Thailand Update: March 22, 2018

Thailand Update | March 22, 2018
Authors: Matt Solomon, Ella Duangkaew, Kevin Rutigliano
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

April 9, 2018: Pre U.S.-Thailand TIFA Discussion Roundtable with Permanent Secretary Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, Thai Ministry of CommercePlease join the Council for a roundtable with Permanent Secretary Nuntawan Sakuntanaga from the Ministry of Commerce of Thailand prior to the U.S.-Thailand TIFA discussion, which will be held on April 10. The Permanent Secretary will be leading the Thai delegation for the TIFA discussion, and this roundtable will serve as a chance to raise any issues your company is facing in advance of the TIFA discussion. Space may be limited, click here to register. Please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org with any questions. 

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
 
 

Thai Government Considering its Position on CPTPP

In March, the Thai Government stated that it will call a joint meeting with stakeholders before determining its stance on the new Comprehensive and Progressive for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc. The CPTPP was signed on March 8 by 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The CPTPP was formed after the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2017. In 2015, Thailand had previously expressed its interest in joining TPP and commissioned a study on TPP’s potential impact on the Thai economy. In 2016, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha stated that Thailand would eventually join TPP. The CPTPP will go into effect 60 days after at least six countries complete domestic approval procedures. According to Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, the Ministry assigned the Trade Negotiations Department to study the details of the pact and its potential impact.

According to the Bangkok Post, the current members of the CPTPP has a combined USD $10.2 trillion of GDP in 2017, equivalent to 13.5% of the world’s GDP.  In 2017, Thailand’s two-way trade with the 11 CPTPP member countries totaled USD $134.6 billion. Thailand exported USD $70.3 billion to those countries, which amounted to 29.7% of Thailand’s exports. In addition, Thailand had a trade surplus of USD $6 billion with CPTPP countries last year. Commerce Minister Sontirat stated that the pact covers not just trade of goods, but also trade of service and other trade issues such as intellectual property, labor standards, environmental standards and trade competition. Director-General of Trade Negotiations Department Auraman Supthaweethum stated that discussions with stakeholders are needed before Thailand decides if it will join the CPTPP. If Thailand decides to join the CPTPP it could simplify the customs process for businesses that operate in Thailand and trade with other CPTPP member countries, and reduce market access barriers for goods manufactured in Thailand.

NLA Passes Bills on Installation of MPs and Senators

On March 8, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed organic bills on the election of Members of Parliament (MPs) and the selection of Senators. Both bills were passed without changes after the amendments made by the NLA were scrutinized by a joint committee of the NLA, the Election Commission (EC) and the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). However, there are concerns that the bill on the selection of Senators violates the current Thai Constitution. In the bill, Senate candidates would be allowed to field themselves and for organizations to field candidates for selection. The bill would also install intra-group selection among candidates instead of cross group voting. The CDC believes these provisions may violate Section 107 of the Constitution, which stipulates that Senators must be installed through selections made by and among candidates. On March 18, the NLA submitted the Senators bill to the Constitutional Court for review.

These laws are the last two required laws needed to go into effect before the election can take place. There are concerns that the bill on the election of MPs may also contain a provision that is unconstitutional, specifically a clause that states that officials who fail to vote in elections without good reason will be barred from political positions. However, the NLA decided only to submit the bill on the selection of Senators to the Court for review. NLA President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai stated that the controversial elements in the election of MPs bill were debatable and that submitting the bill to the Constitutional Court would delay the election. If the Constitutional Court’s review of the law takes a substantial amount of time it could further delay the election. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that although the Court’s review of the law may delay their enforcement to some extent, it will not affect the Election Roadmap. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has also said that the election will not be delayed and will be held by February 2019.

While the passage of these bills may help Thailand get back on track with the Election Roadmap, and proposed February 2019 elections, the question of whether the bills are constitutional is cause for concern. The international community is placing great stake in the transparency and fairness of the upcoming elections, and it may not bode well if the last two bills required for elections to take place are found unconstitutional.

Revisions Made to Draft Personal Data Protection Bill

In March, the Thai Government released its revisions to the draft Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB)  following the fourth public hearing for the draft law, which was initially released on January 22. The new draft of the PDPB will go into effect 365 days after it is passed and published in the Royal Gazette.  The majority of the draft law has remained the same, specifically the definitions, duties, and responsibilities of data controllers and data processors.

However, there is the addition of a broad, vague provision stating that exemptions to the PDPB cannot be made if they are in violation of fundamental rights. The determination of “fundamental rights” may allow for subjective interpretation of the law, and who is eligible for exemptions based on this provision. This may impact opportunities for exemption for entities that collect potentially sensitive data in Thailand, such as the financial sector. This may also cause additional burden to these entities, which have large operations in Thailand. For an overview of the draft law prior to these most recent changes, see our past Legislative Update here

Thailand to Implement VAT on Foreign Websites

The Thai Finance Ministry will soon implement a 7-percent value added tax (VAT) on e-commerce transactions between foreign providers and Thai consumers. Director-General of the Revenue Department Prasong Poonthanet stated that the tax will create a level playing field between local and international e-commerce providers.

Currently foreign e-commerce providers are not subject to the 7 percent VAT while local businesses are required to pay it. The Revenue Department will seek cooperation from the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to encourage foreign e-commerce companies to participate in the tax collection system.

According to the Bangkok Post, the Revenue Department also plans on revoking the VAT exemption on transactions worth less than Bt1500 (USD$40). Director-General Prasong said that foreign e-commerce companies avoid the VAT by issuing smaller bills, worth less than Bt1500, for transactions that are greater than Bt1500. On March 6, the Revenue Department signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Business Development (DBD) to organize an electronic filing system for the tax. Under the agreement, corporations would file their financial statements to only the DBD, then their information would automatically be linked to the Revenue Department system for tax payment purposes. Director-General of the Department of Business Development Kulanee Issadisai stated that this arrangement will reduce costs for foreign businesses.

The VAT draft has already passed the public hearing procedure required by the current Thai Constitution. The Council submitted comments for this draft Act on February 9 (final submission can be found here). Director-General Prasong stated that the draft will be given to Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong for endorsement later this month before it goes to the Cabinet for approval. If it is approved, the draft will then go to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for debate. There are over 300,000 e-commerce vendors in Thailand, most of them small businesses. The Government expects the e-commerce market to experience 17 percent growth in 2018. The volume of e-Commerce vendors would generate substantial revenue for the Department should this tax go through. This would help the Department reach its ambitious revenue goal for Fiscal Year 2018 of 192.8 billion TBH (6.19 billion USD), which is a 3.3% increase from its FY2017 goal of 186.7 billion baht (5.99 billion USD) (see the full FY2018 Budget here). Across ASEAN, other countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia, are also looking to tax foreign-based e-commerce providers. Although meant to level the playing field for competition, these taxes may greatly reduce investor confidence in ASEAN, and deter the growth of the digital economy in the region.

Thailand to Set Standards for Rail Projects

On March 9, the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) to establish a set of engineering standards for upcoming rail projects. Under the memorandum of understanding the EIT agreed to distribute copies of the OTP’s railway engineering manuals to engineers registered under EIT. OTP Chief Chaiwat Thongkamkoon stated the manuals will contain engineering specifications and other requirements for railway construction. He also said that these same standards will affect railroads that link with other ASEAN countries.

Thailand will construct several railroads over the next few years including 10 new electric train lines in Bangkok, the Thai-Chinese High-Speed Railroad from Bangkok to Nong Khai and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) High-Speed Railway that will connect Don Meuang, Suvarnabumi and U-Tapao airports. Mr. Chaiwat said that the manuals will provide a uniform frame of reference should errors occur in the construction of the projects. This will cut costs in the construction of these rail projects. According to Mr. Chaiwat, while Thailand has had standards for train lines in the past, no standards have yet existed for high speed train lines. According to the EIT, Government plans for railroad construction from 2018-2040 are currently valued at Tbt 2.5 trillion. Adopting uniform standards for future projects will reduce costs in the future construction and maintenance for these railways. This can help to make the construction of these high-speed rail projects much smoother and will help Thailand improve its infrastructure and reduce transportation costs within the country.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Thailand aims to boost trade with neighbors by 15% in 2018
Green light to Mekong links
PM talks trade, security with Turnbull

National Affairs
HM the King marks bicentennial Thai-US ties
Prayut uses S44 to remove Somchai from EC
EC selection panel to wrap up by May 7
Senate selection bill sent to charter court
Court review of organic bills will not delay poll, Prayut promises

Customs
Local producers worry about Chinese dumping
Govt ready to scrap region border checks
Thailand mulling stance on CPTPP

Defense & Security
Thailand, Malaysia to build border wall
Japan to join bid for Thai radar system contract

Economics
Exports grow, industries' confidence drops
More loans approved for welfare scheme
B3.8bn allotted to bolster SME revenue
BoT on verge of raising growth view
BOT chief flags issues amid upbeat view
Uttama: EEC investment to hit B300bn after bill

Energy
B10 increase eyed to absorb palm oil surplus
Thais weigh merit of Mekong dam

Financial Services
BoT plans overhaul with blockchain
B500m limit suggested as mechanism to curb ICO risk
Digital asset trading faces 7% VAT levy
Cabinet OKs digital asset draft decrees
Cabinet to draft law to regulate, tax cryptocurrencies
BoT chides fee violators after guidelines flouted
Tax incentives and banking consolidation
Thailand: Draft Notifications to Impose New Disclosure Requirements on Insurers
IMF urges elderly fund

Food & Agriculture
Price of chicken to rise as exports to China approved
Rural economic stimulus vowed
Commerce seeks rice stock gradual release

Health & Life Sciences
Pet tax mooted in wake of rabies outbreak
Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health to Handout Face Masks to Northern Communities Affected by Choking Haze
Food security report points to increasing malnourishment and obesity in Thailand
Thailand steps up rabies vaccinations as infections spread

ICT
Plan calls for mandatory re-registration of all SIM cards
NLA moves NBTC appointments forward
Section 44 urged to untie digital TV
Digital TV licensees set to get a lifeline
Thailand: Update on the Latest Draft of the Personal Data Protection Act
NBTC: No spectrum auctions until late 2018

Infrastructure
Bangkok-Pattaya special train makes debut
Upgrades urged for 55 secondary provinces
Don Mueang studies airport upgrade
Deal signed to set Thai rail standards
Govt to ease transport woes with neighbouring nations
Thailand’s Transport Ministry Aims to Reduce Death Toll By 7 Percent Over Songkrans “Seven Dangerous Days”
 
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Thailand aims to boost trade with neighbors by 15% in 2018 Nikkei Asian Review 20th Mar 2018
BANGKOK -- Thailand aims to increase trade with countries on its borders by 15% this year, to a record high of 1.5 trillion baht ($50 billion). The government is backing the drive to offset an expected slowdown in overall export growth due to appreciation of the baht against the U.S. dollar. The value of trade with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia, combined with goods re-exported to Vietnam, was worth 1.3 trillion baht in 2017. This cross-border trade consists mainly of Thai consumer goods like rice, sugar, canned food and semi-cooked food as well as auto parts and construction materials. The transactions are often in local currencies -- frequently the baht, because of its relative stability. 

Green light to Mekong links The Nation 19th Mar 2018
Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries have reached a deal on the implementation of a cross-border transport facilitation agreement (CBTA). Transport ministers from six GMS countries - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, as well as Thailand and China - on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the “Early Harvest” Implementation of the CBTA. This will allow the effective launch of GMS road transport permits and temporary admission documents for commercial vehicles, starting on June 1.

PM talks trade, security with Turnbull The Nation 17th Mar 2018
The Thai and Australian prime ministers held a bilateral meeting for the first time in five years during the Asean-Australia special summit in Sydney, with focus on upgrading the economic relationship and regional security cooperation. Thai premier General Prayut Chan-o-cha also invited Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to visit Thailand prior to the start of the special summit. Thailand has also expressed support for closer economic and security cooperation between Asean and Australia, especially in areas of innovation and sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific region. 

National Affairs

HM the King marks bicentennial Thai-US ties The Nation 20th Mar 2018
His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn presides over the opening of an exhibition hosted by the US government at Queen Sirikit Textile Museum, which features nearly 80 gifts exchanged between the country’s heads of state and delegations over the past two centuries of bilateral relations. The exhibition features royal gifts from Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, King Prajadhipok, King Chulalongkorn, and King Mongkut to and from respective American presidents. Most of these gifts have never been seen by the public, and many will be displayed in Thailand for the first time.

Prayut uses S44 to remove Somchai from EC Bangkok Post 20th Mar 2018
Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has used his special powers to remove Somchai Srisutthiyakorn as election commissioner, effectively immediately, citing his inappropriate comments that could confuse the public. The National Council for Peace and Order No.4/2561 order, published in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday evening, says Mr Somchai gave several interviews to media about the procedures and schedule of the general election. His opinions may confuse the public and obstruct the operation of the Election Commission and the organisation of the polls. The order also mentioned Mr Somchai might have a conflict of interest when he applied for the top job at the EC.

EC selection panel to wrap up by May 7 Bangkok Post 20th Mar 2018
The committee tasked with selecting five of the seven members of the new Election Commission (EC) on Monday decided to impose a 70-day deadline for completing its task, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) president Pornpetch Witchitcholchai said in his capacity as a panel member. This will mean the selection will have to be completed by May 7 as it already began on Feb 27, which will be 20 days faster than the 90-day time frame stated in the constitution's organic law on the EC, he said after a meeting of the committee.

Senate selection bill sent to charter court Bangkok Post 19th Mar 2018
National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai on Monday sent the organic bill on the selection of senators to the Constitutional Court. Mr Pornpetch said he had signed the petition submitted by 30 legislators requesting the court's ruling on controversial content in the bill. The move followed a warning by chief charter writer Meechai Ruchupan of political chaos if the organic bills on the selection of senators and the election of MPs are declared unconstitutional. His warning came after the NLA passed the two bills.

Court review of organic bills will not delay poll, Prayut promises The Nation 13th Mar 2018
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday gave his assurance that the chief charter drafter’s proposal to have the Constitutional Court interpret two organic bills essential to hold the election should not cause any further delay to the poll timeline. Chief charter drafter Meechai Ruchuphan suggested that the bills on the election of MPs and Senate selection, approved by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) last week, might contain some points conflicting with the 2017 constitution which, if enacted, could cause further legal complications.

Customs

Local producers worry about Chinese dumping Bangkok Post 15th Mar 2018
Local steel producers are calling on the government to launch safeguard measures to protect Thailand's steel industry, as they are concerned US President Donald Trump's policies will bring a flood of steel from China. Theerayuth Lertsirarungsun, president of Thai Steel Wire Rod Trade Association, said the US plan to impose tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium will have both direct and indirect impacts on the domestic steel industry. "The US policy will become effective on March 23, affecting hot-rolled steel and cold-rolled steel products," he said.

Govt ready to scrap region border checks Bangkok Post 15th Mar 2018
Thailand has supported the Cross Border Transport Agreement (CBTA) and is ready to eliminate border inspection stops to let foreign vehicles and ships travelling from countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region into the country, says Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith. "Once fully implemented, the agreement will allow the seamless shipment of goods. Ships and vehicles will be able to pass through the GMS's [land and marine] network," Mr Arkhom said on Wednesday at an Asian Development Bank seminar held in Bangkok.

Thailand mulling stance on CPTPP Bangkok Post 10th Mar 2018
The government says it will call a joint meeting with all stakeholders before determining Thailand's stance towards the newly formed trade bloc of 11 nations without the US. According to Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, the ministry assigned the Trade Negotiations Department to study the impact of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which was signed in Chile on Thursday, and call a joint meeting with all stakeholders before proposing the most appropriate directives for Thailand's official stance towards the new pact. Eleven Pacific Rim countries signed the CPTPP, which had been revised after the US withdrew from the agreement in January 2017.

Defense & Security

Thailand, Malaysia to build border wall The Straits Times 17th Mar 2018
BANGKOK • Thailand and Malaysia have agreed to proceed with a plan to build a border wall in Thailand's southern province of Songkhla, as part of efforts to strengthen security operations and fight transnational crime, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday. The agreement was reached during the 54th meeting of the Thai-Malaysian General Border Committee in Bangkok chaired by Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and his Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein.

Japan to join bid for Thai radar system contract Nikkei Asian Review 11th Mar 2018
The Japanese government is preparing to bid for a contract to supply Thailand with an air defense radar system. Landing the contract would make the system the country's first export of domestically produced defense equipment. Export procedures are now underway for a defense radar system used by the Air Self-Defense Force after participation in the bid was given the go-ahead earlier this month by Japan's National Security Council. Mitsubishi Electric, manufacturer of the system, will take part in the bid held by the Royal Thai Air Force as early as the end of March. Other participants are likely to include companies from the U.S. and Europe.

Economics

Exports grow, industries' confidence drops Bangkok Post 21st Mar 2018
Exports rose 10% year-on-year in February, but the industries' sentiment index fell for the first time in four months on concerns about costs. The Commerce Ministry said on Wednesday that exports were valued at US$20.36 billion in February, up 10.3% year- on-year. Exports in the first two months of 2018 rose 13.8% to $40.47 billion. Imports last month were valued at $19.56 billion, up 16%. The value of imports in the first two months amounted to $39.78 billion, rising by 20.1%.

More loans approved for welfare scheme Bangkok Post 21st Mar 2018
The cabinet yesterday approved an additional 10 billion baht in emergency loans to be channelled through the Government Savings Bank (GSB) as part of the second phase of the government's welfare and subsidy scheme. The loans aim to tackle the long-standing problem of underground or unorganised lending to low-income earners. Nathporn Chatusripitak, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, said low-income earners still need emergency loans to resolve their underground debt problems.

B3.8bn allotted to bolster SME revenue Bangkok Post 16th Mar 2018
The government has budgeted 3.81 billion baht for a pilot programme to build up small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 10 provinces, aiming to double the portion of GDP generated by SMEs to 10% by 2023. Kalasin has been chosen as the first province to take part in the "SME to a Rising Star" initiative. Kobsak Pootrakool, the Prime Minister's Office minister, said the government has an ambitious policy of upgrading the country's economy from the grass roots level, with SMEs specifically targeted for improvement.

BoT on verge of raising growth view Bangkok Post 16th Mar 2018
The Bank of Thailand is likely to upgrade its economic growth forecast for this year at the policy rate meeting on March 28 after the economy fared better than expected, its chief says. Several economic readings, particularly in exports and tourism, have exceeded expectations, and the pickup has become more broad-based, said central bank governor Veerathai Santiprabhob. The Bank of Thailand's Monetary Policy Committee normally reviews its economic growth projection on a quarterly basis, and the upcoming meeting to decide on the policy rate and review the growth forecast is scheduled for March 28.

BOT chief flags issues amid upbeat view The Nation 15th Mar 2018
At a seminar jointly hosted by Bangkok Bank and Bualuang Securities, Veerathai said yesterday that the economic conditions over the past two months of this year have been better than prior projections. Exports have continued to expand from the brisk pace set last year and imports have also been rising. The latter suggested that private investment would also increase, Veerathai said. The Bank of Thailand projected late last year that the economy would expand 3.9 per cent in 2018, matching the growth in 2017.

Uttama: EEC investment to hit B300bn after bill Bangkok Post 15th Mar 2018
The government expects the value of investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to top 300 billion baht thanks to the EEC bill, says Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana. The EEC is a magnet project for foreign investors and will play a key role in revitalising the domestic economy, he said. "Many countries have their eyes on Asean and Thailand," said Mr Uttama.

Energy

B10 increase eyed to absorb palm oil surplus Bangkok Post 19th Mar 2018
The Department of Energy Business (DOEB) plans to increase the proportion of palm-based biodiesel to absorb the surplus in crude palm oil. B10 will be available in the local automotive market by early 2019 to replace B7 biodiesel. B7 is 7% palm-based biodiesel blended with 93% diesel, but the government is looking to increase the content of methyl ester made from crude palm oil to 10%.

Thais weigh merit of Mekong dam Phnom Penh Post 15th Mar 2018
Environmental watchdogs expressed hope on Wednesday that the Thai government’s announcement that it will delay a decision to purchase power from the controversial planned Pak Beng Dam could signal a shift in the country – and possibly the region – towards renewable energy. The dam, which is in Laos but is partially funded by Thailand – with 90 percent of generated power expected to be sold to Thailand – has faced significant opposition from civil society, local communities, and environmentalists who warn that it could have devastating downstream impacts in Cambodia and Thailand. If it goes forward, construction is expected to be complete in 2024. It is also the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by Thai villagers worried about the downstream impacts.

Financial Services

BoT plans overhaul with blockchain Bangkok Post 20th Mar 2018
The Bank of Thailand plans to adopt blockchain technology for its bond issuance and wholesale central bank digital currency, an interbank payment system. Blockchain technology would improve productivity and lower operating costs with higher security, said central bank governor Veerathai Santiprabhob at Bangkok Fintech Fair 2018 on Monday. The central bank's bond issuance via blockchain technology would shorten the time for bond underwriting from around 15 days to a few days, he said.

B500m limit suggested as mechanism to curb ICO risk Bangkok Post 16th Mar 2018
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could impose a cap on funds raised from initial coin offerings (ICOs) of 500 million baht per project in an attempt to curb systemic risks, says an academic. The market regulator is likely to limit the fund-raising amount derived from ICOs under a notion similar to that of crowdfunding, said Arnat Leemakdej, a professor at Thammasat Business School. Funds raised from ICOs are expected to have a greater scope than that of crowdfunding, but such an amount may be lower than 500 million baht, Mr Arnat said.

Digital asset trading faces 7% VAT levy Bangkok Post 15th Mar 2018
Investors who make digital-asset-related trades will be liable for a 7% value-added tax (VAT), on top of the 15% withholding tax on capital gains and returns from such investments, when the new law is enforced. The series of levies is designed to discourage people from speculating in digital assets. But retail investors will be exempt from paying the VAT if they trade digital assets through exchanges, said Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong.

Cabinet OKs digital asset draft decrees Bangkok Post 14th Mar 2018
The cabinet on Tuesday approved in principle the drafts of two royal decrees, one to regulate digital-asset-related transactions and another to amend the Revenue Code to let the tax-collecting agency impose levies on digital assets. Nathporn Chatusripitak, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, said the new law governing digital-asset-related transactions will cover cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs). However, the draft still needs to be vetted by the Council of State before being submitted to the cabinet for final approval next week.

Cabinet to draft law to regulate, tax cryptocurrencies Bangkok Post 13th Mar 2018
The cabinet agreed on Tuesday to draft a law to oversee cryptocurrency trading, seeking to tax the largely unregulated market. Nathporn Chatusripitak, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, said the Finance Ministry also proposed the new regulations to help prevent use of digital currencies in money laundering and fraud. He said details of the proposed regulations would be announced later in the month.

BoT chides fee violators after guidelines flouted Bangkok Post 13th Mar 2018
The Bank of Thailand has warned banks and non-bank financial institutions under its supervision to comply with its ceiling interest rate, fees and penalty rates for personal loans and credit cards. The central bank's move came after it found rates and fees charged by some operators do not follow its guidelines, Ronadol Numnonda, assistant governor overseeing the supervision group, wrote in a circulated letter. "The Bank of Thailand's rules setting interest rates, fees and penalty rates for banks and finance companies are transparent, encouraging fair rates based on real costs, and allowing users to compare service conditions. We found some operators do not charge fees in compliance with the regulation," he said without revealing names.

Tax incentives and banking consolidation Bangkok Post 13th Mar 2018
Proposed incentives to encourage mergers, combined with new banking standards, could lead to greater consolidation within Thailand's banking sector, which the government hopes will strengthen lenders and complement plans to fast-track industrial growth. In December, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong 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.

Thailand: Draft Notifications to Impose New Disclosure Requirements on Insurers Tilleke & Gibbins 13th Mar 2018
Insurance companies in Thailand are required by the Office of Insurance Commission (OIC) to publicly disclose their financial and business operating results on their websites and other channels, with the information presented in clear, precise, reliable, and updated formats. The disclosed information should illustrate trends in each company’s business operations and enable readers to compare companies within the insurance industry. Recently, the OIC has circulated two draft notifications that will impose new disclosure requirements on insurers: (1) Rules, Procedures, and Conditions for Disclosure of Financial Standing and Operating Results of Life Insurance Companies; and (2) Rules, Procedures and Conditions for Disclosure of Financial Standing and Operating Results of Non-Life Insurance Companies. Both draft notifications are currently being considered by relevant stakeholders.

IMF urges elderly fund Bangkok Post 10th Mar 2018
Thailand is being urged to set aside some of its ample foreign reserves for a fund to raise proceeds to finance aid packages for the elderly. Markus H Rodlauer, deputy director of the IMF's Asia and Pacific department, met Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Friday and proposed that Thailand earmark US$214.7 billion (6.73 trillion baht) worth of foreign reserves, accounting for 10% of the country's GDP, to establish a fund that generates income to assist the elderly.

Food & Agriculture

Price of chicken to rise as exports to China approved Bangkok Post 21st Mar 2018
China has approved imports of Thai chicken for the first time, with sales expected to top 7 billion baht a year - but it means consumers in Thailand will probably pay more. Livestock Development Department director-general Aphai Sutthisang said on Wednesday the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People's Republic of China had issued certificates to seven processing plants in Thailand allowing them to export their products to China. That would debut official exports of Thai chicken to China. He estimated exports from the seven plants would total at least 7 billion baht a year.

Rural economic stimulus vowed Bangkok Post 17th Mar 2018
The Commerce Ministry has pledged to move ahead with plans to drive local economic development, e-commerce, exports and big data for farm products and trade. Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said on Friday after a workshop that the ministry is still focused on stimulating the local economy, reducing living costs, driving exports and stabilising farm prices as priorities for 2018.

Commerce seeks rice stock gradual release Bangkok Post 15th Mar 2018
The Commerce Ministry is set to talk with the state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) about releasing hom mali fragrant paddy rice pledged under the bank's loan scheme, which was offered to farmers who delayed selling their stocks. Boonyarit Kalayanamit, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the department will soon hold talks with BAAC on releasing some of the 900,000 tonnes of hom mali rice pledged by farmers under the bank's rice barn pledging programme, adding supply is relatively tight thanks to lower production and depleted state stocks.

Health & Life Sciences

Pet tax mooted in wake of rabies outbreak Bangkok Post 20th Mar 2018
Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang said Monday he agreed with the idea of collecting taxes from pet owners. "How to collect the taxes, the procedures and regulations must be clear. The Department of Livestock Development will provide a model, then City Hall will follow," he said. While Finance Ministry spokesperson Kulaya Tantitemit said the ministry had not discussed the issue, permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk said he had floated the idea of collecting taxes from the owners of cats and dogs as a way to help control disease epidemics, such as the recent spate of rabies cases.

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health to Handout Face Masks to Northern Communities Affected by Choking Haze Chiang Rai Times 13th Mar 2018
Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health has convened a meeting to discuss the ongoing air pollution in nine provinces and is preparing to hand out 290,000 pollution resistant masks to people in all affected areas. While chairing a video conference with local health agencies, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Public Health Ministry Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, was informed that a total of nine provinces in the northern region are currently affected by air-borne particulate matter of less than 10 microns (PM10) including Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Nan, Phayao, Phrae, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Lamphun, and Tak.

Food security report points to increasing malnourishment and obesity in Thailand The Nation 9th Mar 2018
Biodiversity, Sustainable Agriculture, and Food Sovereignty Action Thailand Foundation (BioThai) yesterday published its 2017 annual report on the food security situation for Thailand, which revealed a worrying trend of a widening inequality gap in the access to food. BioThai Foundation director Withoon Lienchamroon said that despite being a food exporting country, some 6.5 million Thais still did not get enough food and more than 600,000 children suffered from malnutrition, which affected their physical development. At the same time, the obesity rate had doubled from the last decade in Thailand and more than 5 million people were judged to be overweight.

Thailand steps up rabies vaccinations as infections spread The Straits Times 13th Mar 2018
Thai authorities are stepping up rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats after 22 provinces across the country have been announced as rabies "red zones", with at least three human deaths attributed to the deadly disease reported so far this year. The Livestock Development Department and other agencies said there is a need to intensify the rate of vaccination as many people do not know that death is almost guaranteed if a person is bitten by an infected animal - usually a dog or cat - unless they quickly receive a full dose of vaccine. However, local administrations in the North-east region do not have enough vaccine to service all areas.

Cultural Barriers to Tackling Thailand’s Super Bug Crisis Chiang Rai Times 10th Mar 2018
Research led by the University of Oxford has revealed how the complex cultural and social environment in developing countries can complicate the use of new diagnostic technologies to fight the global superbug crisis. The research, led by Dr. Marco J Haenssgen at the CABDyN Complexity Centre and the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health, involved a new finger-prick blood test (C-reactive protein) to help nurses and doctors decide whether their patients need antibiotic treatment.

ICT

Plan calls for mandatory re-registration of all SIM cards Bangkok Post 21st Mar 2018
The telecom regulator plans to force all mobile firms to re-register their entire customer bases, despite widespread concerns over its harm to consumer data privacy and the burden it will place on operators. Mobile operators said re-registering their entire user bases would entail a significant financial and manpower burden, raising the possibility of legal consequences for those that fail to comply. The new registration requires operators to either record the real owner of the SIM card, under what it calls a "registered by" formula, or record the holder (or user) of the SIM card under what it calls a "holder by" formula.

NLA moves NBTC appointments forward Bangkok Post 19th Mar 2018
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is moving the timeline to recruit a new board for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) ahead by two weeks. According to a high-ranking source at the NBTC, the NLA office set a new schedule to call the 14 final candidates to make their case for board membership on April 4 and 5, two weeks earlier than by the previous agenda. The move is likely to ensure that NLA members complete the recruitment process and vote to select only seven of the 14 final candidates, the source said.

Section 44 urged to untie digital TV Bangkok Post 16th Mar 2018
The government is expected to invoke its sweeping Section 44 powers this month to tackle the legal tangle with digital TV operators and help ease the financial burdens of the winners of the 2015 4G mobile licence auction on the 900-megahertz spectrum. According to National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) secretary-general Takorn Tantasith, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told a meeting of the working group handling the digital TV problems Thursday that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the cabinet on March 27 are scheduled to consider invoking Section 44 this month to allow digital TV operators to suspend their licence payments for three years.

Digital TV licensees set to get a lifeline The Nation 15th Mar 2018
Financially strapped digital TV operators may get a three-year debt moratorium and subsidy on ground network fees as part of the government’s effort to rescue the broadcasting industry beset by oversupply, according to the industry’s chief regulator. Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecom Commission (NBTC), also said after a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krau-ngam and private sector representatives that two major telecoms operators would get a reprieve in paying multi-billion-baht licence fees to the government.

Thailand: Update on the Latest Draft of the Personal Data Protection Act Lexology 13th Mar 2018
In January 2018, the government called for the fourth public hearing of the draft Personal Data Protection Act. There were no substantial changes in this draft as compared to the prior version published in March 2015, although minor changes were made. This article reviews some of the key provisions in the latest draft bill, noting where changes have been made from the previous draft.

NBTC: No spectrum auctions until late 2018 Bangkok Post 12th Mar 2018
Total Access Communication (DTAC) has been dealt a fresh blow, with the planned auctions of its expiring mobile spectra pushed back indefinitely until the new board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) takes the helm later this year. The existing NBTC board is to cease making policy decisions this month. The new NBTC board, however, should be ready to take fully control after the expiry of DTAC's concession. Auctions of the 1800- and 850-megahertz spectra were initially scheduled to take place this June, before the expiration of DTAC's 2G mobile concession in September.

Infrastructure

Bangkok-Pattaya special train makes debut Bangkok Post 17th Mar 2018
PATTAYA: A special tourist train from Bangkok to Pattaya and Sattahip made its debut on Saturday, with services planned every weekend for the next six months to spur tourism in the eastern region. Trips in air-conditioned carriages to Pattaya station and Ban Phlu Ta Luang station in Sattahip will be offered every Saturday and Sunday until Sept 30. They will leave Bangkok early in the morning and return in late afternoon. The inaugural service arrived on Saturday at Pattaya station at 9.10am. On hand to welcome it were executives from the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), Pattaya municipality, the Chon Buri Tourism Association and a crew of media members.

Upgrades urged for 55 secondary provinces Bangkok Post 14th Mar 2018
Authorities in the tourism industry have been urged to improve facilities, transport and access in order to boost traffic to 55 secondary provinces. The government this year is focusing on promoting attractions and activities to those provinces, in part through tax deductions. But travel to these provinces during the first three months of the year has remained sluggish, with experts recommending local operators and authorities do more to create tourism products and offer more attractive marketing plans.

Don Mueang studies airport upgrade Bangkok Post 11th Mar 2018
Don Mueang airport will propose a 2.2-billion-baht renovation project for its old domestic terminal to the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) for consideration next month, general manager Suthirawat Suwannawat said. The upgrading of the old terminal is part of the third-phase development plan for the airport, which is being sped up to ease overcrowding problems, said Mr Suthirawat. The number of passengers at Don Mueang is expected to grow by 14% to 42 million passengers this year, compared to the 37 million passengers who passed through the airport in 2017. If approved, work can begin late this year or early next year, and the terminal, currently closed to passengers, can be operational by 2020, he said.

Deal signed to set Thai rail standards Bangkok Post 10th Mar 2018
The Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT) on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) to establish a set of engineering standards for upcoming railway projects countrywide. The MoU involves the EIT's agreement to distribute copies of the OTP's railway engineering manuals to engineers registered under the institute. OTP chief Chaiwat Thongkamkoon said the manuals will detail engineering specifications and other basic requirements regarding railway construction and design as Thailand currently lacks set standards for such projects.

Govt to ease transport woes with neighbouring nations The Nation 15th Mar 2018
THE GOVERNMENT will build more roads and rail lines linking neighbouring countries with Thailand in the Mekong sub-region in order to ease traffic congestions at major border points, said Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisit. Delivering his keynote speech at the seminar on “ The GMS 25th Anniversary: Achievement, Lessons Learned, and the Way Forward” hosted by Asian Development Bank, Arkhom said yesterday that as Thailand has been doing more trade and investments with countries along the Mekong River, it has led to traffic congestion at major border points

Thailand’s Transport Ministry Aims to Reduce Death Toll By 7 Percent Over Songkrans “Seven Dangerous Days” Chiangrai Times 13th Mar 2018
Thailand’s Transport Ministry aims to reduce the number of road-related accidents and deaths by 7% during the annual “Seven Dangerous Days” of Songkran in April, Transport Ministry inspector Sarawut Songsivilai said. He made the comments after meeting with transport authorities to settle safety precautions and accommodation issues for next month’s water-fueled festivities.