Thailand Update: February 8, 2018

Thailand Update | February 8, 2018
Authors: Matt Solomon, Ella Duangkaew, Kevin Rutigliano
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
June 27-28, 2018: Thailand Business Mission: Please save the date for the 2018 Thailand Business Mission, scheduled to take place on June 27-28, 2018 in Bangkok. Please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org with any questions.
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 
NLA Passes Bill Likely to Delay Election

On January 25, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed a bill that will likely delay the general election for 90 days, or until February 2019. The bill allows for the organic bill on MP elections to come into effect 90 days after it is passed and published in the Royal Gazette, rather than immediately. According to the current constitution, the election must be held within 150 days of the promulgation of four election-related laws, such as the organic bill on MP elections. Thus, delaying the enforcement of the organic bill by 90 days delays the timeline of the entire election roadmap. More information on the roadmap and how it has been impacted by the bill can be found here.

Witthaya Phiewpong, chairman of the NLA panel vetting the bill, stated that the delay is necessary to give political parties time to prepare for the election. In addition, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has hinted that the election could be delayed even further, and has been publicly non-committal that his National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will step down after the election, according to the Bangkok Post. NLA President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai also stated that further delays could be possible if the Constitution Drafting Committee and the Election Committee, who are studying the bill now, require further amendments to the bill.  

These developments have caused international and domestic backlash, as Thai politicians, academics, and foreign diplomats have called for the government to maintain its most recent promise to hold an election in November. The EU has also called for the government to lift restrictions on freedom of assembly and the activities of civic groups. The anticipated delay is only the most recent in a long string of election delays since the change of government in 2014, and creates continued uncertainty regarding the political situation in Thailand (see this infographic here for a timeline of the delays). While the election delays ensure that Prime Minister Prayut will remain in power for the time being, causing some short-term political stability, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the government of Thailand may make it difficult for businesses to make decisions on how to continue their operations and investment in the country.         

Cabinet Approves Minimum Wage Hike and SME Tax Break

On January 30, the Cabinet approved daily minimum wage increases that will go into effect on April 1. The increases will vary by province and will range between 5 baht and 22 baht (USD$0.16 to $0.70). The minimum wage increases were originally proposed by the National Wage Committee on January 18. Labor groups and the Thai private sector have strongly advocated for the increase. This will be Thailand’s first minimum wage increase since 2013.

This measure will increase the costs of businesses who employ workers in Thailand, particularly for SMEs. To alleviate the cost of the minimum wage increase, the Finance Ministry will implement a temporary measure to provide tax relief to SMEs that fulfill certain eligibility requirements. On January 25, the Finance Ministry announced that it will implement a tax break that will allow small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to deduct 115% of minimum wages as corporate income tax expenses for nine months. The measure will go into effect on April 1st. Currently, SMEs can deduct 100% of minimum wages as corporate income tax expenses. Businesses that are eligible for the deduction are SMEs whose sales do not exceed Bt100 million (USD$3,180,000) a year. This measure was approved to temporarily support SMEs in absorbing the costs of increased minimum wages, which were approved on January 30. It is estimated that this measure will relieve employers of 9-10 baht (USD $0.29 to $0.32) per day per employee in employment costs though the effects will vary across provinces (see here for a breakdown of the varying effects on SMEs across the country).

To help low-income earners, the tax break measure also allows for all employers, regardless of their sizes, to deduct 150% of the wages they pay employees who are registered low-income earners as corporate tax expenses. This is substantial increase over the 100% permitted now, and is equivalent to a 10% reduction of corporate income tax burden for companies normally paying a 20% tax rate, according to the Bangkok Post. According to Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong, this provision intended to lift low-income earners above the poverty line. The Ministry aims to lift 25% of the 11.4 million people living under the poverty line, or those that earn less than 100,000 baht a year, this year.

However, according to a University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) study, these wage hikes will increase the circulation of money in the economy and add about 0.1-0.2% in GDP growth. The study also estimates that SMEs will be able to handle the minimum wage increase, particularly because the increases do not impose unsustainable cost burdens, and because of the accompanying tax break.

These wage increases and SME tax breaks represent the government’s prioritization of addressing poverty, particularly following the ambitious welfare card scheme that was initiated in October 2017. Given that 11.4 million people in Thailand are living under the poverty line, these actions address the needs of a large constituency that may have significant voting power in upcoming elections. Businesses can serve as key stakeholders to the government in addressing this priority, particularly by providing additional solutions for poverty, such as increased investment, employment opportunities, and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 
  • On January 21, the Thai Revenue Department released its “Draft Act Amending the Revenue Code to Support Collection of Taxes from e-Business Operators in Respect of Value-Added Tax Collection from Services Provided Abroad.” (the Draft Act can be found here in Thai with an unofficial translation here). The Draft Act would impose the Thai VAT on foreign-based vendors of electronic services. The Revenue Department is accepting comments on this Draft Act until February 9, and released this consultation notice (found here in Thai with an unofficial translation here) with the Act's Essential Principles detailed. The Council will submit a letter tomorrow for the February 9 submission deadline and will circulate the final submission in a separate update. Previously, the Revenue Department released a consultation notice in June 2017 (found here in Thai and English) calling for feedback on initial outlines of the Essential Principles of the Draft Act, but did not release a full text at that time. The Council submitted a letter on July 11, 2017, commenting on those Essential Principles, which can be found here. The June consultation went beyond the imposition of VAT on services, including imposing VAT on goods sold from abroad. These proposals will be addressed in additional forthcoming regulations.
  • On January 22, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand released a new draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill (found here in Thai). Changes in the new draft include a new definition of the data processor and its obligation, an additional obligation for data controllers, new exemptions for data subject consent requirements, a new grace period and transitory provisions, and the removal of imprisonment as a penalty for non-compliance. The new draft also adopts many concepts from the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which becomes effective in May 2018. More details on the changes found in the new draft can be found here. The Government of Thailand accepted comments on the new draft until Tuesday, February 6. The Council will continue to monitor developments on the Draft Bill and will prepare a submission for subsequent drafts.
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Greater Mekong states endorse joint five-year plan
Thailand to be Asean-India intermediary

National Affairs
Prayut refuses to set election date
NLA: Making changes to bills could further delay polls.
PM hints further election delays possible
‘Nothing changed’ in election plan and govt still popular, says Prayut
Court turns down Yingluck's second injunction request
NLA votes on bill that will delay election to February

Customs
Coffee sellers call for end to tariffs on Aussie beans
Local impact likely from Trump tariffs

Defense & Security
Dunford Re-Energizing Military-to-Military Relations With Thailand
SE Asian states launch intelligence pact to counter Islamist threat

Economics
Thai finance ministry raises 2018 GDP growth outlook to 4.2%-
Revenue Department targets more refunds
Strong baht, higher wages 'may slow 2018 exports'
UTCC: SMEs can handle minimum wage hike
State investments rising by 47% in fiscal 2017-2018
Stronger baht may curb export outlook
BOT poised to tame runaway baht
Bigger tax break for SMEs to help cope with new wages

Financial Services
BoT eases capital outflow rules to cool down baht
Thailand eases foreign exchange rules to encourage outflows
Crypto rules sought to nail scammers

Food & Agriculture
Farmers want bargaining power over middlemen to bear fruit
Agriculture Ministry to define farmland use for tax
The cream of the crops
Thailand 'serious' on shoring up rubber prices
Rubber cutback draws backing from producers 

Health & Life Sciences
WHO praises Thailand for kidney care
Bangkok air pollution at harmful levels

ICT
Thailand 4.0: Rise of the machines?
EEC to spearhead Thailand 4.0
Space agency seeks satellite funds okay
Universities in Thailand join hands to offer degree in AI and robotics engineering
Thailand tops internet usage charts
Thailand, Laos ink digital agreement
Thai Finance Secretary: Blockchain Is Beneficial But People Should Know Risks

Infrastructure
Ministry: No decision yet to downgrade 'shinkansen' line
TAT to focus on Asean visits
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Greater Mekong states endorse joint five-year plan The Nation 1st Feb 2018
The environment ministers of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam attended the fifth GMS Environment Ministers’ Meeting in Chiang Mai yesterday to discuss cooperation on the five-year plan, which is supposed to support sustainable growth, promote environmentally friendly development and tackle transboundary environmental impacts within the region. Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat said the government had signed an MOU with Cambodia to work together to conserve biodiversity and manage forests and wildlife. 

Locating Thailand in the Indo-Pacific region Bangkok Post 30th Jan 2018
Bluntly put, there are two reasons that propel Thailand to the front of the Asean queue in endorsing the US-led Indo-Pacific region concept. First of all, Thailand does not want the Indo-Pacific to concentrate on consultations between the US, India, Japan and Australia grouping -- known as the Quadrilateral or Quad. Bangkok perceives it as an emerging broader Indo-Pacific community. Secondly, the region's stability and prosperity will depend more on inclusive security cooperation both on land and at sea.

Thailand to be Asean-India intermediary Bangkok Post 26th Jan 2018
Thailand will act as an intermediary between India and Asean countries and also support constructive cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday. Gen Prayut was speaking during a meeting with Mr Modi at Hyderabad House before attending Thursday's Asean-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi. The two leaders agreed to boost bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation in Asean and the Indo-Pacific region both on land and sea routes, according to deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak.

National Affairs

Prayut refuses to set election date Bangkok Post 7th Feb 2018
The general election will take place after all election-related laws are promulgated, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Tuesday after a mobile cabinet meeting in Chanthaburi. He was responding to a growing clamour for him to announce precisely when the poll will be held. Gen Prayut said the poll date will only be set after all election-related laws have come into force.

NLA denies claims over organic bill delay Bangkok Post 5th Feb 2018
Phuket: National Legislative Assembly (NLA) vice-chairman Peerasak Porjit has denied reports that an organic bill governing the election of MPs has been rejigged to buy some more time for the government to stay on in power. Apart from the controversial extension of the bill's start date by 90 days, another issue involves allowing political parties to provide entertainment during vote-canvassing, which has drawn criticism from the EC. Earlier, Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn wrote on Facebook that the NLA might be trying to incorporate contentious issues in the organic bill on MP elections so as to trigger disagreement from other agencies, adding to delays.

NLA: Making changes to bills could further delay polls. Bangkok Post 1st Feb 2018
If charter drafters or the Election Commission strongly oppose the new legislation governing MPs and senators the general election could be further delayed, the president of the National Legislative Assembly said on Thursday. The assembly has already sent the bills on the election of MPs and the installation of senators to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and the Election Commission (EC) for consideration, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said. 

PM hints further election delays possible Bangkok Post 30th Jan 2018
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he is non-committal on whether the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will step down from power after the February 2019 general election. He spoke to reporters after presiding over a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School in Nakhon Nayok. While Gen Prayut said the NCPO will end its mission according to the roadmap, he did not specify when. Asked if the NCPO's mission will end in February 2019 -- a new tentative schedule for the general election which has been postponed from this November -- Gen Prayut only said that this was "a legal matter".

‘Nothing changed’ in election plan and govt still popular, says Prayut The Nation 29th Jan 2018
Prayut said he would still keep his promise and that everything would continue to follow the administration’s road map. “I promise the same, and nothing has changed,” the prime minister said after delivering a speech at the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.  However, the premier declined to say whether the National Legislative Assembly’s decision to defer implementation of the MP election bill would be the final delay before the general election, stating that it was not he who had caused the latest postponement. 

Court turns down Yingluck's second injunction request Bangkok Post 29th Jan 2018
The Central Administrative Court has turned down former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s second petition for a forfeiture injunction, paving the way for an immediate seizure of her assets under the Finance Ministry’s administrative order. In October 2016, the Finance Ministry issued the administrative order demanding she pay 35 billion baht in damages incurred by the rice-pledging programme.

NLA votes on bill that will delay election to February Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2018
The National Legislative Assembly has passed a bill that will likely delay the general election by 90 days, or February next year. They voted 196-12 with 14 abstentions to pass the organic bill on MP elections, which contains a clause delaying its effective date by 90 days after it is published in the Royal Gazette. According to the roadmap, the polls can be held within 150 days after that.   Earlier, several NLA members debated on the extension.

Customs

Coffee sellers call for end to tariffs on Aussie beans Bangkok Post 5th Feb 2018
Thai manufacturers are urging the government to scrap the tariff quota system for imported coffee beans. Thailand can only produce and supply 25,000-26,000 tonnes of coffee beans a year, mostly for domestic consumption, forcing the country to rely on imports of 50,000 -60,000 tonnes a year. "The existing tariff quota system and the government condition that requires manufacturers to buy coffee beans from local farmers at guaranteed prices will definitely lead local coffee manufacturers to more hardship in the foreseeable future, as their production costs will exceed those for imported beans, particularly from Australia, which Thailand has a free-trade agreement with," said Varri Sodprasert, president of the Thai Coffee Association.

Local impact likely from Trump tariffs Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2018
The government says Thai shipments of washing machines and solar cells will take a hit from recently approved US tariffs designed to protect American manufacturers. Wanchai Varavitha, deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said Thailand enjoyed continuous export growth in the two items from 2012 to 2017. According to the Customs Department, export value for solar cells and parts rose to US$432.33 million in 2017, compared with $9.29 million in 2012, while washing machine exports rose to $191.07 million in 2017 from $11.46 million in 2012.

Defense & Security

Dunford Re-Energizing Military-to-Military Relations With Thailand U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 6th Feb 2018
BANGKOK, Feb. 6, 2018 —The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will seek to expand military-to-military contacts with Thailand when he meets with the nation’s chief of defense, the defense minister and the prime minister here tomorrow. The United States put a hold on military-to-military contacts with Thailand following a military coup in May 2014. The contacts have been re-energized now that the Thai government has scheduled free elections later this year.

SE Asian states launch intelligence pact to counter Islamist threat Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2018
JAKARTA/NUSA DUA, Indonesia: Six Southeast Asian nations launched an intelligence pact on Thursday aimed at combating Islamist militants and improving co-operation on security threats, overcoming what analysts described as a high level of distrust. Under the "Our Eyes" initiative, senior defence officials will meet every two weeks to swap information on militant groups and develop a common database of violent extremists. The intelligence sharing arrangement comes after insurgents aligned to Islamic State laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi last year.

Economics

Thai finance ministry raises 2018 GDP growth outlook to 4.2%- Nikkei Asian Review 7th Feb 2018
BANGKOK (Reuters) -- Thailand's finance ministry on Monday raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 4.2 percent from 3.8 percent, and also raised its estimate for exports, an official said. Exports, a key driver of Thai growth, should increase 6.6 percent this year, compared with the 5.7 percent predicted in October, ministry spokeswoman Kulaya Tantitemit told a news conference. Southeast Asia's second-largest economy will mainly be driven by government spending and large public infrastructure projects this year, she said.

Revenue Department targets more refunds Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2018
The Revenue Department expects the number of individual taxpayers who receive tax refunds for the 2017 tax year will be 25% higher than 2016 at 4 million, thanks to the larger number of standard deductions and allowances and the widened income band of the 30% tax bracket and the top rate. The department estimated 11-12 million individual taxpayers will file tax returns for the 2017 tax year, up from 10 million a year earlier, said Siriwan Kaewmulniem, deputy director-general. The department paid tax refunds worth 40 billion baht to 3.2 million taxpayers who filed returns for 2016.

Strong baht, higher wages 'may slow 2018 exports' Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2018
Exports may grow at a much slower pace of 3.5% this year due to a strong baht and higher wages, after expanding nearly 10% in 2017, a group of Thai shippers said on Tuesday. Last month, the group raised its 2018 export growth estimate to 5.5% from 5.0%, and assumed an average exchange rate of 33 baht to the dollar. But it has yet take into account the impact from an average 3.4% rise in minimum wages, Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, council chairwoman, told a briefing.

UTCC: SMEs can handle minimum wage hike Bangkok Post 30th Jan 2018
Thai small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to survive the negative impact of the daily minimum wage hike, as many have shifted to rely more on information technology, robots and online shopping, according to the latest survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC). Thanavath Phonvichai, vice-president for research at the UTCC, said higher consumer spending based on higher wages, the government-sponsored welfare scheme, active investment projects both from the government and private sector, growing exports and tourism are expected to boost SME sales this year. However, SMEs will inevitably be affected by higher costs from the wage increase, he said.

Finance ministry raises 2018 GDP growth outlook to 4.2% Bangkok Post 29th Jan 2018
The finance ministry on Monday raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 4.2% from 3.8%, and also raised its estimate for exports, an official said. Exports, a key driver of growth, should increase 6.6% this year, compared with the 5.7% predicted in October, ministry spokeswoman Kulaya Tantitemit told a news conference. The economy will mainly be driven by government spending and large public infrastructure projects this year, she said.

State investments rising by 47% in fiscal 2017-2018 The Nation 29th Jan 2018
In the first quarter of the current fiscal year (October-December 2017), state enterprises spent Bt18.01 billion of the total Bt506.16-billion budget, he said. Since fiscal 2015-2017, he added, the state enterprises investment budget has expanded by an average 10.4 per cent a year, with the aim to propel the country’s economic growth. The top three investors are PTT Plc, State Railway of Thailand and EGAT, he said.

Stronger baht may curb export outlook Bangkok Post 26th Jan 2018
Exporters look set to cut their forecast for the country's export growth because of the baht's appreciation and emerging protectionist trade measures. Wisit Limluecha, vice-president of the Thai National Shippers' Council, which represents a group of Thai exporters, said the council is monitoring the baht's movement and the impact of nascent trade measures in foreign countries. "Based on the growing number of negative factors, the council may need to revise its earlier export growth forecast of 5.5% this year," Mr Wisit said.

BOT poised to tame runaway baht The Nation 26th Jan 2018
BOT governor Veerathai Santipraphob yesterday made a rare statement expressing his unease over the consequences of the baht’s sharp gains. He said the US dollar had weakened drastically over the past week and caused the value of the baht and other currencies in the region to spike. The regional currencies had already been rising strongly against the greenback over the past year.

Bigger tax break for SMEs to help cope with new wages Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2018
The Finance Ministry will propose that small and medium-sized entrepreneurs be allowed to deduct 115% of the minimum wages as corporate income tax expenses for nine months, a subsidy equivalent to 9-10 baht day. Currently, SMEs are allowed to deduct 100% of such wages as expenses. Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said on Thursday the measure was part of the relief for employers agreed at the National Wage Committee comprising representatives from employers, employees and the government.

Financial Services

BoT eases capital outflow rules to cool down baht Bangkok Post 2nd Feb 2018
The Bank of Thailand has further eased rules to encourage more capital outflows by allowing a greater number of retail investors to directly put money into overseas securities. The move is part of efforts to rein in the stronger baht. The latest relaxation of capital outflows came shortly after the central bank announced a further easing of related regulations by increasing the cap for agents to send money overseas to 800,000 baht a day per customer, up from 200,000, retroactively coming into effect from Jan 12, 2018.

Thailand eases foreign exchange rules to encourage outflows Central Banking 2nd Feb 2018
The Bank of Thailand has stepped up its efforts to cool the Thai baht by allowing more individual investors to invest directly in foreign securities. Individuals with assets of between 50 million baht ($1.59 million) and 100 million baht can now invest up to $1 million per year in foreign securities without intermediaries, said Vachira Arromdee, assistant governor for market operations, in a statement published on February 1.

Crypto rules sought to nail scammers Bangkok Post 31st Jan 2018
The Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) is drafting a law to look into cryptocurrencies after call centre scammers and other fraudsters were found to be storing their ill-gotten gains in Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Amlo secretary-general Romsit Wiriyasan said investigators need to conduct longer and more thorough probes to keep pace with criminals who are using cryptocurrencies to hide their assets after many spiked in value last year. Bitcoin, known for its volatility, rose from under US$1,000 last January to nearly $20,000 in December before halving in price this month.

Food & Agriculture

Farmers want bargaining power over middlemen to bear fruit Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2018
Chanthaburi: Fruit producers are hoping a government plan to promote the province as world "mega-city" for fruit will help them have more bargaining power over middlemen. Welcoming Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to her neighbourhood along the Chanthabun River yesterday, 58-year-old Siripataorn Thanaphurikiatkrai said she hopes the government will help lessen their dependence on merchants or middlemen who are predominantly foreigners, especially Chinese, and who usually have the power to set prices which sometimes are unfair to growers.

Agriculture Ministry to define farmland use for tax Bangkok Post 29th Jan 2018
The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry is expected to take charge of outlining criteria for farmland use to prevent owners of undeveloped land from claiming agricultural purposes to understate their tax bills when the new land and buildings tax is enforced. The ministry will set the criteria for how many trees or crops are required to be grown in a specific space to be considered farmland, which is subject to the lowest rate of the land and buildings tax, said Deputy Finance Minister Wisudhi Srisuphan.

The cream of the crops Bangkok Post 27th Jan 2018
Rubber farmers suffering from freefalling crop prices are being urged to consider a departure from their traditional practice of sticking to one crop and embrace integrated farming to balance out their investment risk. Authorities in the southern province of Songkhla recently held a meeting to exchange ideas on how to create jobs and boost the earnings of rubber planters following years of plummeting rubber prices. The meeting gathered representatives from the provincial offices of commercial affairs, cooperatives, land development, public health and public relations as well as shopping malls, universities and state and private sectors.

Thailand 'serious' on shoring up rubber prices Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2018
Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are hopeful of seeing the end of sagging natural rubber prices after agreeing on export cutbacks, Agriculture Minister Grisada Boonrach said. The minister expressed confidence about the turnaround of rubber prices following the implementation of the three countries in the International Tripartite Rubber Council to curb exports for three months starting from Jan 10. The three main rubber-producing nations agreed to cut back their exports of 350,000 tonnes during the period. As the leader in rubber production and global seller, Thailand has to cut 234,810 tonnes from the total target.

Rubber cutback draws backing from producers  The Nation 26th Jan 2018
Thailand and fellow rubber producers Indonesia and Malaysia are serious on the implementation of the industry’s Agreed Export Tonnage Scheme (AETS) during the first quarter of this year, Thai Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach said. He said Thailand is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of natural rubber. Due to depressed prices, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to implement the AETS that involves a cut in supply of 350,000 tonnes. The implementation of the scheme by the International Tripartite Rubber Council (ITRC) will immediately decrease natural rubber supply from the global market, the minister said.

Health & Life Sciences

WHO praises Thailand for kidney care Bangkok Post 2nd Feb 2018
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has praised Thailand for providing continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) to kidney patients for free, saying its model could be adopted by other countries. Speaking after observing the National Health Security Office's CAPD service at at Phra Jen community yesterday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was so inspired by what he had seen he wanted to pass the story of Thailand to other nations to improve the quality of life for kidney patients around the world.

PTT delves into medicine with Thailand's first cancer drug plant- Nikkei Asian Review 29th Jan 2018
PTT, Thailand's state-owned oil and gas giant, is entering into pharmaceuticals with plans to set up the country's first-ever cancer drug production plant. The company signed an agreement with the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, a state-owned drug producer and supplier under the public health ministry, on Tuesday to jointly build the plant. Thailand is trying to reduce drug imports and nurture an industry to produce high-standard drugs, in view of the fact that its population is aging at a faster rate than other developing economies in Southeast Asia. A feasibility study for the PTT project will be completed by March. Both parties estimate that total investment in the project will be around 1 billion baht ($32 million). Commercial production is set to start by 2025 at an industrial site owned by PTT in the coastal province of Rayong, east of Bangkok.

Bangkok air pollution at harmful levels Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2018
Bangkok's air pollution exceeded health safety levels on five of the last eight days, brought on by still and stagnant air, the Pollution Control Department reported on Thursday. The amount of fine particulates no more than 2.5 micrometres in diameter had exceeded the safety limit of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air these five days, Thaloengsak Phetsuwan, air and noise quality director of the department, said.  

ICT

Thailand 4.0: Rise of the machines? Bangkok Post 5th Feb 2018
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is at our doorstep, with artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and automation threatening unskilled workers and new graduates who are at risk of being left unemployed by job-killing androids. As these technological breakthroughs take place, automation and AI are compelling blue-collar workers to improve their skills and do more sophisticated work. Those who fail to adapt will be left behind. Plans to cut jobs have already begun in the banking and telecom sectors, signalling a trend that retail may soon follow as customers enjoy self-service through digital channels.

EEC to spearhead Thailand 4.0 The Nation 26th Jan 2018
A special interview with Dr. Kanit Sangsubhan, Secretary General of the Eastern Economic Corridor  Office (EECO) The Eastern Economic Corridor will serve as a gateway for Thailand with 10 target industries to realize Thailand 4.0. Dr. Kanit Sangsubhan, Secretary General of the Eastern Economic Corridor  Office (EECO), is confident that the EEC will spearhead the Thailand 4.0 strategy and serve as a future technology base for the Thai people. The Eastern Economic Corridor development is a continuation of the government’s “Eastern Seaboard” development scheme as a complete gateway to Thailand. It also supports the policy of Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, to create a new era of technology in the Thailand 4.0 erato helpboost economic growth in the future.

Space agency seeks satellite funds okay Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2018
The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), the state space agency, will seek cabinet approval for a plan to build Thailand's first state-funded "security" satellite. GISTDA's director Anond Snidwongs said the satellite would cost one billion baht and take four years to make. The so-called security satellite project would be the first time the space agency has been part of a project to build space technology. Previously, it has relied on importing foreign technology such as the made-in-France Theos I (Thailand Earth Observe Satellite I). The security satellite will help monitor where the hundreds of thousands of satellites are orbiting around the earth. "It is the kind of satellite for monitoring near-earth space objects that might fall down to the Earth, together with protecting our satellite in orbit from any crashes that might occur.

Universities in Thailand join hands to offer degree in AI and robotics engineering Opengov Asia 6th Feb 2018
Chulalongkorn University (CU) and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to offer the first double bachelor’s degree in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics engineering in the country. The MoU is the first collaboration between local universities. According to a report by Bangkok Post, Chulalongkorn University (CU) and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to offer the first double bachelor’s degree in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics engineering in the country. The MoU is the first collaboration between local universities. This also signals a change in mindset that local universities no longer see each other as competitors, but potential collaborators to improve the quality of their programmes and to cut operational cost.

Thailand tops internet usage charts Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2018
Thailand is the world leader for time spent on the internet and mobile internet per day, a consequence of higher social media use and the popularity of online video consumption. Thailand ranks in the top 10 for mobile social media penetration and top four for time spent on social media, according to social media management platform Hootsuite and global agency We Are Social. The country ranked eighth globally for number of Facebook users, with Bangkok the city with the most active Facebook accounts. The "Digital 2018 global overview", published in January, said Thais registered the most time on the internet last year at 9.38 hours per day, after the Philippines at 9.29 hours, Brazil (9.14), Indonesia (8.51) and South Africa (8.32). Thais also spend the most time on mobile internet at 4.56 hours, followed by Brazil (4.21), Indonesia (4.17), the Philippines (4.13) and Nigeria (4.05).

Thailand, Laos ink digital agreement Bangkok Post 3rd Feb 2018
Thailand and Laos signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday for a three-year collaboration on mail delivery, telecom and digital technology. Digital Economy and Society Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said the MoU is a consequence of previous discussions between Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong and Thansamay Kommasith, Laos's minister of post, telecommunications and communications, that took place in December 2016 at the Asean Telecom Ministries forum in Brunei. Mr Pichet said the collaboration is based on the principle of equality and reciprocity to develop long-term and sustainable cooperation. The areas of collaboration cover a variety of categories, including ICT and digital technology, policies and regulatory practices, digital government, cybersecurity, digital policy promotion, and innovations such as big data, the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

Thai Finance Secretary: Blockchain Is Beneficial But People Should Know Risks Cointelegraph 2nd Feb 2018
Thai Ministry of Finance’s permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse thinks that the Bank of Thailand and Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) need to officially warn customers of the risks of investing in crypto markets, as reported in the The Bangkok Post today, Feb.2. According to Sujjapongse, a working committee on cryptocurrencies, formed by the Bank of Thailand, the SEC, the Ministry of Finance, and the Anti-Money Laundering office, will soon release a report on how to move forward with crypto regulation. In reference to the future of regulating crypto market investing, Sujjapongse said, “Allowing Bitcoin transactions to be made without warnings and direction from regulators is not acceptable.”

Infrastructure

Ministry: No decision yet to downgrade 'shinkansen' line Bangkok Post 27th Jan 2018
The Transport Ministry says it has not yet decided whether to reduce the speed of the trains on the planned Thai-Japanese rail line to Chiang Mai cut costs. Chaiwat Thongkamkoon, director-general of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, made the comment on Saturday in response to Japanese media reports that Tokyo was “surprised” by the potential downgrade. Mr Chaiwat said the decision would likely be made after a meeting between the two sides on Feb 6.

TAT to focus on Asean visits Bangkok Post 26th Jan 2018
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has pledged to boost cross-border tourism and raise the number of Asean tourists coming to Thailand. The tourism industry expects arrivals from the region to reach 10 million this year. Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for marketing communications at the TAT, said Thailand has opened about 30 overland border checkpoints for international visitors from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia. There are four friendship bridges with Laos and two with Myanmar, with more planned.

Thailand’s Largest Port Receives Super-Sized Cranes Port Technology 26th Jan 2018
The largest container terminal operator in Thailand is expanding its handling capacity with some of the largest quay and gantry cranes in the world as part of its development of Terminal D in Laem Chabang Port. Hutchison Ports Thailand has ordered the three super post-panamax quay cranes and eight electric rubber-tyred gantry (RTGs) cranes from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry Co., (ZPMC), a leading Chinese heavy-duty equipment manufacturer. The cranes are equipped with advanced remote control technology and will enable Terminal D to operate safely and more efficiently, which in turn enable the terminal to achieve higher levels of vessel and yard productivity.

Thai Tourism on rise Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2018
Thailand is expected to welcome 37.55 million visitors this year, up 6% from 2017, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry. The ministry expects the total revenue of tourism to rise 8.3% to reach 3 trillion baht, of which 2 trillion will be generated from international visitors, said the ministry's Permanent Secretary Pongpanu Svetarundra. Last year, the numbers of international visitors to Thailand slightly surpassed its previous forecast from 35 million to 35.38 million visitors, or up 8.77% from 2016. The total revenue generated from the tourism industry in 2017 was 2.75 trillion baht, of which 1.82 trillion baht was generated by international tourists, he said.