Thailand Update: February 22, 2018

Thailand Update | February 22, 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
 
 

U.S. Increases Presence in Cobra Gold Exercises

The U.S. has nearly doubled its presence at the 2018 Cobra Gold exercises in Thailand with 6,800 personnel present. This is a substantial increase over the 3,600 personnel that were present at the exercises last year. Cobra Gold is an annual military exercise that the United States conducts with Southeast Asian militaries in Thailand. The 2018 Cobra Gold exercises began on February 13 and will end on February 23. U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies stated that this exercise symbolizes the United States’ unwavering commitment to Thailand and to peace and prosperity in the Southeast Asian region. He also noted that U.S. commitment to the region transcends any temporary challenges, but that the United States looks forward to Thailand’s restoration of a democratically elected government.

Under the Obama Administration the U.S. suspended all military aid to the Thai government after the transition to a military government in 2014. Thus, doubling American presence at the Cobra Gold exercises signals that the Trump Administration is willing to work more closely with the military government, particularly on defense issues. According to Nikkei Asian Review, the Trump administration’s actions may be in response to Thailand’s warming relations with China. Beijing has been strengthening its ties to Thailand, specifically by selling increased amounts of weapons to the Thai Armed Forces. The administration’s actions may serve to balance China’s influence and engagement with the Thai Armed Forces, as well as with militaries across the region.

The Cobra Gold exercises directly follow the recent visit of the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, to Thailand on February 7. At this meeting, General Dunford met with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, and Chief of Defense Tanchaiyan Srisuwan. These back-to-back high-level engagements demonstrate U.S. commitment to improving military-to-military relations with Thailand, which seems to align with the overall improvement in US-Thai relations seen over the past year.

Thai Parliament Passes Eastern Economic Corridor Law

On February 8, the National Assembly passed a bill designed to attract investment to the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a group of economic zones that the government hopes to further develop. The Eastern Economic Corridor contains the three provinces of Chonburi, Rayong, and Chachoengsao. The new law will provide tax breaks for those who invest in the development of the EEC. It will also allow investors to rent land for up to 99 years. According to Kanit Sangsubhan, Secretary-General of the EEC Office, the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI)hopes to attract at least 300 billion baht ($9.4 million) to the EEC this year. The EEC Committee will oversee the implementation of this law and oversee all development projects in the EEC.

Before this law was passed, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had used Section 44 to push the development of the economic zones. However, according to the Nikkei Asia Review, the use of Section 44 had caused concern among investors because they felt the project might cease when the current government steps down. As a result, investors held back funding from the project. To address this problem, the government passed these measures legislatively to ensure that the project lasts long-term. With tax breaks for businesses investing in the EEC, the area should now be a more attractive destination for investments. With increased investment from the business sector, the EEC project can be a major driver for future growth in the Thai economy.

Government Will Invoke Section 44 to Postpone 4G License Auction Payments

The Thai Government will soon invoke Section 44 allowing two winners of the 2015 4G mobile license auction on the 900-megahertz spectrum to postpone their auction payments. Section 44 is part of the Thai Constitution that allows the Prime Minister to unilaterally pass legal measures. This follows the request of the auction winners, Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move, to extend the term of their license payments to 2019. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan stated that they have not determined the exact time when Section 44 will be invoked, and it will depend on when the measure is submitted to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board had previously issued a resolution in support of both AIS and True Move, but could not allow the two winners to suspend payment unless an order under Section 44 was invoked.

NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasith has also noted that the government’s willingness to extend the payment timeframe is out of concern that the payment crisis affecting digital broadcasters could affect the planned 5G broadcasting license auction later this year and could also potentially spread to other industries as well if action is not taken. They fear that without subsidies the broadcast companies will not have adequate credit to take out loans to make bids in the 2018 5G auction. Currently, digital broadcasters in Thailand have been facing mounting operational costs, which has affected their ability to pay for their licenses and overall market conditions for the industry. This situation indicates that the broadcasting market in Thailand may not be stable and that government intervention may be necessary to stabilize the market.

Thailand Addresses the Rise of Cryptocurrency

On February 12, the Governor of the Bank of Thailand, Veerathai Santiprabhob, stated that the Bank of Thailand (BOT) has requested that all financial institutions refrain from making cryptocurrency transactions. The BOT has banned banks from allowing customers to buy cryptocurrency with credit cards and from advising customers to invest in cryptocurrency. The BOT, the Ministry of Finance and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also issued several warnings that digital currencies are not regulated and that individuals who invest in them do so at their own risk.

This development contrasts with previous positions on cryptocurrencies from other Ministries. On February 2, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong stated that cryptocurrency would remain legal, but regulations needed to be established for transactions. He also announced that a working panel had been established that would determine future guidelines for cryptocurrency transactions. The panel is composed of officials from the Finance Ministry, the BOT and the Anti-Money Laundering Office. These contradictory statements from the government may create an unstable situation for investors of cryptocurrency in Thailand.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 
  • On February 9, the Council submitted comments to the Thai Revenue Department on 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"). The Revenue Department released the Draft Act (found here in Thai with an unofficial translation found here) on January 21 and accepted public comments until February 9. The Revenue Department released this consultation notice (found here in Thai with an unofficial translation found here) announcing the public comment period and detailing the Draft Act's Essential Principles. Previously, the Revenue Department had released a consultation notice (found here in Thai with an unofficial translation found here) calling for feedback on initial outlines of "Essential Principles" of a Draft Act in Support of Collection of Taxes from e-Business Operators, but had not released a full text at that time. The Council submitted a letter on July 11, 2017, commenting on those Essential Principles (final submission found here). The principles laid out in the previous consultation notice went beyond the imposition of Value-Added Tax (VAT) on services, and included imposing VAT on goods sold from abroad. The Thai Revenue Department will be addressing these items in additional forthcoming regulations. If you have any questions, please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org.

IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Regional cybersecurity workshop focused on prevention 

National Affairs
NLA rejects all 7 candidates for Election Commission
Thai Niyom local needs plan kicks off
Court delays may kick in
Government rejects B3bn SSO election tab
Bills panel to wrap up work this month
Nearly million people eligible to regain social security insurance, as NLA passes draft
Govt boasts of an end to poverty through e-cards
Prayut tells US polls will be on Thai terms

Defense & Security
Thailand’s Navy Gets a Boost with Five New Patrol Vessels
US doubles troops in Cobra Gold exercise to boost presence in SE Asia-

Economics
Thailand aims for next industrialization wave
No rush to raise interest rates: central bank chief
Cabinet approves B6.34bn for nationwide upgrades
Thailand’s exports continue to grow
GDP up 4.0% in Q4 of 2017
Thai parliament passes Eastern Economic Corridor law-
State firms outstrip target

Energy
Egat looks to double South transmission line capacity
Thailand pushes Erawan and Bongkot gas field auctions to April
Contested coal plants pushed back following protester accord

Financial Services
BoT looks to widen agent services
Cryptocurrencies still outside Thai law, warns SEC
Institutions asked to avoid digital tokens
Thailand’s Central Bank Bans Banks from Dealing with Cryptocurrencies
Stock Exchange of Thailand rolls out new payments network
TCG targets B110bn for SME loan guarantees

Food & Agriculture
Rice forecast remains robust
Palm oil stocks dip on cooperation
Budget Proposed for Farm Sector
Agricultural machine makers eye 10% growth

Health & Life Sciences
Bangkok to get a health security fund
IAEA Director General Visits Thailand: Highlights Potential of Sterile Insect Technique to Fight Disease-vector Mosquitoes
New health benefits, transplants on the way

ICT
Lagging e-commerce spending inches up
NBTC postpones spectrum auctions over legitimacy
Section 44 to ease pains
The coming battle for e-commerce
Digital post service to be trialled in Thailand
Workshop aims to limit digital crime

Infrastructure
EEC aerotropolis study likely to wrap up in 2019
EEC high-speed railway to steer clear of Rayong on safety fears
Rayong port to expand on 1,000-rai plot
Somkid: Japan still on board rail plans
Orange route prep work starts
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Regional cybersecurity workshop focused on prevention  The Nation 17th Feb 2018
The Asean-Australia Cybersecurity Workshop entitled “Strengthening Legal Implementation in Tackling Cybersecurity Challenges in the Region” was held in Bangkok and sponsored by Thailand’s ministries of Foreign Affairs, and Digital Economy and Society, along with Australia. It was part of Thailand’s continued efforts to strengthen cooperation between Asean member states and dialogue partners as they seek to tackle cyberthreats through enhancing coordination between cybersecurity-related agencies.

National Affairs

NLA rejects all 7 candidates for Election Commission Bangkok Post 22nd Feb 2018
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has voted down all seven candidates for the new Election Commission (EC) in a move that will force the search process to start anew. The NLA cast secret ballots on Thursday for the EC candidates forwarded by the screening committee - and every single one failed to pass the vote. Each name needed 124 out of a total of 248 legislators' votes. None got even half the required amount. 

Thai Niyom local needs plan kicks off Bangkok Post 20th Feb 2018
The first phase of the government’s Thai Niyom Yangyuen development programme to gauge people’s needs for local development kicks off on Wednesday, army commander-in-chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisad said on Tuesday. To turn the programme -- loosely translated as “sustainable Thai-style development” -- into action, it was reported earlier that the government planned to send 7,800 teams around the country to learn what is needed to solve their problems.

Court delays may kick in Bangkok Post 17th Feb 2018
The "Constitutional Court factor" has not been reflected in the election roadmap and this could further delay the timeline leading up to the general election, originally scheduled for November and now expected in February, the government has said. If either of the two remaining "organic" laws required to facilitate the poll wind up being forwarded to the court for review, the date is likely to postponed yet again, critics say.

Government rejects B3bn SSO election tab Bangkok Post 16th Feb 2018
The government has asked for a delay in electing a new board for the Social Security Office (SSO) after it learned the cost could reach as much as three billion baht. The decision came after a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam and representatives of the Labour Ministry over the election. The issue was floated after the term of the SSO board ended in November last year and some groups of Social Security Fund (SSF) members requested a new one.

Bills panel to wrap up work this month Bangkok Post 16th Feb 2018
The tripartite panel scrutinising the two crucial organic bills on the election of MPs and selection of senators will finish its work by the end of the month before the bills are returned to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for a vote. However, if either or both of the bills are rejected by the NLA, assembly members will have to accept responsibility for their actions, NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said. A rejection could cause a lengthy delay in holding the next poll now set for around February next year. Drafting a new organic bill will be time-consuming, experts say.

Nearly million people eligible to regain social security insurance, as NLA passes draft The Nation 15th Feb 2018
Some 960,000 had lost their insured person status under the Act after failing to make a monthly contribution for three months in a row, or failing to make a full monthly contribution for nine months in one year. Under the approved draft law, those wishing to regain membership status and Social Security Office (SSO) coverage must file a request to the respective SSO branch office within a year after the law is put into effect. The office must then review the application and notify a successful applicant within a week, or within 15 days for rejected cases. Those approved must be reinstated within the same month in which they are approved.

Govt boasts of an end to poverty through e-cards Bangkok Post 12th Feb 2018
Measures introduced by the government will lift more than 5 million registered poor people above the poverty line, according to a senior Finance Ministry official. Permanent secretary for finance Somchai Sujjaponse said job training and income generated from state projects would be used to help low-income earners. The measures are the second phase of government help for the poor under the welfare card scheme launched last year.

Prayut tells US polls will be on Thai terms Bangkok Post 9th Feb 2018
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has assured the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff that Thailand is on track toward democracy, but it will be achieved by adopting a "Thailand First" approach. The prime minister gave the assurance during a meeting with Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr at Government House on Wednesday where he also tried to explain how Thailand will attain "true democracy". The meeting between Gen Dunford and the PM as well as the military top brass was part of the marine general's visit to boost Thai-American ties.

Customs

Imported Bikes To Get Cheaper As Govt Slashes Import Duty CarAndBike 13th Feb 2018
Imported motorcycles are expected to become less expensive after the government slashed customs duty to 50 per cent. So far, imported motorcycles with engine capacity of 800 cc or less used to attract 60 per cent duty, while those with capacity of 800 cc or more attracted 75 per cent duty. The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), through a notification on February 12, has slashed the duty on both these variants of motorcycles imported as completely built units (CBUs) to 50 per cent.

Defense & Security

Thailand’s Navy Gets a Boost with Five New Patrol Vessels The Diplomat 21st Feb 2018
Last week, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) added five new patrol vessels to its fleet from a local shipyard. The vessels are yet another addition to Thailand’s capabilities as the Southeast Asian state looks to boost its ability to address a wide array of challenges amid significant constraints. As part of an ongoing effort to replace some of its older vessels and modernize its capabilities, the RTN has already had several patrol vessels coming in from local shipyard Marsun Company Limited over the years, including M58 large patrol boats and smaller M21-class patrol boats.

US doubles troops in Cobra Gold exercise to boost presence in SE Asia- Nikkei Asian Review 13th Feb 2018
The U.S. has nearly doubled its presence in this year's Cobra Gold exercise, one of the largest multinational military drills in Southeast Asia that kicked off on Tuesday in Thailand, showing its "strong and enduring commitment" to the region which is coming under increasing influence from China. The 6,800 U.S. military officers participating, up from last year's 3,600, is Washington's largest contribution to the annual drill since Thailand's military government took power in May 2014. The previous U.S. administration had been cutting back on troops in a show of disapproval at the military coup.

Economics

Thailand aims for next industrialization wave Nikkei Asian Review 22nd Feb 2018
FUKUOKA, Japan -- More than 30 years since industrialization kicked off in Thailand, led by labor-intensive manufacturing industries, the country wants to move to the "next level," Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said on Friday. This will focus on the Eastern Economic Corridor, the much-touted special economic zone aimed at attracting high-tech investment. The country's economics czar told the Nikkei Asian Review that now is the time to step up, under a military government that has been in power for nearly four years. "Under the normal [political] situation, it is not easy to lay the groundwork or foundation for long-term projects because [politicians] will have to prepare for elections all the time," he said.

No rush to raise interest rates: central bank chief Bangkok Post 22nd Feb 2018
Thailand is in no rush to tighten its monetary policy despite rising global interest rates, thanks to ample domestic liquidity and benign inflation, the central bank governor said on Thursday. The central bank will focus on domestic factors in deciding monetary policy, Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob told reporters. "For Thailand, there is no need to raise interest rates quickly, despite higher global interest rates," he said.

Cabinet approves B6.34bn for nationwide upgrades Bangkok Post 21st Feb 2018
The cabinet on Tuesday approved a combined 6.34 billion baht for projects to facilitate the ease of doing business and upgrade the country's competitiveness. Nathporn Chatusripitak, a spokesman for Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, said of the total, 3.29 billion baht will be set aside for the Science and Technology Ministry, 2.25 billion for the Digital Economy and Society Ministry and 800 million for the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission (OPDC).

Thailand’s exports continue to grow The Nation 21st Feb 2018
The country’s export trend in the first quarter looks bright and the products that are expected to enjoy higher export include computers and components, electricity circuits, vehicles, plastic pellets and jewellery, according to the ministry. The value of Thailand’s exports in January this year rose the highest over the past 62 months by 17.6 per cent to US$20.101 billion. The import value was $20.220 billion, up 24.3 per cent year-on-year, resulting in a trade deficit of US$119 million.

GDP up 4.0% in Q4 of 2017 Bangkok Post 19th Feb 2018
The economy expanded by 4.0% in the last quarter of 2017 and should rise by 3.6-4.6% this year, according to the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). Gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter resulted from growing consumption and investment in the private sector as well as rising exports, NESDB secretary-general Porametee Vimolsiri said on Monday. Annual economic growth last year stood at 3.9%, compared with 3.3% in 2016.

Thai parliament passes Eastern Economic Corridor law- Nikkei Asian Review 13th Feb 2018
BANGKOK -- Thailand's parliament has approved a much-awaited law meant to attract investment to the Eastern Economic Corridor, a series of economic zones that the government has large hopes for. The National Legislative Assembly's approval could bring about massive infrastructure investments. The Thai government aims to attract at least 300 billion baht ($9.4 billion) of new investment to the corridor this year, according to Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary general of the EEC Office. "This will ensure both Thai and foreign investors that the EEC project is a long-term investment-promotion policy that will definitely continue, although this current government is to step down after the incoming general election," Kanit said.

State firms outstrip target Bangkok Post 13th Feb 2018
State enterprises contributed 50.6 billion baht in income to government coffers for the October-to-January period, exceeding the target by 35%, says the chief of the State Enterprise Policy Office (Sepo). State enterprises' income contribution to the government for the four months to January was 12.9 billion baht higher than the target, said director-general Ekniti Nitithanprapas. In January, state enterprises sent 7.25 billion baht to the government, outpacing the target by 3.35 billion or 85%, he said.

Energy

Egat looks to double South transmission line capacity Bangkok Post 22nd Feb 2018
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) plans to double transmission line capacity in the South as the region's electricity demand soars. An Egat source who declined to be named said the two coal-fired power plants in Krabi and Songkhla are likely to be further delayed or scrapped, after the Energy Ministry said it would shelve the environmental and health impact assessment, which had been under the Environmental Impact Evaluation Bureau's consideration.

Thailand pushes Erawan and Bongkot gas field auctions to April Reuters 22nd Feb 2018
BANGKOK, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Thailand expects auction terms for its petroleum gas fields to be ready in April, a month later than previously indicated, Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan told reporters on Thursday. The auction terms will be submitted to the National Energy Policy Council in March and the auction will be announced to bidders in April, Siri said. Conditions for the winners include maintaining a combined output level in the two fields of at least 1.5 billion cubic feet per day at prices not higher than current levels, he said. The Erawan and Bongkot fields currently have combined output of 2.1 billion cubic feet a day, government

Contested coal plants pushed back following protester accord Bangkok Post 21st Feb 2018
The construction of two coal-fired power plants in southern Thailand will be delayed by nine more months. Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphun announced that the ministry will remove the environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) from the Environmental Impact Evaluation Bureau's approval process. Yesterday, Mr Siri signed an agreement with the main protesters of the projects. The protesters were demonstrating in front of the UN office in Bangkok.

Financial Services

BoT looks to widen agent services Bangkok Post 20th Feb 2018
The Bank of Thailand plans to extend the business scope of banking agents to money withdrawals and retail payment services, expected to take effect from next month. The central bank is waiting for legal approval before making an official announcement on the amendment of banking agent regulations, said Somboon Chitphentom, assistant governor, financial institutions policy group at the Bank of Thailand. The existing regulation permits banking agents to take deposits, transfer money and pay bills. The amended regulation will require banking agents to have physical service points, suitable equipment and clear-cut operational processes.

Cryptocurrencies still outside Thai law, warns SEC The Nation 19th Feb 2018
Several companies have plans to issue ICO but the SEC did not have any rules to cover such offerings, secretary-general Rapee Sucharitakul said on Sunday. Investors in ICO needed to realise the risks they were taking because the country did not yet have any laws in place to protect them and White Papers detailing the ICO were likely be oral contracts only, he said. “The SEC is studying [potential] rules for ICO but it is an ongoing process,” Rapee added.

Institutions asked to avoid digital tokens Bangkok Post 13th Feb 2018
The Bank of Thailand has asked all financial institutions to stay away from making or being involved in cryptocurrency transactions, following recent moves to curb the risks of virtual currencies. The central bank is seeking the cooperation of financial institutions to avoid investing or trading in digital tokens to benefit themselves or customers, refrain from providing exchange channels for customers trading in cryptocurrencies, and refrain from creating platforms for customers to make crytocurrency transactions, said governor Veerathai Santiprabhob. Financial institutions should bar customers from using credit cards to trade cryptocurrency and avoid giving advice to clients investing in digital coins, he said.

Stock Exchange of Thailand rolls out fresh payments platform IBS Intelligence 13th Feb 2018
FinNet Innovation Network, a subsidiary of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), has rolled out a new payments platform to comply with the government’s “National e-Payment Roadmap”. The new infrastructure will centralise payment processes at the firm, and “set new standards” in connecting intermediary institutions with commercial banks. According to SET president, Kesara Manchusree, the switchover was made possible with the “tremendous support” of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Thailand’s Central Bank Bans Banks from Dealing with Cryptocurrencies Finance Magnates 12th Feb 2018
Bank of Thailand issued a circular today asking the financial institutions to refrain from doing any business involving cryptocurrencies, as their suspicions of cryptocurrencies grow into a real fear of the possible problems with trading in an unregulated market.

Stock Exchange of Thailand rolls out new payments network Finextra Research 12th Feb 2018
The Stock Exchange of Thailand’s (SET) subsidiary FinNet Innovation Network Co., Ltd., today rolls out the payment system infrastructure in order to enhance efficiency of the capital market’s payment process, in line with the government’s National e-Payment Roadmap. This development underlines SET’s vision “To Make the Capital Market ‘Work’ for everyone.” SET President Kesara Manchusree said FinNet’s operation is an integral part of SET’s strategic plan for infrastructure development to enhance the capital market’s competitiveness at international level. This infrastructure will centralize payment process and set standards in connecting intermediary institutions with commercial banks. The system is built in accordance with the government policy of the National e-Payment Steering Committee and the sub-committee on the capital market’s payment system development. The system stemmed from the cooperation of SET and related agencies, with tremendous support from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), securities firms and commercial banks.

TCG targets B110bn for SME loan guarantees Bangkok Post 10th Feb 2018
Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation (TCG) aims to provide loan guarantees to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) worth 110 billion baht this year. TCG’s 2018 credit guarantee amount is likely to be higher than last year, when financial institutions tightened their loan extensions for fear of rising soured loans, said TCG president Nitid Manoonporn. The state-owned financial institution last year offered credit guarantees worth 88.6 billion baht, falling short of the 102 billion target.

Food & Agriculture

Rice forecast remains robust Bangkok Post 17th Feb 2018
Despite lingering concerns about the baht, the government remains upbeat about Thai rice export prospects, particularly for premium hom mali rice bound for Hong Kong, where the government expects shipments to rise to 215,000 tonnes this year. Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said Thailand last year shipped 206,153 tonnes of hom mali fragrant jasmine rice to Hong Kong, up from 187,092 tonnes in 2016.

Palm oil stocks dip on cooperation Bangkok Post 14th Feb 2018
Thailand's crude palm oil stocks are expected to decline to 310,000 tonnes at the end of this month from 532,000 tonnes last November thanks to the government's measures to curb the palm oil surplus. Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan said concerted efforts by the Energy and Commerce ministries have successfully lowered the crude palm oil stocks after the level surged to 532,651 tonnes in November 2017, much higher than the safety level of 300,000 tonnes. The surplus led the prices of fresh palm nuts to drop by 18%, averaging 3.37 baht per kilogramme during the period.

Budget Proposed for Farm Sector The Nation 13th Feb 2018
 Vinaroj Subsongsuk, secretary-general at the Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE), said that among the four groups of projects planned, the ministry's budget for 11 integration agendas including water management, agricultural production capability development, and research and development accounts for Bt117.873 billion while the expense for functions including basic plans or strategies amounts to Bt37.581 billion.  The planned expenditure budget for development of regional areas total Bt30.961 billion and estimated expense for state staff amounts to Bt26.969 billion.

Agricultural machine makers eye 10% growth The Nation 19th Feb 2018
Group vows to help SMEs improve their performance Agricultural machinery manufacturers have targeted 10 per cent sales growth this year to achieve total sales of Bt220 billion. Patcharin Posirisuk, chairman of the Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Industry Club under the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said that businesses in this group had posted total sales of Bt200 billion as of now, of which 70 per cent was domestic sales and the rest being exported. She added that the industry was expected to post sales growth of 10 per cent this year to Bt220 billion.

From fruit farmer to high-end  The Nation 12th Feb 2018
THE BANK FOR AGRICULTURE and Agricultural Co-operatives has been building its troops of small agricultural businesses as it has worked to strengthen its lending ecosystem and help farmers. Boonthieng Pruksakit, owner of a fruit processing factory, is an example of someone successful in a small agricultural business.  The owner of Chanthaburi Fruit Product Co, Boonthieng had struggled for many years while working to build trust with supermarkets and high-end consumers.  He started in business by growing his own fruit, then moved into the fruit processing business in 1996.  “I’m among the first to introduce freeze-dried technology for fruit processing in Thailand,” Boonthieng said with obvious pride. 

Health & Life Sciences

Bangkok to get a health security fund Bangkok Post 22nd Feb 2018
Bangkok is finally setting up a "health security fund" to support health care programmes in the teeming capital. Sakchai Kanchanawatthana, secretary-general of the National Health Security Office (NHSO), said Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, in his capacity as chairman of the NHSO board, recently signed off on a plan to help Bangkok launch its own provincial health security fund.

IAEA Director General Visits Thailand: Highlights Potential of Sterile Insect Technique to Fight Disease-vector Mosquitoes IAEA 21st Feb 2018
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visited Bangkok, Thailand this week, where in his meetings with senior officials he discussed a range of development areas where nuclear applications play a vital role. These included the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) that can help to control the Aedes mosquito population and the role of nuclear medicine in the health sector. In his opening remarks at the first coordination and consultative meeting for a new four-year project on using the SIT to control the Aedes mosquito population, ‘Managing and Controlling Aedes Vector Populations Using the Sterile Insect Technique,’ Mr Amano said that the technique has proved effective against a number of insect pests which are harmful to human beings, animals or food crops.  “IAEA Member States around the world have used the technique successfully against fruit flies and tsetse flies. Important progress has been made in its use against mosquitoes,” he said, adding that vector-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, Zika viral disease and yellow fever are becoming important public health problems in many countries in South-east Asia.

New health benefits, transplants on the way Bangkok Post 12th Feb 2018
The National Health Security Office (NHSO) is set to approve payment for 11 selected health promotion, prevention and rehabilitation services. This will be on top of the regular percapita universal healthcare budget paid. The NHSO’s subcommittee overseeing the on-top healthcare budget allocation just finished shortlisting 11 out of 88 healthcare services, Phithakphon Bunyamalik, assistant permanent secretary for public health minister said Sunday. However, the NHSO needed to conduct economic feasibility studies of the selected services. The studies are expected to be complete this year.

ICT

Lagging e-commerce spending inches up Bangkok Post 20th Feb 2018
E-commerce spending in Thailand has inched higher, but is still lower than the global average. Thailand’s average e-commerce spending per user for consumer goods is US$248 (7,782 baht), compared with the global median of $833 (26,141 baht), according to a study by social media management platform Hootsuite and global agency We Are Social. Some 52% of the Thai population who buy items online do so via mobile phone (m-commerce), behind only South Korea at 58%.

NBTC postpones spectrum auctions over legitimacy Bangkok Post 15th Feb 2018
The board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) passed a resolution to postpone the planned auction of the 1800- and 850-megahertz spectrum for another 60 days. The board said it wants its authority to conduct the auction to be confirmed by the Council of State. The move is intended to ensure the auction is legitimate, preventing any legal backlash for the involved parties.

Section 44 to ease pains Bangkok Post 13th Feb 2018
The military government will soon invoke Section 44 to ease the chronic financial burdens of the existing terrestrial digital TV operators at the expense of the state. The measure, which will also allow the two winners of the 2015 4G mobile licence auction on the 900-megahertz spectrum to postpone their auction payments, is expected to spark widespread public outrage. "We [the government] have already agreed that, in principle, Section 44 is the sole way to resolve the financial crisis TV and mobile operators are facing," said Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.

The coming battle for e-commerce Bangkok Post 12th Feb 2018
With the Bank of Thailand issuing regulations to govern financial institutions engaged in the e-marketplace, the domestic e-commerce arena is poised for local firms to battle it out with foreign e-commerce behemoths. Effective from Jan 16, the central bank is requiring financial institutions interested in operating in e-commerce to provide notice of at least 30 days before setting up shop.

Digital post service to be trialled in Thailand The Nation 21st Feb 2018
Hitachi and Hitachi Asia (Thailand) will work with Thailand Post to start proof of concept regarding an experimental digital post service that will enable receivers to receive notifications from state agencies through their computers and smartphones. The agreement will also accommodate the outsourcing of a mail-printing service. Hitachi said: “Studies will also be conducted on the needs associated with other public administrative information and various types of notifications from private companies, such as direct mail and invoices, to determine the feasibility of specific Thailand Post services specifically for such notifications.”

Thailand: Central Bank Asks All Banks To Avoid Crypto, Pending Regulations Cointelegraph 13th Feb 2018
Veerathai Santiprabhob, governor of the central Bank of Thailand, has asked all banks in Thailand to stay away from cryptocurrency, Reuters reported yesterday, Feb. 13. According to Reuters, the central bank released a circular Monday that bans banks in Thailand from investing and trading in crypto, as well as participating in and creating exchanges and platforms for crypto trading.The circular applies specifically to banks, not to exchanges or other services, which are still allowed to operate freely in the country. Banks were also asked not to advise customers on crypto investment or trading, and to ban clients from using credit cards for crypto purchases. Several large banks globally have already instituted a similar ban of credit card purchases of crypto last week, as the crypto markets took a dip to new multi-month record lows.

Thailand Board of Investment Announces New 4-Year Professional Visa Program Benzinga 13th Feb 2018
The Thailand Board of Investment recently announced a new visa program specially designed for professionals working in highly skilled industries such as healthcare, tech, and robotics, in order to encourage them to stay in Thailand. Among other benefits, the new SMART Visa program allows foreigners to live and work in Thailand without obtaining a work permit and to check in with immigration once per year rather than every 90 days. Thailand BOI has started accepting applications for the SMART Visa program as of February 1, 2018. Four categories of professionals are eligible for Thailand BOI's new ‘SMART Visa' program: 1) SMART "T" or Talents and highly-skilled professionals in the science and technology field in targeted industries, contracted for at least 1 year with a salary of at least $200,000 baht (USD $6,278.00) a month. 2) SMART "I" or Investors in targeted industries with direct investment capital of at least $20 million baht (USD $627,000) in target industries. 3) SMART "E" or Executives working in targeted industries with over a decade of experience and who earn salaries greater than $200,000 baht (USD $6,278) a month. 4) SMART "S" or Startup Entrepreneurs with at least 600,000 baht (USD $18,834) in bank account deposit, who participate in an incubation or accelerator program, or a similar program endorsed by a government agency such as the National Innovation Agency (NIA), the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA).

Workshop aims to limit digital crime Bangkok Post 13th Feb 2018
Thailand's Foreign Affairs Ministry and Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry is collaborating with Australia to co-host the Asean-Australia Cybersecurity Workshop entitled, "Strengthening Legal Implementation in Tackling Cybersecurity Challenges in the Region" today. The workshop will help promote cooperation within and beyond Asean to address non-traditional security issues, in line with the Asean chairmanship 2018 theme of "Resilience and Innovation", said Pichet Durongkaveroj, DE minister. The workshop is a part of Thailand's continued efforts to strengthen cooperation between other Asean member states and dialogue partners in monitoring and tackling cyberthreats, and enhancing coordination between cybersecurity-related agencies. Mr Pichet said emphasising the importance of a safe and stable cyberspace is critical in Asean, in addition to economic growth and development at both national and regional levels because of increasingly sophisticated cyberthreats to the economy, enterprises, corporations and even individuals.

Infrastructure

EEC aerotropolis study likely to wrap up in 2019 Bangkok Post 20th Feb 2018
The government expects the EEC aerotropolis’ feasibility study to be completed in the next 18 months, says EEC Office secretarygeneral Kanit Sangsubhan. The aerotropolis will cover 6,500 rai between Rayong and Chon Buri in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). The 250-billion-baht project will be financed through a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme. The government said it will announce the terms of reference for the project this month, aiming to sign a contract in December.

EEC high-speed railway to steer clear of Rayong on safety fears Bangkok Post 14th Feb 2018
The government has altered the high-speed railway linking three airports, one of the key infrastructure projects of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), to terminate at U-tapao airport instead of the inner city of Rayong out of safety concerns and to speed development. According to Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, the government is concerned about passenger safety in the event of an accident at Map Ta Phut industrial estate, through which the railway was envisioned to run before ending at Rayong. Map Ta Phut lies east of U-tapao and west of Rayong on the Eastern Seaboard.

Rayong port to expand on 1,000-rai plot Bangkok Post 13th Feb 2018
The government has provided a reclaimed land plot of 1,000 rai to expand the third phase of Rayong's Map Ta Phut port with an investment worth 11 billion baht. The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) is in charge of the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate and plans to announce terms of reference in June for private firms interested in joining the expansion project under the public-private partnership scheme.

Somkid: Japan still on board rail plans Bangkok Post 13th Feb 2018
The government has insisted the Thailand-Japan partnership for joint investment in the Shinkansen-like high-speed railway from Bangkok to Chiang Mai remains intact, despite recent reports that Japan was solely interested in offering loans for the project. It also confirmed the development will be based on the original goal of 300 kilometres per hour to make the high-speed train competitive against low-cost airlines.

Orange route prep work starts Bangkok Post 13th Feb 2018
Partial demolition of two bridges in the Ramkhamhaeng-Lam Sali area will commence next month, at the earliest, to prepare for the construction of the MRT Orange Line's eastern route, says Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) acting governor Rithika Suparat. Contractors will begin work at the foot of the Ramkhamhaeng elevated road inbound towards Rama IX, and the inbound foot of the flyover crossing Lam Sali intersection.