Thailand Update: March 8, 2018

Thailand Update | March 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
 
 

Master Plan for Digital Park Thailand to be Completed in March

The Government of Thailand is set to complete the master plan for Digital Park Thailand, a flagship project of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), this March. According to Sanpachai Huvanandana, President of CAT Telecom, the final master plan is being designed by CAT Telecom, the Digital Economy Protection Agency (DEPA), and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. After the plan is finalized, it will be sent to the National Digital Economy and Society Committee for approval. The Digital Park will be divided into three zones: innovation space; university 4.0 and digital academy; and living space. The project will cover an area of 709 rai (280 acres) at CAT's property in Sri Racha district, Chon Buri province.

According to Mr. Huvanandana, the project will push ahead in two simultaneous phases. Phase One will focus on the construction of the Internet of Things (IoT) Institute, an institute that will focus on developing the digital economy of Thailand. Phase Two will focus on surveying and selecting partners for constructing the infrastructure for the park. He also stated that CAT and DEPA plan to do roadshows in Japan, Taiwan, the U.S., and China to promote the project. The Digital Park Thailand project is expected to be built on a five-year time table and the construction will take place from 2018 until 2022. The Park aims to attract investors by offering numerous benefits including tax breaks for companies and income tax exemptions. The Digital Park will also provide an environment for domestic and foreign digital professionals to collaborate. The construction of the Digital Park will aid the development of the S-Curve industries, which include: automation and robotics, aerospace, smart electronics, next generation automotive, agricultural and biotechnology, digital economy, biofuels and biochemical, medical and wellness tourism, “food for the future,” and medical hubs.  These industries are also being further built out by the implementation of the Smart Visa program this past February. Together, these initiatives may further attract foreign investment and talent into S-Curve industries and help expand the growth of the digital economy in Thailand.

Policymakers Aim to Increase Refined Oil Reserves

Energy policymakers in Thailand are planning to increase the legal reserve stock of refined oil from 1% (a 3.65 day supply) to 2% (a 7.3 day supply). Simultaneously, oil refiners are planning on cutting crude oil reserves from 6% (a 21.9 day supply) to 5% (a 18.25 day supply). Director-General of the Energy Business Department Witoon Kulcharoenwirat stated that this will maintain the nation’s total reserves of 7%, while adding 1% of refined stock and cutting 1% of crude stock. Director-General  Kulcharoenwirat also stated that the goal of this policy to cut operating costs for oil refiners and to balance crude oil stock by adding resources from the United States, Southeast Asia and East Asia, rather than relying on oil from the Middle East. Director-General Witoon also said that the lowering of the crude oil reserve cap will result in a lowering of retail oil prices of 16 satang per liter (about 2 cents per gallon).

The final decision regarding the new oil reserve will be announced by the Energy Policy Administration Committee before a timeline is outlined for implementation. Prior to the global oil price collapse in 2014, Thailand's oil reserves were 6% for crude oil and 6% for refined oil. After the collapse, policymakers reduced the reserve stock for refined oil to 1%, a cap that has remained in place since. Increasing the refined oil reserve to 2% will help Thailand be able to better cope with potential fluctuations in the price of oil, which will help stabilize the energy market in Thailand.

Thai Cabinet Approves B6.34bn for Nationwide Upgrades

On February 20, Thailand’s Cabinet ratified 6.34 billion baht (USD$202 million) for projects that will serve to boost the country’s business environment and competitiveness, including broadband expansion, smart city development, and supporting digital start-ups. According to Nathporn Chatusripitak, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, 3.29 billion baht (USD$105 million) will be set aside for the Ministry of Science and Technology, 2.25 billion baht (USD$72 million) for the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, and 800 million baht (USD$26 million) for the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission (OPDC).

In a related development, the Cabinet also approved proposed ministerial regulations governing e-commerce activities. The new regulations exempt entrepreneurs with e-commerce sales volumes of less than 1.8 million baht (USD$57,000)/year from the registration requirement, as they are considered direct sales operators under the Office of Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) according to the Direct Sales and Direct Marketing Act 2017 (found here in Thai). These regulations also require entrepreneurs to place deposits with the OCPB before they can obtain permits to operate direct sales and marketing, depending on the value of their annual sales. The above initiatives demonstrate the Thai government’s continued effort in regulating and promoting the emerging digital economy for enhanced growth.

National Legislative Assembly Rejects Seven Election Commission Candidates

On February 22, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted to reject all seven candidates for the Election Commission (EC). Each of the seven candidates needed at least half (124) of the 248 votes that were cast, but all failed to get the required number of votes. According to the Thai Constitution, the Supreme Court picks two of the seven members of the EC and the remaining five are picked by a panel through an open process. However, there were concerns that the selection process of the new candidates nominated by the Supreme Court was not an open process, so the NLA voted down the candidates. According to the Bangkok Post, the NLA wished to avoid any potential legal challenges over the selection of the candidates.

The new search for Election Commission candidates must now start from scratch and begin within 90 days. This has triggered some fears that the election will be further delayed beyond February 2019 because of a pattern of past delays in the election process. However, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha stated that the rejection of the candidates will not further delay the election and he verbally guaranteed that the election will take place by the end of February 2019.  The Prime Minister also stated that if new election commissioners cannot be found, the ones currently in place can run the upcoming election. 

While the Prime Minister’s verbal guarantee may ease uncertainty around the timeline of the election, this development calls into question the transparency of the election management process. The country’s most recent constitution demanded internal changes to the EC, the sole election management entity in the Thai government, in order to ensure its preparedness for the next general election. These reforms included appointment of entirely new commissioners, who would be responsible for successfully preparing for and managing the highly anticipated elections. The possibility that the same commissioners would remain in place, if new ones were not approved, would contrast with the constitutionally-mandated reforms to the EC and call into question the integrity of the elections. This may impact Thailand’s relations with other countries and regions, such as the U.S. and the EU, which is specifically waiting for the completion of free and fair elections before restoring full political engagement with Thailand.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
Mekong countries forge growth plan
Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand sign pact that expands cross-border fund offerings
Laos and Thailand Cooperate on Migrant Worker Issues

National Affairs
Court may decide constitutionality of Senate bill
New parliament house to be finished early next year
Cabinet moves to reduce punishments for illegal workers and employers
Panel strikes organic laws deal
PM Prayut now promises election no later than February
PDMO seeks to plug rice-pledging scheme fallout
Fears soar of another election delay
Equitable Education bill gets nod

Customs
E-business tax primed for scrutiny
Free trade hits customs haul
Trump steel tariffs prompt Thailand to fortify dumping defenses

Defense & Security
Exercise Cobra Gold Strengthens Interoperability, Regional Relationships

Economics
BoT urges time frame
Thailand urged to seek markets amid trade row
Balanced budget blueprint being bounced around
Inflation dips in February
Growth improves but domestic demand not strong enough: BoT
Consumers shine in economy’s strong start to the year

Energy
Scant CO2 tax impact seen
Policymakers aim to adjust legal reserves
DOEB spots rising fuel consumption in 2018

Financial Services
SET drafts advice for ICO investment
Justice Ministry moves to regulate cryptocurrencies
Banks race for digital technology
SEC supervision of ICOs considered
Cryptocurrency to fall under 'Know Your Customer' rules
Amended bill targeted to snub out conflicts of interest
Tax incentives could trigger consolidation of Thailand’s banking sector
SMEs urged to use hedging

Food & Agriculture
Cabinet approves further crab banks
Strong baht likely slows rice exports
Drought preparations get under way early
Ministry of Agriculture stepping up efforts to improve rubber price

Health & Life Sciences
Health scheme buoyed by B5.1bn budget deal
Health warning as rabies spreads rapidly
Emergencies only: agreement reached on speedy crossing to Thailand for medical transfers
Health ministries of Bhutan and Thailand sign MoU
Thailand News: Education plan seeks to improve distribution of medical workers

ICT
Foreign websites to come under VAT net
Big data panel to direct country's digital transition
Thailand and World Bank link up to boost digital awareness
Thailand sets sights on spearheading IoT alliance
Thailand’s smart cities to herald in Thailand 4.0
Thailand urgently implements five digital technology projects
Thailand and World Bank to collaborate on promotion of digital economy
Thailand Post exploring use of electronic mailbox to deliver government notifications
Tiny Thai satellite set to shoot planet

Infrastructure
Ministers splash extra floodway cash
Auction for train contracts in April
EEC backs rail link to 3 airports
 

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Mekong countries forge growth plan Bangkok Post 24th Feb 2018
Member countries of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) are working to develop a master development plan for 2019-23 to strengthen sustainable economic growth and enact better economic management. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the ad hoc committee working on ACMECS's master plan is scheduled to finalise it in April before submitting it for approval to the eighth ACMECS summit scheduled for June in Thailand. Thailand is chairman of ACMECS from October 2017 to June 2018.

Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand sign pact that expands cross-border fund offerings Asia Asset Management 5th Mar 2018
Regulators in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have signed a pact that will, among other things, allow smaller asset managers to offer cross-border funds among the three member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The memorandum of understanding signed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Securities Commission Malaysia (SC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC) revises the ASEAN Collective Investment Schemes Framework which was launched in 2014. Under the original framework, fund managers operating in the three jurisdictions could only offer products across their borders if they had at least US$500 million of assets under management (AUM). This has now been reduced to $350 million.

Laos and Thailand Cooperate on Migrant Worker Issues The Laotian Times 1st Mar 2018
The government of Thailand has promised support for Lao migrant workers living in the country, and will offer assistance to Lao workers who want to return home to Laos. The Thai government has said it will upgrade the nationality status of Lao workers in Thailand. The Thai Minister of Labor, Mr Adul Sangsingkeo, was in Vientiane on Monday to attend a bilateral meeting on labor issues.  He said that Thailand would increase assistance offered to Lao workers.

National Affairs

Court may decide constitutionality of Senate bill The Nation 7th Mar 2018
National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said on Wednesday that NLA members could sign a petition to the Constitutional Court to rule whether the Senate bill, if affirmed by the NLA on Thursday, is constitutional. The NLA is set to revisit the amendment of the Senate bill and the MP election bill written by the joint law review committee, after differences were raised following the NLA’s approval of the two bills in late January. Pornpetch said he projected that the two amended bills would sail through the NLA again, but pointed out that the constitutionality of the Senate bill would have to be considered.

New parliament house to be finished early next year Bangkok Post 7th Mar 2018
The new parliament house should finally be ready for use early next year, and the old parliament compound will then be returned to the Bureau of the Royal Household, the president of the National Legislative Assembly said on Wednesday. After inspecting progress on the new riverside complex in Kiakkai area of Bangkok, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said the work was 50% complete. The current parliament compound on Uthong Nai Road would be returned to the Bureau of the Royal Household, probably in February when the general election is planned. The building is within the grounds of Dusit Palace.

Cabinet moves to reduce punishments for illegal workers and employers The Nation 6th Mar 2018
The Cabinet has given the green light to a draft amendment that would lessen tough punishments against illegal workers and their employers. The draft seeks to eliminate jail terms of up to five years against illegal workers. According to the draft, fines against employers of illegal workers will also be reduced from between Bt400,000 and Bt800,000 per illegal worker to between Bt10,000 and Bt100,000. The Foreign Worker Management Act of BE2560, which came into effect last year, prescribes what are widely accepted as harsh penalties. Four of its articles have been suspended since last year in response to concerns from many sides.

Panel strikes organic laws deal Bangkok Post 1st Mar 2018
A compromise appeared to be have been struck Wednesday after the organic bills on the election of MPs and select of senators passed a review by a joint panel set up to reconcile differences between related parties. Representatives of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the Election Commission (EC) had been working to iron out contentious points in both bills. The tripartite panel Wednesday finished its work and is due to return the reviewed bills to the NLA for a vote on March 8.

PM Prayut now promises election no later than February Bangkok Post 27th Feb 2018
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said the general election will be held no later than February next year. The deadline came as no surprise as the prime minister simply confirmed the 90-day delay made possible by the National Legislative Assembly’s vote on Jan 25 to put off the effective date of the MP election bill. His comment sent the stock market soaring 18.07 points to 1,852.51 in the afternoon trade before sliding to close down 3.79 points at 1,830.39  from the previous day in active trade of 103.7 billion baht.     

PDMO seeks to plug rice-pledging scheme fallout Bangkok Post 26th Feb 2018
The Public Debt Management Office (PDMO) plans to seek a solution for managing hefty debt incurred from the Yingluck Shinawatra government's rice-pledging scheme. The solution may require cabinet approval to ensure the government's commitment, said Theeraj Athanavanich, a bond market adviser to the PDMO. The office is waiting for the final debt figure for the rice-pledging scheme from a committee, which will be concluded after the scheme's stockpile is completely sold, he said.

Fears soar of another election delay Bangkok Post 23rd Feb 2018
Concerns about a further delay of the general election escalated Thursday after the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted to reject all seven candidates chosen to be election commissioners. The process of selecting candidates to be election regulators is now effectively back at square one and suspicions emerged that the assembly had received "an order" from the regime to veto the candidates. The NLA met to certify the qualifications of the seven Election Commission (EC) finalists. An NLA committee chaired by Gen Ood Buangbon was responsible for checking their personal backgrounds, "moral conduct" and experience.

Equitable Education bill gets nod The Nation 23rd Feb 2018
A KEY DRAFT law for reducing the country’s educational inequality has now sailed through the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). The NLA yesterday approved the Equitable Education Fund Bill with overwhelming support. Of 188 legislators present, 184 voted for the bill while the rest abstained.  Chalermchai Boonyaleepun, a member of both the NLA and the Independent Committee for Education Reform (ICER), said Thailand needed the Equitable Education Fund because it was now the world’s third in terms of educational and social inequality. 

Customs

E-business tax primed for scrutiny Bangkok Post 7th Mar 2018
A draft bill on e-business tax, a levy on online purchases, advertisements and website rent in Thailand earned by operators with a presence outside the country, will go before the cabinet this month. The draft will require online business operators with a foreign presence to remit value-added tax (VAT) from transactions occurring in Thailand to the Revenue Department through an electronic payment channel. They must sign up as operators under the VAT system if they earn over 1.8 million baht a year from online trade in Thailand, said Prasong Poontaneat, director-general of the department.

Free trade hits customs haul Bangkok Post 3rd Mar 2018
The Customs Department estimates that tax revenue collection will fall 4.5 billion baht short of the 105-billion-baht target for this fiscal year, due to a string of tax reductions from free trade pacts. The latest free-trade agreement with China for tile products, for example, results in a tax revenue loss of 220 million baht a year, said director-general Kulit Sombatsiri. The Customs Department failed to achieve its tax revenue target in recent years, missing the target by 2.2% in fiscal 2013, 17.4% in 2014, 5.6% in 2015, 7.4% in 2016 and 13% in the last fiscal year.

Trump steel tariffs prompt Thailand to fortify dumping defenses Nikkei Asian Review 8th Mar 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel imports has spurred Thailand to prepare anti-dumping and other safeguards, in the latest sign of a chain reaction of protectionism.  The proposed 25% levies have Thai steelmakers worried that globally competitive producers will redirect their exports from the U.S. to other markets, potentially bringing an influx of cheap steel into the Southeast Asian country.

Defense & Security

Exercise Cobra Gold Strengthens Interoperability, Regional Relationships U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 26th Feb 2018
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2018 —Some 5,800 U.S. service members, working in Thailand alongside forces from 29 partner nations, have wrapped up one of the largest security cooperation exercises in the Indo-Pacific region. Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters today that Cobra Gold 18, which ended Feb. 23, sought to improve participants’ capability to plan and conduct combined and joint operations, to build relationships among participating nations across the region, and to improve interoperability over a range of activities, including enhancing maritime security and responding to large-scale natural disasters.

Economics

BoT urges time frame Bangkok Post 7th Mar 2018
Thailand's central bank should consider a time frame this year for monetary policy tightening, with the economy likely to grow by at least 4%, says Paiboon Kittisrikangwan, deputy governor of the Bank of Thailand. The central bank has left its policy interest rate unchanged at 1.50%, near record lows, since April 2015 as Southeast Asia's second-largest economy has struggled to gain traction. Most economists expect no policy change for the rest of 2018, while some predict rate hikes in the second half of the year. The bank last raised its policy rate in August 2011, a 0.25-point hike to 3.50%.

Thailand urged to seek markets amid trade row The Nation 6th Mar 2018
The country should seek out new markets and pursue direct trade negotiations with the United States against the backdrop of heightened fears of a global trade war following protectionist moves by Washington, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) said. Last week, President Donald Trump said that the US will impose tariffs of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium imports to shore up the country’s struggling heavy industries. The action could trigger retaliation from other countries. Nonarit Bisonyabut, a TDRI research fellow, said that what the US wants from this move is new trade negotiations with the countries with which it incurs trade deficits. Thailand is among these countries.

Balanced budget blueprint being bounced around Bangkok Post 6th Mar 2018
The Finance Ministry is preparing to lay down a framework to balance the budget in the next 5-10 years, says a senior official at the ministry. The framework will be based on an assumption of GDP growth of at least 4% per year, which is the proper level to run a balanced budget, said Finance Ministry spokeswoman Kulaya Tantitemit. Measures to boost state revenue and control expenditures would be parts of the framework, she said.

Inflation dips in February Bangkok Post 3rd Mar 2018
Inflation eased in February as costs dropped for fresh poultry and aquatic animals, eggs, processed vegetables, seasonings, condiments and fresh fruits. The Commerce Ministry reported yesterday that inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI) eased to 0.42% in February after a 0.68% reading in January. The rise was driven largely by the non-food sector, whose prices rose 0.74% from the same month last year, driven by tobacco, alcoholic drinks, housing, furnishings and education.

Growth improves but domestic demand not strong enough: BoT Bangkok Post 28th Feb 2018
Thailand's economy gained further traction on external demand but domestic demand was not "sufficiently strong", and monetary policy has to remain accommodative to boost activity, minutes of the central bank's last policy meeting showed on Wednesday. On Feb 14, the Bank of Thailand's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to keep the one-day repurchase rate at 1.50%, where it has been since April 2015. "The committee viewed that an accommodative monetary policy stance was still necessary for some period to foster stronger domestic demand," the minutes said.

Consumers shine in economy’s strong start to the year The Nation 26th Feb 2018
Gains in private consumption helped to boost the economy in a sign that consumers are increasingly more confident on the prospects of a sustained recovery, the Finance Ministry says. Pornchai Theeravej, finance and economics adviser to the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO), yesterday said that private consumption, both domestic and from abroad, was a key factor in stimulating the economy in January. Value-added tax collection, which serves as rough indicator of household consumption, rose 6.9 per cent in January from the same month in 2017, according to a monthly economic report released by the FPO yesterday. Car sales last month rose 27.3 per cent year on year, for a winning streak of 13 consecutive months. However, they pulled back from the 41 per cent growth posted in December. 

Energy

Scant CO2 tax impact seen Bangkok Post 2nd Mar 2018
The new excise tax on motorcycles based on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will add a meagre 0.05% to retail prices if implemented, says the tax department chief. The Excise Department will offer a six-month grace period for motorcycle makers to help adjust to the new excise tax structure, said director-general Krisada Chinavicharana. The 0.05% tax on motorcycles will have a minimal impact on consumers, he said.

Policymakers aim to adjust legal reserves Bangkok Post 26th Feb 2018
Energy policymakers are planning to increase the volume of the country's legal reserves for refined oil from oil traders to 2% or 7.3 days, up from 1% or 3.65 days. On the other hand, oil refiners are planning to cut crude oil reserves from 6% or 21.9 days to 5% or 18.25 days. For both crude and refined oil, Thailand's reserve is 7% or 25.55 days for oil refiners and traders.

DOEB spots rising fuel consumption in 2018 Bangkok Post 23rd Feb 2018
Thailand's fuel consumption is expected to grow by 3.5% this year to 155 million litres per day from 150 million litres last year, thanks to the domestic economic recovery, says the Department of Energy Business (DOEB). Director-general Witoon Kulcharoenwirat said the growth will mostly come from products other than premium-grade petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG), as motorists now prefer using biofuels. Mr Witoon said annual fuel consumption will move in line with the country's economic growth.

Financial Services

SET drafts advice for ICO investment Bangkok Post 7th Mar 2018
The Stock Exchange of Thailand is preparing guidelines for investment in initial coin offerings so that investors can evaluate ICOs and assess risk and return. The guidelines are to be published on the SET website this month to let investors access complete information for their decision-making process before embarking on ICO investment, said SET president Kesara Manchusree. The move comes as both listed and non-listed companies seek to raise funds via ICOs, Mrs Kesara said.

Justice Ministry moves to regulate cryptocurrencies Bangkok Post 4th Mar 2018
The Justice Ministry aims to safeguard cryptocurrency traders from incurring heavy losses or falling prey to scammers by introducing measures to regulate the market. Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong said the deputy permanent secretary for justice will propose the measures to the Finance Ministry, and announce them on Tuesday. The Justice Ministry yesterday held a workshop on cryptocoins and regulatory measures, with the participation of heads of the relevant agencies, including Ruenvadee Suwanmongkol, director-general of the Legal Execution Department; Pol Lt Col Prawut Wongseenin, deputy chief of the Department of Special Investigation, as well as representatives from the Finance Ministry and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Banks race for digital technology The Nation 4th Mar 2018
Winfield Wong, head of wholesale banking at HSBC Vietnam said that country has potential for a high rate of adoption of new technologies. This prospect is triggered by a young population very open to innovation, along with robust Internet penetration. As of November last year, 64 million people or 67 per cent of Vietnam’s population had Internet access. And smartphone ownership has exploded, with 84 per cent of mobile-phone owners in 2017 carrying smartphones, up from 78 per cent in 2016, according to Wong.

SEC supervision of ICOs considered Bangkok Post 3rd Mar 2018
The Finance Ministry is considering the appointment of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to supervise fund-raising involving initial coin offerings (ICOs) and digital assets. If the plan bears fruit, the SEC's authority will cover digital assets beyond securities such as digital tokens, for which the market regulator already has supervisory authority granted under the SEC Act. SEC deputy secretary-general Tipsuda Thavaramara said the commission's board of directors will meet next Thursday to consider the ICO regulatory framework and related fund-raising through digital tokens. "If the SEC board accepts and approves ICO rules and regulations for securities ICOs, then the SEC is expected to announce an official effective date this month," Mrs Tipsuda said.

Cryptocurrency to fall under 'Know Your Customer' rules Bangkok Post 1st Mar 2018
Regulations governing securities issuance, which requires underlying assets or service and Know Your Customer (KYC) rules, will be applied to the coming framework governing cryptocurrencies in an effort to protect investors, says Pornchai Thiraveja, an adviser to the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO). Digital currencies with either underlying assets or services will be tradable to prevent losses from investment, he said. Issuers also need to be licensed in the event that they operate any services that require licences by law. Trading cryptocurrencies will also have to comply with KYC, Mr Pornchai said.

Amended bill targeted to snub out conflicts of interest Bangkok Post 1st Mar 2018
The amended draft bill on the Securities and Exchange Act will empower the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) board of directors to formulate a mechanism to govern investment of fund management companies, lessening their investment in products related to their parent firms. The move is aimed at reducing these fund management companies' conflicts of interest and protecting unit holders, said Sakkarin Ruamrangsri, the SEC's assistant secretary-general. Most investment management companies are bank subsidiaries, and putting money into products issued by their parents could cause a conflict of interest, he said.

Tax incentives could trigger consolidation of Thailand’s banking sector Oxford Business Group 25th Feb 2018
In December Apisak Tantivorawong, the finance minister, said his ministry was considering a plan to make mergers more appealing by offering tax incentives to local lenders and assisting companies with the costs of amalgamation. The minister said the proposed measures would be aimed at bolstering the sector and better preparing domestic operators for increased international competition, but he released no further details. “Our policy is not to force but to give incentives to motivate them into thinking... because Thailand does not have a bank that can be called a champion bank that can compete overseas,” Apisak said. Indeed, while Thai companies are expanding their regional presence, offshore deals are still largely undertaken by banks outside ASEAN, with European, US or Japanese institutions responsible for financing the majority of mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

SMEs urged to use hedging Bangkok Post 24th Feb 2018
A fee waiver scheme initiated by the government, the Bank of Thailand and banks for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to buy foreign exchange option contracts on trial is estimated to add 20 billion baht in export value, says the chief of the Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Thailand). Pisit Serewiwattana, president of Exim Thailand, said 2,037 SME operators have been granted premium lines under the foreign currency risk management project for SMEs to buy foreign exchange option contracts on trial, involving a total of 61.1 million baht or 41% of the project budget of 150 million approved by the cabinet.

Food & Agriculture

Cabinet approves further crab banks Bangkok Post 7th Mar 2018
The mobile cabinet meeting at Phetchaburi on Tuesday approved a scheme to financially support fishery communities in coastal areas and establish blue swimmer crab banks, an initiative that helps increase the number of crabs and boosts farmers' income. Nathporn Chatusripitak, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, said the government via the Government Savings Bank will provide soft loans of 150,000-200,000 baht each to 300 communities to set up blue swimmer crab banks. There are now 191 blue swimmer crab banks in 20 coastal provinces.

Strong baht likely slows rice exports Bangkok Post 6th Mar 2018
Rice exports probably eased in February with the onset of the low season and the baht's continued strength after a surge to nearly 1 million tonnes in January. Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said February rice shipments are estimated at 800,000 tonnes, down from about 1 million tonnes in the year-earlier February. He cited volatile foreign exchange and long holidays during the Chinese New Year as holding down exports.

Drought preparations get under way early Bangkok Post 4th Mar 2018
Water management units are up and running in seven major provinces in an operation to preserve the amount of water available for consumption and irrigation despite plentiful reserves in most reservoirs nationwide, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said. Lt Gen Sansern said that although most reservoirs have adequate supplies, the government has cautioned farmers and residents not be complacent and to use water sparingly.

Ministry of Agriculture stepping up efforts to improve rubber price National News Bureau of Thailand 1st Mar 2018
In addressing the falling price of para rubber, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is urging the wider use of rubber by local government offices. Meanwhile, the Ministry is also looking into ways of reducing rubber tapping activity and to have the Ministry of Commerce establish a pricing committee. Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Krisada Boonrach has delivered its policy on boosting the price of para rubber, at a meeting arranged by the Local Administrative Organization Department, calling on local administrative organizations to heed a call to use more locally grown rubber made by the Cabinet on December 12, 2017.

Health & Life Sciences

Health scheme buoyed by B5.1bn budget deal Bangkok Post 7th Mar 2018
The cabinet approved a budget of 5.1 billion baht yesterday for the universal health coverage scheme to plug a funding shortfall for inpatient care and staffing in rural areas. Some 4.1 billion baht has been set aside for inpatient services and the rest for personnel, said government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd. The sum was approved as part of a supplementary budget requested by the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which operates the healthcare scheme, Lt Gen Sansern said.

Health warning as rabies spreads rapidly Thai Visa News 26th Feb 2018
Rabies has spread rapidly, albeit silently, in many provinces of Thailand, with 271 confirmed cases of infection in animals nationwide as of yesterday – just 55 days into the New Year. This number already surpasses the total number of rabies cases in the entire year of 2014. According to real-time rabies infection statistics reported at Thairabies.net, the rabies outbreak is most serious in the Lower North Eastern Region, while dogs were the most common animals to be infected.

Emergencies only: agreement reached on speedy crossing to Thailand for medical transfers Phnom Penh Post 6th Mar 2018
Officials in Cambodia and Thailand have inked an agreement to open a new border crossing that will help speed up the transfer of patients seeking emergency treatment. The new checkpoint is scheduled to open in November.

Health ministries of Bhutan and Thailand sign MoU KuenselOnline 5th Mar 2018
Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on health cooperation with Thailand’s Minister of Public Health, Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Bangkok, Thailand on March 2. A press release from the health ministry states that the signing represents an unprecedented renewal of the agreement that was signed in Bangkok on October 16, 1987, to continue the existing cooperation and to promote new areas of collaboration between the two countries. With the signing of the agreement, both parties agreed to enhance cooperation on disease control, food safety, drug quality testing, traditional medicine, medical and cosmetic products, laboratory quality assurance, human resource for health, health impact assessment, drug treatment and rehabilitation services, medical education and research, and national regulatory system.

Thailand News: Education plan seeks to improve distribution of medical workers Thai Visa News 24th Feb 2018
The National Health Professional Education Foundation has recommended “Interprofessional Education” (IPE) as a solution to the country’s shortage of medical workers. “We have promoted IPE because we believe medical-worker supply planning should not be just about producing more medical workers. We have to think about how to distribute and retain them too,” the foundation’s secretary-general, Professor Wanicha Chuenkongkaew said.  Thailand is struggling with a shortage of medical staff. Although the ratio of doctors and nurses to the population has improved, medical workers are usually concentrated in towns and cities.  The ratio of doctors to population in Thailand was at 1:2,893 in 2010, which is significantly better than 1:3,277 in 2001.

ICT

Foreign websites to come under VAT net The Nation 6th Mar 2018
The Finance Ministry will soon impose a 7 per cent value-added tax (VAT) on foreign e-commerce transactions in an effort to ensure fair competition between international and local businesses, said the director general of the Revenue Department, Prasong Poonthanet. The department also signalled that it would order a block on the websites of any of the global e-commerce giants that failed to pay the tax.  In other financial measures announced yesterday, the Cabinet approved tax credits for companies that hire holders of the state welfare cards. The tax credits would be applied at up to 1.5 times the expenses of such companies. The government stands to forego tax revenue of as much as Bt3 billion a year as a result of this initiative to help the poor.

Big data panel to direct country's digital transition Bangkok Post 1st Mar 2018
The government has set up a committee for big data, data centres and cloud computing to steer all 20 ministries through the state-led digital transformation. The move is to help the government handle the abundant data generated by state agencies, achieve optimal benefit in government decision-making and ensure the success of the country's digital shift under the Thailand 4.0 roadmap. According to Pichet Durongkaveroj, the digital economy and society minister, the government will collate all data sets from state agencies into a centralised big data management system.

Thailand and World Bank link up to boost digital awareness Public Finance International 1st Mar 2018
The announcement was made during a seminar in Bangkok convened to launch the World Bank’s recent report The Internet of Things: The New Government-to-Business Platform. More than 150 representatives from the Thai government, international organisations, businesses, NGOs and the media attended. Thailand’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and the World Bank will collaborate to undertake activities to promote awareness of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the Asian country. “The Internet of Things is not just a hype. We view it as one of the most exciting pieces of technology of the decade, which will help catalyse digital transformation in public and private sectors in Thailand,” said Dr Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president and CEO of DEPA Thailand.

Thailand sets sights on spearheading IoT alliance Bangkok Post 27th Feb 2018
The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) says Thailand is planning to lead an international Internet of Things (IoT) alliance, strengthening the potential of the country's IoT initiative that will be driven by tourism, agriculture and the automotive sector. The IoT market in Thailand is forecast to reach US$1 billion (31.3 billion baht) by 2020 and Depa is working hard to develop an IoT institute.

Thailand’s smart cities to herald in Thailand 4.0 The ASEAN Post 6th Mar 2018
Thailand is set to develop more smart cities following their pilot project involving three cities. Deputy Prime Minister, Prajin Jungtong said in a speech in November 2017 that the aim is to have 100 smart cities within two decades to improve the quality of life in urban centres. The three cities involved in the pilot smart cities programme are Phuket, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen. The government plans to develop three more cities that are also a part of Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) - Chon Buri, Rayong and Chaochengsao. There are also plans to develop Bangkok as a smart city too. The recent focus on smart cities in the country is all part of the government’s Thailand 4.0 initiative. Thailand 4.0 is a new economic model that aims to transform Thailand into a high-income nation. Thailand have identified 10 S-curve industries that will propel the country to become a developed nation. The S-curve industries are divided into two categories – S-curve and New S-curve.

Thailand urgently implements five digital technology projects Vietnamplus 28th Feb 2018
The Thai Ministry of Digital Economy and Society is expediting five important projects after the government approved two-billion-baht budget to finance them with a focus on the expansion of high-speed Internet to remote areas.  Minister of Digital Economy and Society Pichet Durongkaveroj said the five projects to be implemented under the 2.25-billion-baht budget include the fiber-optic Internet connectivity project in 3,196 schools and 812 local hospitals and health systems. The second project seeks to create an infrastructure for intelligent cities in the Eastern Economic Corridor and promote businesses that offer new services on the digital technology. 

Thailand and World Bank to collaborate on promotion of digital economy Finchannel 26th Feb 2018
Thailand’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and the World Bank on February 26 agreed to jointly undertake activities that will promote awareness of the Internet of Things (IoT) in Thailand and adopt digital transformation in public and private sectors. The announcement was made during a seminar attended by more than 150 representatives from the Thai government, international organizations, businesses, NGOs and the media, to launch the recent World Bank report, The Internet of Things: The New Government-to-Business Platform. “Internet of Things plays a key role in our daily lives. Recognizing the importance of IoT in creating digital innovation that will boost productivity and improve individual lives, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) has endeavored to promote the development of the IoT in Thailand through various initiatives, said H.E. Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister, MDES.

Thailand Post exploring use of electronic mailbox to deliver government notifications OpenGovAsia 26th Feb 2018
The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society in Thailand has been working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan in the area of postal services. In FY 2016, MIC conducted a research project that suggested that utilising the postal network for the purpose of public administrative services could be effective in addressing the digital divide. This current project will develop a PoC for the same. Thailand Post Co. Ltd. (Thailand Post) is developing a proof of concept (PoC) for information transmission utilising the nationwide postal network as a reliable way to deliver public administrative information to Thai nationals. Thailand Post, which is a Thai government-owned enterprise under the supervision of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hitachi Ltd. (Hitachi) and Hitachi Asia (Thailand) Co. Ltd. (Hitachi Asia (Thailand)) for the same.

Infrastructure

Ministers splash extra floodway cash Bangkok Post 7th Mar 2018
The cabinet on Tuesday approved an additional 573 million baht for the construction of a floodway in the lower part of Petchaburi province. The floodway is part of the Phetchaburi Irrigation Project initiated by His Majesty the late King to alleviate flooding in the province. It will be used to divert water from the Phetchaburi River before it can enter Phetchaburi town.

Auction for train contracts in April Bangkok Post 28th Feb 2018
Auctions for contracts to build a high-speed train project that is set to link Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports will take place in April, said Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn. He made the remarks Tuesday, one day after the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) committee approved the project. The Transport Ministry said earlier the auctions would start next month. However, Mr Pailin said the terms of reference (ToR) for the project were still under way, pushing the auctions into April.

EEC backs rail link to 3 airports Bangkok Post 27th Feb 2018
The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Committee led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has approved a high-speed railway project connecting Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports to draw investors to its flagship policy. The 220-kilometre project, estimated to cost 200 billion baht, is now just one step away from a cabinet decision, unless further adjustments to the plan are needed. "This will be the first time Bangkok and Rayong are linked by rail," Kanit Sangsuphan, secretary-general of the EEC office, said after the committee met on Monday.