Thailand Update: May 3, 2018

Thailand Update | May 3, 2018
Authors: Matt Solomon, Ella Duangkaew, Kevin Rutigliano
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

May 16-19, 2018: Program to Expand Thai Rubber Trade Market in Southern Thailand: Please join the Rubber Authority of Thailand (RAOT) for a Rubber Seminar and Field Trip Program in Southern Thailand. The program will showcase Thailand’s standing as a natural rubber exporter and will provide opportunities to form new partnerships in the natural rubber market. The full agenda can be found here, as well as the invitation letter and the registration form. If interested in registering, or if you have any questions, please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org.

June 7, 2018: Euromoney Greater Mekong Investment Forum: Please join us at the Euromoney Greater Mekong Investment forum where this year’s agenda will explore the opportunities ahead for the GMS, and deliver high level insights into key areas of the Thailand 4.0 initiative and the collaborative opportunities that exist between Thai and international firms. The latest speaker line-up can be found here. Please contact Napat Rakkitsiri at napat@usasean.org for additional information.

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
 
 

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan Meets with Secretary of Defense James Mattis

On April 23, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan met with Secretary of Defense James Mattis to discuss regional security issues and the U.S.-Thailand defense relationship. At the meeting, Secretary Mattis highlighted how the National Defense Strategy of the United States prioritizes working with allies and partners to advance common interests and to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The two leaders focused on a wide range of U.S.-Thai defense cooperation initiatives and discussed ways to enhance the alliance, particularly by expressing support for enhancing maritime security cooperation, multilateral exercises such as Cobra Gold, and building interoperability through a strong defense trade relationship.

This visit follows two high level military-to-military engagements between the United States and Thailand. In February, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, visited Thailand and met with Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, Prime Minister Prayut, and Chief of Defense Gen. Tarnchaiyan Srisuwan. On February 13, the United States doubled its participation at the 2018 Cobra Gold exercises in Thailand with 6,800 personnel present at the exercise. This latest visit by Deputy Prime Minister Wongsuwan continues these high-level engagements between the United States and Thailand on defense issues, and represents a growing commitment between the two countries to strengthening bilateral military-to-military cooperation.

On April 25, the Council’s Defense and Security Committee hosted a roundtable luncheon with senior members of the Deputy Prime Minister’s delegation, including officials from the Ministry of Defense of Thailand, the Royal Thai Armed Forces, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thailand Ready to Join CPTPP

On May 1, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak announced that Thailand is ready to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and “may request to become a member” when the trade agreement body officially enlists new member countries. DPM Somkid made the comments after a meeting with Japan's Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. Currently the CPTPP is composed of 11-member 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 January 2017. The Thai government has been publicly toying with joining the trade pact since at least 2015, when DPM Somkid said that Thailand was “highly likely” to sign on, and then in 2016 when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said at a US-ASEAN Business Council dinner that Thailand “will have to join the TPP.”

DPM Somkid stated that he has instructed the Department of Trade Negotiations to hold talks with CPTPP members to ask for support. However, he also admitted that concerns about Thailand’s agricultural sector would need to be addressed, particularly regarding the use of genetically modified organisms. According to the Bangkok Post, In 2017, the 11 CPTPP countries combined had USD$10.2 trillion in GDP, making up 13.5% of the world's GDP. Also, Thailand’s two-way trade with the 11 CPTPP member countries totaled USD $134.6 billion, with exports from Thailand contributing $70.3 billion, accounting for 29.7% of Thailand's exports. If Thailand joins the CPTPP, it will reduce barriers to Thai exports and simplify the customs process for businesses that operate in Thailand and trade with other CPTPP countries.

 Prime Minister Chan-o-cha Invokes Section 44 to Retain Current NBTC Commissioners

On April 25, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha invoked Section 44 to stop the selection of Commission members for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette. Government Spokesman Lieutenant General Sansern Kaewkamnerd stated that the current Commissioners will remain in place, and if any Committee member leaves, they will not be replaced, and other Committee members will take on their responsibilities.

Previously, on April 20, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) announced that it would begin searching for candidates to fill seven positions on the NBTC Commission. This was after the NLA rejected the candidates forwarded to the floor on April 19 because there were concerns regarding qualifications of eight of the candidates. The NLA voted 118 to 25, with 20 abstentions, to reject the entire list of NBTC candidates. NLA Vice President Surachai Liengboonlertchai stated that the Government could immediately begin its search to find 14 candidates for the seven positions. However, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was concerned that the selection would not be handled in time for the new Commissioners to be prepared for the upcoming spectrum auction. Therefore, Prime Minister Chan-o-cha issued a Section 44 order to retain the NBTC Commission members. For more information on the spectrum auction, see our recent ICT Update here.

The current NBTC Commissioners’ terms expired in October, but the Section 44 order will extend their terms. According to a current unnamed member of the NBTC Commission, the Commission may have to work until the end of 2018 because the new recruitment process may take seven to eight months before new appointments. While the Section 44 order ensures there is a NBTC Commission in place for the upcoming spectrum auction, this development yields uncertainty in the future of NBTC leadership, which leads to uncertainty in how key digital economy policy issues, such as OTT regulations, may play out in Thailand.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 
  • The Revenue Department of Thailand has released a summary and analysis of the comments received during the public hearing period on the Draft Act Amending the Revenue Code to Support Collection of Taxes from e-Business Operators in Respect of Value-Added Tax Collection from Services Provided Abroad (the "Draft Act"), which closed on February 9. Unofficial translations of the summary and the analysis can be found here and here respectively. The Revenue Department released the Draft Act (found here in Thai with an unofficial translation found here) on January 21, and the Council submitted comments for the public hearing period on February 9.
  • On April 17, the Council and BSA submitted joint comments on Thailand's Draft Cybersecurity Bill. The draft bill (found here in Thai, with an unofficial translation found here). BSA previously submitted comments on an earlier draft of the Cybersecurity Bill in 2015 (found here). For any questions, please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org.
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
PM to discuss cybersecurity, ageing society at Asean summit

National Affairs
Old parties see memberships plunge up to 97%
NLA changes migrant law
New law bans damaging populist projects
NCPO to meet parties in June

Customs
Customs to increase supply chain safety
Thailand wants to join TPP 'as soon as possible,' says deputy PM

Defense & Security
Readout of Secretary James N. Mattis’ meeting with Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence General Prawit Wongsuwan
US-Thailand Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercise Kicks off in Andaman Sea

Economics
BoT expects Q1 to tally 4% growth
SMEs still struggling as minor improvements begin
Huge 5-year budget for national reform
Short-term bond supply to rise
BoT chief: Recovery broadens
Finance ministry keeps GDP outlook
March exports up 7.06% on last year
BoI holding back EV applications

Energy
Analysts worried about gas auctions
Gas field auction details finalised

Financial Services
Tax relief for digital assets a non-starter
Apisak: Rate spread will narrow gradually

Food & Agriculture
B1.67bn for rice barn loans okayed
20 farm outlets added across Thailand 
BAAC upbeat to promote mobile app

Health & Life Sciences
Thailand's ageing society points at soaring health care costs
Plan to capture 'big data' on greenhouse emissions

ICT
Depa fund to help startups shield intellectual property
Govt invokes Section 44 to keep NBTC board in place
20,000 more electronic data capture devices planned
Proposed VAT on digital goods and services
Three measures to help digital TV firms
NLA promises no foot dragging on new NBTC candidates
Thai banks' profits strained by need for digital investments

Infrastructure
New train network still a few years away
New Songkhla to border motorway planned
U-tapao getting satellites
Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang see sharp rise in arrivals during Songkran
Chinese investors keen on Thai airport investment
Bangkok-Nong Khai railway link details firm
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

PM to discuss cybersecurity, ageing society at Asean summit Bangkok Post 27th Apr 2018
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will stress the need for sustainable development, preparing for an ageing society and cyber security at the Asean Summit that kicks off in Singapore Friday, government deputy spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said. During the summit, the leaders of the 10 Asean member states are expected to endorse three documents: one on Asean leaders' vision of a resilient and innovative trading bloc; one on a smart cities network; and a third on cybersecurity cooperation.

National Affairs

Old parties see memberships plunge up to 97% Bangkok Post 30th Apr 2018
Four pre-coup political parties saw their memberships plummet by as much as 97% after the confirmation deadline passed on Monday. They are required by the junta's order to have existing members confirm their status and pay membership fees of 100 baht a year or 2,000 baht for life. Failure to do so by the deadline means existing memberships are automatically terminated.

NLA changes migrant law Bangkok Post 27th Apr 2018
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday passed draft amendments to a 2017 executive decree on the management of migrant workers in an attempt to streamline the employment process. The amendments look to speed up the permit processing and granting system and promote cooperation and legal compliance among parties involved, according to a source in the NLA. They also reduce penalties against migrant workers caught breaking the law and those employing undocumented alien workers.

New law bans damaging populist projects Bangkok Post 20th Apr 2018
A new monetary and fiscal discipline act took effect on Friday with a section specifically prohibiting the government from causing long-term damage to the economy and the public through populist projects. The Royal Gazette announcement said the law was necessary to ensure monetary and fiscal discipline and stability. Of the 87 sections, section 9 requires the cabinet to maintain strict discipline in handling of monetary matters, fiscal policies, budgets, revenues, spending and borrowing.

NCPO to meet parties in June Bangkok Post 20th Apr 2018
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) confirms it will meet political parties in June to settle problems that might hinder their preparations for next year's general election. The schedule, set by NCPO chief and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who initiated the talks, signifies the NCPO would follow its roadmap to the election set for February next year. Earlier, some politicians showed lack of confidence due to problems concerning the charter's organic bills on election of MPs, selection of senators and political parties.

Customs

Customs to increase supply chain safety Bangkok Post 1st May 2018
The Customs Department is about to seal deals for the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) mutual recognition programme associated with international trade supply chain security with another five counterparts by next year. Thailand plans to sign the agreements with three countries -- Japan, Malaysia and Singapore -- this year, and Britain and Australia next year, said Kulit Sombatsiri, director-general of the department. The department has already signed such cooperation agreements with Hong Kong and South Korea.

Thailand wants to join TPP 'as soon as possible,' says deputy PM Nikkei Asian Review 1st May 2018
BANGKOK -- Thailand wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership "as soon as possible," Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told visiting Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy and Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi who is in charge of negotiations for the pact on Tuesday. Thailand had previously expressed interest in joining the free trade deal between 11 nations but had hung back after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact as soon as he took office in 2017.

Defense & Security

Readout of Secretary James N. Mattis’ meeting with Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence General Prawit Wongsuwan U.S. Department of Defense 1st May 2018
Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White provided the following readout: Secretary James N. Mattis met with Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence General Prawit Wongsuwan to discuss the U.S.-Thailand defense relationship and regional security issues. Secretary Mattis highlighted the priority the National Defense Strategy places on working with allies and partners to advance common interests and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

US-Thailand Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercise Kicks off in Andaman Sea The Diplomat 25th Apr 2018
This week, the navies from the United States and Thailand kicked off this year’s iteration of their anti-submarine warfare exercise. The development put the spotlight on the ongoing defense collaboration between the United States and Thailand, which has continued in spite of the deeper challenges that remain for the alliance. As I have noted before, the United States and Thailand, two longtime treaty allies, have a range of defense engagements, including exercises, that they regularly hold.

Economics

BoT expects Q1 to tally 4% growth Bangkok Post 1st May 2018
The country's economy in the first quarter is expected to expand at a pace close to the 4% in the fourth quarter of 2017, driven by exports and tourism, says a senior official at the Bank of Thailand. Private consumption and public spending for the three months through March were also improved, said Pornpen Sodsrichai, director of the Economic Analysis Office. Exports during January to March surged by 9.9% year-on-year and were 11.2% if gold exports are excluded.

SMEs still struggling as minor improvements begin Bangkok Post 1st May 2018
Overall conditions for Thai small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) remain fragile, despite improvement in the first quarter this year. Thanavath Phonvichai, vice-president for research of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), said SME businesses have fared slightly better than the fourth quarter last year, thanks largely to an improving economy.

Huge 5-year budget for national reform Bangkok Post 30th Apr 2018
The Budget Bureau has set a five-year budget framework for national reform through fiscal 2023 of more than 700 billion baht, with the biggest slice going to economic reform and water management. Dechapiwat Na Songkhla, director-general of the Budget Bureau, said 591 billion baht of the budget will be used to finance decentralisation of provincial development and water management. The government is focused on developing provincial areas, a strategy considered a win-win for all parties, including large companies, small businesses and labourers who work in their hometowns, Mr Dechapiwat said.

Short-term bond supply to rise Bangkok Post 28th Apr 2018
The Bank of Thailand plans to gradually move away from its year-long tapering of new short-term bond supply by raising the new weekly three- and six-month debt auction amounts by 5 billion baht each, starting from May 15. The move to increase bond supply comes after the central bank found that foreign investors' appetite for short-dated debt has whittled down, said Vachira Arromdee, the central bank's assistant governor overseeing the financial markets operations group.

BoT chief: Recovery broadens Bangkok Post 28th Apr 2018
The country's economic expansion became broader-based in the first quarter, thanks largely to a spillover effect from solid exports, the central bank's chief says, while the Financial Ministry's think tank is maintaining its economic growth forecast for 2018 at 4.2%. Strong export growth increased purchasing power for mid- to upper-income households, said Bank of Thailand governor Veerathai Santiprabhob.

Finance ministry keeps GDP outlook Bangkok Post 27th Apr 2018
The Finance Ministry on Friday maintained its economic growth forecast for this year at 4.2% and raised its export estimate, an official said. Exports, a key growth driver, are expected to rise 8% this year, an upgrade from the increase 6.6% seen three months ago, Pornchai Thiraveja, spokesman of the ministry's fiscal policy office, told a news conference. The economy will be driven by exports, tourism and government spending, he said. Last year's growth was 3.9%, the fastest pace in five years.

March exports up 7.06% on last year Bangkok Post 23rd Apr 2018
Customs-cleared exports increased at a slower pace in March than in the previous month, due partly to a high comparative base last year. Exports rose 7.06% in March from a year earlier after increasing 10.3% in February, but the March value, US$22.36 billion, was a record high, commerce ministry data showed on Monday. That slightly missed the median forecast of an 8% rise from economists polled by Reuters. The gains were led by stronger shipments of cars and parts, computers and parts, and chemicals.

BoI holding back EV applications Bangkok Post 21st Apr 2018
The Board of Investment's (BoI's) suspension of electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing applications will remain, even though a number of carmakers have announced their intentions to join the government's EV scheme. "We will not propose any EV applications at the BoI's board meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on May 9," said BoI secretary-general Duangjai Asawachintachit. "Applications for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are allowed until Dec 28, so we have plenty of time to consider each project."

Energy

Analysts worried about gas auctions Bangkok Post 1st May 2018
Energy analysts are anxious about the possibility of further delays in the upcoming auction for the two gas blocks in the Gulf of Thailand, even as policymakers kicked off the official bidding on April 23. The auction process allows exploration and production (E&P) investors to download applications for the Erawan and Bongkot blocks. Policymakers will then screen applicants' qualifications. Winning bidders are expected to be announced around December, with contracts to be signed next February.

Gas field auction details finalised Bangkok Post 24th Apr 2018
The auction plans for the Bongkot and Erawan gas blocks in the Gulf of Thailand have finally been determined after almost a dozen postponements in the last two years. The winning bidders for the Erawan and Bongkot gas blocks in the Gulf of Thailand are expected to sign production-sharing contracts with the government by February 2019, said Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan.

Financial Services

Tax relief for digital assets a non-starter Bangkok Post 25th Apr 2018
The Revenue Department has rebuffed a request by digital asset operators to scrap a tax-collecting agency's plan to impose a 15% withholding tax on capital gains and returns from putting money into such assets. The 15% withholding tax for digital asset trades is appropriate because the Revenue Department does not want to support retail investors trading in such assets, said Prasong Poontaneat, director-general of the department and the designated permanent secretary for finance.

Apisak: Rate spread will narrow gradually Bangkok Post 23rd Apr 2018
Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong has toned down his recent comments about a large interest rate spread between corporate and small-business loans, saying the gap will be gradually narrow with the use of big data in lending and the introduction of financial statements submitted to the Revenue Department for loan applications. Leveraging big data technology in lending makes loan extension easier and lowers credit costs, he said, citing Alibaba's financial arm Ant Financial as an example.

Food & Agriculture

B1.67bn for rice barn loans okayed Bangkok Post 1st May 2018
The government has approved credit worth 1.67 billion baht for farmers and agricultural institutes to build rice barns to help store rice, delaying paddy sales to stabilise rice prices. Boonyarit Kalayanamit, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the national rice policy committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, yesterday endorsed the loan scheme to build rice barns for farmers and agricultural institutes.

20 farm outlets added across Thailand  The Nation 22nd Apr 2018
The Commerce Ministry has planned to set up an additional 20 farm outlets this year to add to the existing 43 outlets to help community farmers boost sales of their produce, said minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. Among the 20 shops the minฌistry selected to become new outlets are Check In Trat in Trat, Kot Kong Fak in Chainat, Kasorn open air market in Sakeow, Wan in Prachin Buri, Tropicana in Nakhon Pathom, Otop Banpo in Prachuab Kirikan, and O2U Organic Fresh Mart in Mae Hong Son.

BAAC upbeat to promote mobile app Bangkok Post 20th Apr 2018
The state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) wants to more than double its active mobile app users to 600,000 by the end of this year, its chief says. Since the A-mobile app was rolled out in January, 400,000 customers have downloaded the app and 260,000 of them are active, said president Apirom Sukprasert. Apart from transactional banking services, the bank's mobile app now contains agricultural-related knowledge, weather information and farm product prices, and it plans to improve content by providing knowledge about farming in each area, he said. T

Health & Life Sciences

Thailand's ageing society points at soaring health care costs Thailand Business News 30th Apr 2018
Thailand’s ageing society will push the country’s healthcare costs to Bt1.4 trillion per year within the next 15 years, Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) warned. The TDRI disclosed the results of a study on predicted public healthcare spending as it urged the government to plan for preventative healthcare and a health system for the elderly to reduce expenses. While revealing that healthcare costs will reach Bt1.407 trillion on average by 2032, the TDRI said that if the government does not plan ahead to contain expenses, the figure could reach Bt1.825 trillion.

Plan to capture 'big data' on greenhouse emissions Bangkok Post 22nd Apr 2018
In a bid to reduce greenhouse emissions, the environmental ministry will launch a Thailand Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory system (TGEIS) to capture big data for greenhouse gases management. The system will monitor emissions from five sectors -- energy and transport, industry, waste management, agriculture, and forest and land use, according to Raweewan Bhuridej, secretary-general of the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep), the country's focal point agency for climate change policy.

ICT

Depa fund to help startups shield intellectual property Bangkok Post 30th Apr 2018
The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) will establish an intellectual property fund this year to encourage startups in the digital industry to secure their innovations via IP registration. The move aims to strengthen the local startup ecosystem and promote active digital startups in the country to reach 10,000 firms by 2027, from 2,000 at present. Through a collaboration with the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), the IP fund will subsidise 50% of all related costs of registration. Initially, some 50 startups in digital industry are expected to be supported by the end of this year.

Govt invokes Section 44 to keep NBTC board in place Bangkok Post 25th Apr 2018
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has exercised its power under Section 44 to abort the selection of board members for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette. Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the current commission members will remain in office, and if any committee member leaves, the other members will take on their responsibilities as no replacements will be appointed for the time being.

20,000 more electronic data capture devices planned Bangkok Post 24th Apr 2018
An additional 20,000 electronic data capture (EDC) devices are set to be installed at Thong Fah Pracha Rat and Pracha Rat shops across the country to facilitate state welfare smart card holders' spending, says a senior official at the Finance Ministry. The Comptroller-General's Department and the Commerce Ministry will soon jointly hold a conference to announce the guidelines for installing the 20,000 new EDC terminals at Thong Fah Pracha Rat and Village Fund Pracha Rat stores in order to hasten the installations and better serve demand in each area, said Suttirat Rattanachot, director-general of the department.

Proposed VAT on digital goods and services The Nation 24th Apr 2018
The second draft of the legislative amendments released in January proposes that a foreign company providing services through electronic media to a non-VAT registered person, where such services are used in Thailand, must register for, and will be subject to, VAT. The registration requirement kicks in when annual VAT-able income exceeds Bt1.8 million. This draft raised a number of valid concerns, mainly in connection with the lack of clarity on its practical application and imposed compliance obligations. Many interested stakeholders submitted their comments during the second public hearing held in early February. The Revenue Department has now published its responses to these comments providing important clarifications. A non-exhaustive list of businesses captured by the proposed law includes hotel booking services; e-books, movies, music, advertising, online gaming services; services related to downloadable music, stickers, programmes; and use of programmes and information via the internet. Payment processing systems were kept outside the scope.

Three measures to help digital TV firms Bangkok Post 24th Apr 2018
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has agreed in principle on three measures to help cash-strapped digital-TV operators but has yet to make a final decision. Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said on Tuesday related agencies would review the measures before a Section 44 order is drafted.   The first measure is a delay in annual licence fee payments for three years from May 2018 to help with their liquidity but the operators will have to pay 1.5% interest during the period, said Lt Gen Sansern.

NLA promises no foot dragging on new NBTC candidates Bangkok Post 20th Apr 2018
One day after dumping all the candidates to be new broadcasting and telecommunications regulators, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) said on Friday that attempts to search for new ones will start soon. NLA vice-president Surachai Liengboonlertchai said the screening process to find 14 candidates for the seven positions on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) could begin immediately.

Thai banks' profits strained by need for digital investments Nikkei Asian Review 20th Apr 2018
Thailand's top four banks produced aggregate net profit of 37.92 billion baht ($1.21 billion) for the first quarter ended in March, slipping 2.6% on the year as total lending grew only marginally while nonperforming loans continued to rise. Net profit fell 20.5% for state-owned Krung Thai Bank and 4.6% for Siam Commercial Bank, while Bangkok Bank and Kasikornbank reported profit increases. The lenders face growing competition from outsiders such as e-wallet operators and other financial technology companies. Conventional banks are under pressure to lower their fee income and boost marketing expenses to keep up with the digital era. Combined total lending at the four banks grew 3.3% year-over-year in the quarter, while gross nonperforming loans increased by 11%. Krung Thai reported the only decline in lending among the four banks, citing a reduction in loans to the private corporate sector despite expansion in the government and state-enterprise sectors.

Infrastructure

New train network still a few years away Bangkok Post 1st May 2018
Construction could begin as soon as 2022 on new public transport networks under the second master plan of developing the mass transit system in Bangkok and its metropolitan area, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said Monday. The minister made the comments after a seminar run by the Transport Ministry and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). Jica is now conducting feasibility studies for the master plan.

New Songkhla to border motorway planned Bangkok Post 25th Apr 2018
The Transport Ministry plans to call bids early next year for the construction of a 62km motorway to the Malaysian border in Songkhla province, for completion in 2022. The motorway, estimated cost about 57 billion baht, will stretch from an intersection with the Phetkasem Highway in Bang Klam district to the border checkpoint in Sadao. It will connect to Hat Yai airport and southern industrial parks. The ministry held a meeting on Wednesday to gather opinions from the private sector on the multi-billion-baht project. The contractor will get a 30-year concession for the motorway's operation.

U-tapao getting satellites Bangkok Post 24th Apr 2018
The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda), the state space organisation, plans to team up with France's Airbus to bring satellite technology to U-tapao airport and make it the airfreight hub of Southeast Asia. Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office, said Gistda and Airbus plan to create phase two of the Thailand Earth Observation Satellite (TEOS) with an investment of 7.8 billion baht.

Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang see sharp rise in arrivals during Songkran The Nation 22nd Apr 2018
The number of air passengers at the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports grew significantly during the Songkran holidays when compared with the same period last year. Immigration Bureau deputy spokesman Pol Colonel Choengron Rimpadee said on Sunday that 683,260 passengers arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport from April 12 and 16.  “The number marks a 6.96 per cent increase from Songkran 2017,” he said. 

Chinese investors keen on Thai airport investment Bangkok Post 22nd Apr 2018
Investors from China have shown interest in investing in the upgrade of three small airports in Thailand, the Airport Department chief says. Department director-general Darun Saengchai named the airports in Buri Ram, Phetchabun and Nakhon Ratchasima as the targets for Chinese companies, Post Today reported on Sunday. The official did not give details on the Chinese investors, only saying that they included Chinese airline firms, real estate developers and state enterprises.

Bangkok-Nong Khai railway link details firm Bangkok Post 30th Apr 2018
Details about setting up the agency to manage the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway from Bangkok to Nong Khai are close to completion, says Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn. Financial advisers are scheduled to report back to the ministry on what type of business structure the agency should adopt by next month. "The agency must be established within the year, since construction for the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway has already begun," Mr Pailin said. "This signifies that steps to set the agency up are already behind schedule." The deputy minister added that commercial banks were commissioned to carry out research for the agency's business structure because such companies are already well-grounded in the financial field and should be capable of coming up with the best option.