures impose stringent restrictions on internet usage, intended in part to identify the posters of all content on services such as Facebook and YouTube. The package of wide-ranging measures would place Thai censorship and online restrictions even closer to those of nations such as China and Iran, which try to tightly control citizens' access to information.

NBTC eases up pressure on OTT Bangkok Post 4th Jul 2017
The national telecom regulator is pulling a U-turn on its registration rules as it tries to increase compliance of recalcitrant over-the-top (OTT) companies. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which took a hardline on its proposed framework during past weeks, is expected to relax its approach after its board meets Wednesday, a high-ranking official at the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry told the Bangkok Post. The move is to ensure regulatory practice complies with the new NBTC law in effect since June 22. The regulatory framework forcing OTT service operators and platforms to register has been widely criticised by OTT-related businesses as it could affect the digital ecosystem. Under the new NBTC law, the NBTC board serves as an interim board until the recruitment of new members for an OTT supervisory board is completed.

NBTC urges wayward OTT ban Bangkok Post 29th Jun 2017
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has pushed media agencies to boycott over-the-top (OTT) operators that fail to register their companies under the OTT regulatory framework by July 22. Yesterday, the regulator asked top advertising agencies to acknowledge the OTT service regulatory framework. Tomorrow, it will ask the 50 top advertising spenders to do so as well. Col Natee Sukolrat, chairman of the subcommittee working on the NBTC's OTT regulatory framework, said advertising agencies have agreed not to support non-compliant OTT platform operators. The NBTC will govern OTT operators under the Broadcasting Business Act and denounce those who fail to comply with the regulator. Media agencies who support non-compliant OTT operators will be considered co-offenders, said Col Natee.

Cybersecurity pros lacking in Thailand Bangkok Post 15th Jun 2017
Thailand is facing a big shortage of information security professionals, with fewer than 1,000 Thais working in the cybersecurity field. Of the total, only 198 Thais have Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) qualifications, a worldwide standard for digital security literacy -- 13 times less than South Korea -- according to Surangkana Wayuparb, chief executive of the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA). To successfully deal with growing cyberthreats, the number of CISSP professionals should be increased to 500 by next year and 1,000 by 2022, said Ms Surangkana.

Thailand advised to take proactive cyberlaw stance Bangkok Post 5th Jun 2017
Thailand needs to establish cybersecurity and data protection laws in order to tackle the surge in more sophisticated cyberattacks, says DellEMC, a leading information management firm. Most countries have already endorsed privacy protection laws, but Thailand has yet to do so, said P K Gupta, global presales leader for data protection solutions for DellEMC. He suggested laws that balance data protection for citizens and flexibility for businesses, However, he added: "The growth of cybercrime worldwide has encouraged the country to initiate a national cybersecurity agency to tackle the incidents that impact organisations."

Thailand to regulate on-demand video streaming as internet censorship heightens in the country e27 1st Jun 2017
The Thai government through the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is set to regulate over-the-top (OTT) service platforms that provide on-demand video streaming service, Bangkok Post reported. According to NBTC Chairman Col Natee Sukonrat, the plan is part of a regulatory policy that will be imposed on the local OTT market to curb internet content that is “difficult to regulate.” Set to take effect in August, the commission is currently listing the top 100 most popular content providers in the country. Those with more than one million users such as Youtube easily falls within this category.

New delivery options brighten SE Asia's e-commerce outlook Nikkei Asian Review 15th Jun 2017
Package delivery has long been a bottleneck for e-commerce in Southeast Asia, but things are changing -- thanks to startups offering various new ways to get orders into the hands of shoppers. Neighbors' homes and "smart" lockers set up in stores are being used as alternative pickup locations, for instance, while ordinary consumers are helping deliver parcels in their neighborhoods -- to compensate for the region's generally underdeveloped logistics infrastructure, as well as the chronic shortage of delivery workers.

AI at 4.0 forefront Bangkok Post 5th Jun 2017
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Thailand is moving forward at full steam, thanks to the development of smart algorithms that can replicate, assist and enhance human tasks in predictable and automatic ways.

Infrastructure

Thailand vows to force through China railway Channel NewsAsia 14th Jun 2017
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday (Jun 13) said he would invoke his 'absolute powers' to clear hurdles holding up a multi-billion-dollar deal with China to build a high-speed railway. The two countries, who are increasingly close friends, have agreed to lay the track that will ultimately cut through the Laos' border to Thailand's south. Beijing's big plan is to link the southern Chinese city of Kunming by rail with Singapore and work has already begun on the line in Laos. But the deal with Thailand has been beset by delays, including a tussle over the initial loan terms from Beijing. More recently construction has been set back by a Thai law limiting the number of foreign nationals who can work as engineers and architects on mega-projects inside the kingdom. On Tuesday, Prayut said he would force through the deal, if necessary using Article 44 - a self-granted law dubbed an absolute power by critics. "The government must solve the problem otherwise it will hit snags or legal issues and it will look like the government can't achieve anything," he told reporters.