Thailand Update: May 17, 2018

Thailand Update | May 17, 2018
Authors: Matt Solomon, Ella Duangkaew, Jade Hoang, Kevin Rutigliano
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

May 31: Welcome Luncheon in Honor of H.E. Virachai Plasai, Incoming Thai Ambassador to the U.S.: The Council is hosting a welcome luncheon in honor of H.E. Virachai Plasai, the newly Appointed Ambassador of Thailand to the United States, on Thursday, May 31. The deadline for sponsorship is May 25. Please click HERE to sponsor and contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org with any questions.

June 26-28, 2018: Thailand Business Mission: The Council is now registering senior-level executives for its annual Business Mission to Thailand. The deadline for registration is Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Please click HERE to register and contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org for any questions.

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Eastern Economic Corridor Act Published in Royal Gazette

On May 14, the 2018 Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Act was published in the Royal Gazette, after being passed by the National Legislative Assembly in February. The Act can be found here in Thai. The legislation consists of 73 sections that dictate a wide range of policies for the EEC, including: definition of the EEC’s geographic boundaries; establishment of an oversight committee chaired by the Prime Minister; definition of the responsibilities of the oversight committee, which include conducting inter-agency coordination, determining the conditions for private sector participation, and establishing special economic zones; definition of rules for expats employed in the EEC; definition incentives for direct investment; and provisions for rental properties in the EEC.

Following nearly a seven month delay between passage by the NLA and adoption in the Royal Gazette, this long-awaited Act formalizes the EEC scheme that has been a high priority project of the current administration since its Cabinet approval in June 2016. This is evident in the massive amounts of investment the government has put, or plans to put into, five large-scale EEC infrastructure projects; these include an in-progress 200 billion baht high speed railway to connect three airports, and a planned 200 billion baht hub for aviation repair, maintenance and operations.  According to the Bangkok Post, the EEC scheme is projected to increase Thailand’s GDP growth to 5% per year, create more than 100,00 jobs and generate in excess of 450 billion baht annually, with the long-term goal to elevate Thailand from the middle income trap. The EEC Act may make it easier for the scheme to achieve its ambitious goals, as the many provisions needed to increase, and ensure, investor confidence are formalized into the Act, such as clear definitions of the incentives for foreign investors. If the Act can continue to ensure ease of investment, the EEC scheme may be able to contribute to Thailand’s economic growth as intended.

Emergency Decree for Cryptocurrency Passed

On May 15, the Government of Thailand passed an emergency decree defining how cryptocurrency can be used in Thailand (found here in Thai). The decree was administered by the Minister of Finance, and includes 100 sections covering a wide array of provisions that define which institutions or investors can use cryptocurrency; how and when cryptocurrency can be used in transactions and for compensation; how initial public offerings (IPO) of digital tokens can be made; what tokens are exempt from use; registration and licensure requirements for authorized cryptocurrency users; and taxation requirements for cryptocurrency. The decree grants wide-ranging power to the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to implement these many provisions.

The establishment of an emergency decree reflects the urgency with which the Thai government views issues and questions surrounding cryptocurrency. According to the Bangkok Post, a decree holds the same status as a full Act, but does not require the same lengthy time to be passed. In choosing a decree over an Act, it appears evident that the Thai government was looking to establish provisions to regulate cryptocurrency with utmost urgency. While the immediate passage of the decree does not allow for public comment, the SEC has affirmed that it expects to hold issue regulations on cryptocurrencies and IPOs by the end of June after holding a public hearing period. It will be interesting to see how these regulations may overlap with the decree, and if public comments on these regulations can also lead to changes in the decree. The Bank of Thailand has also stated that it will take actions following the SEC’s regulations, which may lead to additional regulatory complexity surrounding these issues. While regulatory approaches to cryptocurrency are still novel for most governments, it may be problematic if these areas are over-regulated, particularly by multiple regulatory bodies that may have differing positions. In February, the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Thailand had somewhat contrasting positions on banning cryptocurrency; such competing opinions among regulators may make it difficult for businesses dealing with cryptocurrency to maintain regulatory compliance, particularly as additional regulations are released.

Updated Draft Personal Data Protection Bill to be Submitted for Cabinet Approval

On May 1, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) announced that it will aim to submit an updated draft Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) for Cabinet approval by the end of May. The Ministry released an amended version of the draft in early April following a public hearing period in January. Key amendments in the draft bill include:

  • Extraterritorial applicability, which requires operators both in Thailand and overseas to be subject to the requirements for collection, use, or disclosure of personal data occurring in Thailand;
  • Additional exemption from consent requirements and broader provisions regarding the data controller’s public interest and legitimate interest exceptions;
  • Requirements for destination country for cross-border transfer of personal data;
  • More flexible transitory provisions, with the effective date of the PDPB being 1 year after publication in the Government Gazette;
  • New concept of administrative fine and reintroduction of imprisonment as a criminal penalty for certain non-compliant acts;
  • Slight amendment to the definition of “data processor,” which specifically excludes data controller

PDPB is one of the six pending bills of the Digital Economy laws awaiting legislative approval in preparation for the implementation of the country’s Digital Economy Roadmap. Once approved by the Cabinet, the draft PDPB must be subsequently endorsed by the Council of State and the National Legislative Assembly to become official law. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society plans to set up a committee and an advisory to support and regulate PDPB in the near future.

The amended provisions in PDPB, particularly those concerning extraterritorial applicability, will likely create uncertainty and challenges for foreign investors in Thailand whose business operations increasingly involve the transfer of data across borders. Although the latest update of the draft bill has not been released, it will be important to continue monitoring the progress of draft bill as it moves towards the approval process, and conduct advocacy where necessary to ensure restrictive provisions are not included in the final legislation. This becomes pertinent as the European Union’s General Data Privacy Rules (GDPR) near enactment on May 25. While the Thai PDPB remains more lenient than the GDPR, particularly with the added consent exemptions in the new draft, the addition of the extraterritorial applicability aligns with the GDPR. It will be interesting to see if there will be additional drafts, or subsequent implementing regulations of the PDPB that may more closely align with the GDPR, and if there will be opportunities for public comment to advocate against these restrictive elements.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Changes in KL 'won't alter talks'
Cambodian, Thai govts join forces to aid migrants

National Affairs
PM assures South Koreans of friendly investing climate
Reforms 'losing steam' before poll
Thailand, Macau partner up
Farm aid for Rakhine
NLA likely to vote on EC candidates in July
Jarungvith named new EC sec-gen
Pheu Thai politicians risk political death penalty

Defense & Security
EEC soft defence studies target weapon substitutes

Economics
BoT holds rate to boost growth as private investment drops
Fee income faces hit, BoT official says
Bank of Thailand seen holding key rate again to help growth
Potential impacts on Thailand from a US-China trade war
Perk extension expected to add 100,000 corporations
BoI backs raft of incentives to spur EEC
Investment applications more than triple in Q1
BoT pegs losses to strong baht mitigation
MoU agrees to create new breed of student for EEC industry

Energy
PEA Encom allowed 3 biogas plants
Coal-fired plants back on agenda
PTT ups R&D spending to handle digital disruption
Policymakers stand pat on feed-in tariff rate
Egat refocuses on innovation
Biomass power plant raises environmental concerns

Financial Services
ICOs no-go amid public vetting
Learning new cryptocurrency rules
Cryptocurrency rules to be issued by end-June: SEC chief
Draft OIC Notification Regarding Reinsurance Requirements for Non-life Insurance Companies
Thailand: Pilot of low-cost microinsurance plan starts this month

Food & Agriculture
Suwaphan to head forest panel
Final lot of inedible stock for sale
EU still unhappy with Thai fishing
Govt aims for smoother fishing rules
Measures to curb palm price plummet
Landless farmers to use forests

Health & Life Sciences
Tobacco trade group urges delay in cigarette tax increase
Draft law on medicinal cannabis research heads to NLA
Risk of chemical-caused illness among farmers on upward swing, study finds
More financial help for pregnant women promised
Move to ensure slick end to deceptive ads

ICT
Five firms pick up 1800MHz bid docs
State, KBank to assist SMEs with e-sales
Govt rolls out IT protection framework
NBTC incentivises messy-cable reports
NBTC cracking down on overhead cable mess

Infrastructure
New Sino-Thai draft on way
EEC Act in force after long delay
PM assesses infrastructure projects for the Northeast
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Changes in KL 'won't alter talks' Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday said the government would continue to pursue peace talks in the far South, regardless of whoever the Malaysian government appoints to broker them. These talks are not only important to Thailand but the whole region, he said. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said a meeting with the Malaysian government regarding the talks might have to be postponed until the new Malaysian government is properly established.

Cambodian, Thai govts join forces to aid migrants Bangkok Post 9th May 2018
The Thai and Cambodian governments are working closely with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide safe channels of migration as cases of human trafficking persist and workers' rights are not being well-taken care of, a seminar in Bangkok heard Tuesday. They are working under a European Union (EU)-funded project called "MIG-RIGHT: Supporting and advocating Cambodian migrants' rights in Thailand, preventing violations and human trafficking". It aims to tackle ongoing problems surrounding the mistreatment and illegal entry of Cambodian workers.

National Affairs

PM assures South Koreans of friendly investing climate Bangkok Post 17th May 2018
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Wednesday urged South Korean investors to ramp up investment and trade with Thailand and pledged to facilitate their investment in the country. Gen Prayut met Paik Ungyu, South Korea's trade, industry and energy minister, who led 180 South Korean investors to join a seminar on the 60th anniversary of South Korea-Thailand diplomatic relations. Speaking at the Maekyung Thailand Forum, the premier said the government is developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) for innovative and high-technology industries that South Koreans should consider investing in.

Reforms 'losing steam' before poll Bangkok Post 14th May 2018
Borwornsak Uwanno, chairman of the law reform committee, said Sunday he is "exhausted" as he looks into the government's much-hyped national reform plans which have made slow progress over the past four years. His disappointment, which is also shared by political activists and university scholars, reflects widespread doubts over how the plans will be turned into action. The former Constitution Drafting Committee chairman was commenting ahead of the fourth anniversary of the May 22 coup, which toppled the Pheu Thai Party-led government in 2014. The coup followed street protests across the capital city, led by former Democrat heavyweight Suthep Thaugsuban.

Thailand, Macau partner up Bangkok Post 11th May 2018
Thailand and Macau have agreed to establish a joint committee to work on economic cooperation between Thailand and the Pan-Pearl River Delta (PPRD), which includes Macau. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who yesterday met Chui Sai On, the chief executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region, said Thailand and Macau had agreed to establishing a formal or informal joint committee to link Thailand and the PPRD region, which covers 11 southern provinces of China and two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau. Mr Somkid said if Thailand can successfully link up with the PPRD, it will greatly benefit the country as the delta is a significant economic zone and part of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

Farm aid for Rakhine Bangkok Post 10th May 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has reiterated that Thailand is willing to share the late King Bhumibhol Adulyadej's sustainable agriculture theory with Myanmar to enhance its people's livelihoods in Rakhine state. Quoting the minister, defence spokesman Kong­cheep Tantravanich said Gen Prawit also stressed Thailand would help its neighbour strengthen security, economic and social links. The deputy premier was speaking as he welcomed U Myo Myint Than, the Myanmar ambassador to Thailand Wednesday.

NLA likely to vote on EC candidates in July The Nation 9th May 2018
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is set to vote to endorse the seven shortlisted Election Commission (EC) candidates in July. The NLA will tomorrow set up a committee to check the backgrounds of the candidates, a process required by the organic law governing the agency, said NLA whip deputy spokesman Yutthana Tupcharoen on Tuesday. The committee has 60 days before reporting to the NLA for approval of the candidates. Tentatively, Yutthana said the matter could be listed on the NLA’s meeting agenda for July 13.

Jarungvith named new EC sec-gen Bangkok Post 9th May 2018
The Election Commission (EC) has appointed deputy EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma to the secretary-general post. The EC Tuesday decided to appoint Pol Col Jarungvith, the current caretaker chief, as the new secretary-general with a five-year term. The committee came to a unanimous decision after interviewing all the five nominees on Monday.

Pheu Thai politicians risk political death penalty The Nation 7th May 2018
A group of mostly former Pheu Thai MPs recently met ex-PM Thaksin and his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, also a fugitive former prime minister, in Singapore. The politicians said they called on Thaksin due to their “affection” towards him, adding that their visit did not mean he retained his influence over them. “Everyone went because of their love and affection. They just wanted to meet [Thaksin and Yingluck]. It didn’t mean they would allow themselves to be influenced,” said former Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema.

Defense & Security

EEC soft defence studies target weapon substitutes Bangkok Post 14th May 2018
The government is conducting a feasibility study of the Eastern Economic Corridor's (EEC's) soft defence industry, including army drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and satellites, which are expected to play a key role in the country tightening its security around industrial zones. The military agencies are interested in drones, ground-based controllers, two-way communication systems and satellites. Normally, each drone has a range of 30km.

Economics

BoT holds rate to boost growth as private investment drops Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
The central bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged near a record low to support economic growth amid moderating domestic demand. Monetary policy committee members voted unanimously to hold the one-day bond repurchase rate at 1.5%, where it’s been since 2015, according to a Bank of Thailand statement on its website on Wednesday. All 23 economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted the decision. One committee member was unable to attend the meeting, the central bank said.

Fee income faces hit, BoT official says Bangkok Post 15th May 2018
Commercial banks' fee-based income from money transfer services, starting from this quarter, is expected to decline significantly after most waived digital banking transaction fees, says a senior official at the Bank of Thailand. The effect from scrapping digital transaction fees has yet to be seen in the industry's fund transfer income fees, as most waivers began from late March, said Daranee Saeju, senior director of the financial institutions strategy department. However, fee-based income growth from fund transfers rose by 8.8% year-on-year for the three months through March, albeit at a slower pace than the 9.3% year-on-year increase in the previous three months.

Bank of Thailand seen holding key rate again to help growth Bangkok Post 14th May 2018
The Bank of Thailand is expected to leave its policy interest rate near the record low again on Wednesday to support still patchy economic growth at a time that inflation remains subdued. All 18 economists in the poll forecast the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will keep its one-day repurchase rate at 1.5%, where it has been since a cut in April 2015. The record low is 1.25%. The growth rate for Southeast Asia's second-largest economy has improved, helped by strong exports and tourism. But domestic demand recovery is still at an early stage, crimped by high household debt and contracting farm incomes, due to falling commodity prices.

Potential impacts on Thailand from a US-China trade war Bangkok Post 14th May 2018
Trade remains a key focus for 2018 as US President Donald Trump continues to deliver on his promise of "America First". Aiming to achieve a fairer deal for American companies globally and to reduce his country's trade deficit, Mr Trump has been ramping up threats against major trading partners. The campaign began in January with the imposition of safeguard tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, mainly from China. Mr Trump followed that up in March with threats of tariffs on imported steel and aluminium. Several countries have since persuaded Washington to delay the imposition of the penalties on their goods pending further negotiations.

Perk extension expected to add 100,000 corporations Bangkok Post 11th May 2018
A one-year extension of tax incentives to encourage owner-operators to register as juristic persons is projected to add 100,000 corporate entities in Thailand, says the Revenue Department's chief. The tax measure extension, retroactive from Jan 1, 2018, should attract an additional 100,000 owner-operators to convert to juristic persons after the lapsed tax incentives led 70,000 owner-operators to become corporate firms, said Prasong Poontaneat, director-general of the department. The cabinet this month approved the extension of tax incentives for one year (Jan 1-Dec 31, 2018) for owner-operators who sign up as juristic entities. Several owner-operators asked for an extension after the tax measures expired at the end of last year, he said. But the new incentives do not include waivers for a 3.3% specific business tax and duty stamp, which were part of the initial package.

BoI backs raft of incentives to spur EEC Bangkok Post 10th May 2018
The Board of Investment (BoI) yesterday approved a raft of tax measures for investment projects that aim to upgrade the quality of life for both Thai and foreign workers, while also driving the country's technological development. The BoI is offering promotional privileges for a new investment category -- a smart logistics hub in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). Qualifying investors will receive eight years of corporate tax exemptions on revenue incurred from offering international logistics services. Qualifying candidates are required to invest at least 1 billion baht and hire at least 20% Thai staff working in artificial intelligence, smart warehouses, data centres, data science, data analytics and digital transactions.

Investment applications more than triple in Q1 Bangkok Post 9th May 2018
Thailand's private investment applications in January-March more than tripled from a year earlier to 205 billion baht, mainly for projects in the country's industrial east, the investment promotion agency said on Wednesday. That is good news for Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, which is still heavily reliant on exports, as private investment and consumption have remained soft. Thai and foreign firms submitted 366 projects worth a combined 205 billion baht ($6.4 billion) in the first quarter, up 247% from 59.1 billion baht in the same period last year, Board of Investment Secretary-General Duangjai Asawachintachit told reporters.

BoT pegs losses to strong baht mitigation Bangkok Post 8th May 2018
The Bank of Thailand has attempted to allay concerns about its accumulated losses by clarifying that they stem from its financial operations to mitigate baht appreciation through foreign currency purchases. "The central bank has purchased foreign currencies to prevent the baht from appreciating too quickly, which would have an adverse effect on Thailand's fragile economic recovery," said Chantavarn Sucharitakul, assistant governor for corporate strategy and relations group. "Once such purchases are made, the central bank prudently manages the country's foreign reserves by taking long-term interest into account and disclosing outstanding foreign reserves data each week."

MoU agrees to create new breed of student for EEC industry The Nation 6th May 2018
The office of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) will today sign an MoU with the offices of the Vocational Education Commission and the Higher Education Commission, along with the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI) committing themselves to graduating the right number and quality of students prepared for work in the EEC’s 10 targeted industries. The goal of this collaboration is to create students that have the skills and potential desired by industry, along with creating an education system which matches curriculum to the demands of industry.

Energy

PEA Encom allowed 3 biogas plants Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
The cabinet Tuesday approved PEA Encom International, wholly owned by the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), establishing three joint venture companies to produce biogas power plants worth a combined 1.55 billion baht in three deep South provinces: Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala. Nathporn Chatusripitak, an adviser to the PM's Office Minister, said PEA Encom will hold a 40% stake in each joint venture firm, with the private sector holding the remaining 60%.

Coal-fired plants back on agenda Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
Consideration of two coal-fired power plants in two southern provinces is back on track after a four-year delay, say energy policymakers. The plan for the two plants was postponed several times during 2014-17. The Energy Ministry made the announcement Tuesday after setting up a committee of several analysts from the environmental, community impact, economic profit and project viability fields to study the issue.

PTT ups R&D spending to handle digital disruption Bangkok Post 15th May 2018
PTT Plc, the national oil and gas conglomerate, aims to increase its budget for R&D activities from 3% of annual net profit to deal with several disruptive technologies affecting the sector. Wittawat Svasti-xuto, senior executive vice-president for innovation and digital, said PTT has yet to decide on a new rate. The 3% rate was set by the government for each state enterprise for R&D activities, based on annual net profit.

Policymakers stand pat on feed-in tariff rate Bangkok Post 12th May 2018
Energy policymakers have reaffirmed their renewable power purchasing framework, stressing that a 2.44-baht kilowatt-hour (kWh) feed-in tariff (FiT) is necessary to maintain a fair policy because some renewable power generators already hold contracts at that lower price. Last October, 70 investors received licences for renewable power generation as small power producers under firm-power purchase agreements (SPP Hybrid firm), but only 17 biomass operators have been granted licences from the Energy Regulatory Commission for a combined capacity of 300 megawatts (MW) for operation of their plants in mid-2018.

Egat refocuses on innovation Bangkok Post 11th May 2018
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has embraced a sea change for the organisation, aiming to focus more on innovation in the country's power generation to improve its operation and performance in the long run. Egat announced this new road map after posting a net profit decline of 3.5-4% per year over the last several years, in line with a market share of power generation systems dipping to 36% as of last year from 55% over a decade ago. Recently, Egat has failed to develop two new coal-fired power plants planned in southern Thailand.

Biomass power plant raises environmental concerns Bangkok Post 8th May 2018
More than 1,000 villagers have signed a petition against a plan to build a controversial biomass-fired power plant which does not require any public hearings. They lodged their complaint with the Prime Minister's Office and the National Legislative Assembly in the hope authorities will stop a project they claimed will become a "new source of dust" in tambon Wang Daeng in Phichai district. Wang Hin village head, Dechachai Panya, said yesterday his group needs to bring the issue before the prime minister and legislators because business people behind the plan may be trying to use a legal loophole to push their project forward.

Financial Services

ICOs no-go amid public vetting Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
New initial coin offerings (ICOs) will be prohibited from launching during the public hearing process to draft the organic law on regulating digital assets, says the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Such organic laws are expected to be unveiled in the middle of June, said SEC secretary-general Rapee Sucharitakul. "After the digital asset decree became effective on Monday, new ICOs cannot be launched until related regulations are released," Mr Rapee said.

Learning new cryptocurrency rules Bangkok Post 15th May 2018
The government of Thailand has responded to growing questions and concerns about cryptocurrency and related assets by passing an emergency decree, which came into effect on Monday. The decree, administered by the finance minister, has the status of law equivalent to an Act enacted by the Legislative Assembly, but the latter can take months or even years to pass. In this case, authorities felt that uncertainties related to the regulation of digital assets needed to be addressed urgently, according to Wirot Poonsuwan, a Bangkok-based lawyer.

Cryptocurrency rules to be issued by end-June: SEC chief Bangkok Post 15th May 2018
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) expects to issue regulations on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings by the end of June after holding a public hearing, the commission chief said on Tuesday. Offerings of digital tokens will not be allowed until the regulations are announced, Rapee Sucharitakul, SEC secretary-general, told reporters. The SEC has the authority to regulate digital assets, according to a decree which took effect on Monday. The decree requires sellers and operators of such assets to register with the SEC within 90 days.

Draft OIC Notification Regarding Reinsurance Requirements for Non-life Insurance Companies Tilleke & Gibbins 11th May 2018
Thailand’s Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC) recently released a draft notification that will replace the Notification of the OIC Re: Rules, Procedures, and Conditions on Reinsurance of Life and Non-life Insurance Company B.E. 2555 (2012) when it comes into force. The draft notification is currently at the public hearing stage, after which it is expected to be finalized and implemented later this year.

Thailand: Pilot of low-cost microinsurance plan starts this month Asia Insurance Review 4th May 2018
The Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC) has approved a microinsurance policy at a low premium of THB10 (32 US cents) per person, that would pay compensation worth THB100,000 in case of death from an accident. The microinsurance plan is being marketed to businesses with large customer networks, says the Thai General Insurance Association (TGIA).

Food & Agriculture

Suwaphan to head forest panel Bangkok Post 17th May 2018
Prime Minister's Office minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana will be appointed to chair a panel to follow up on state efforts to solve problems involving P-Move, a grassroots network of forest communities. Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who chairs the government's steering committee on national administration, said the meeting had discussed the P-Move issue and agreed to set up a panel to take charge. The committee will go through problems raised by P-Move and will go ahead with issues that do not pose legal challenges, he said, adding that those requiring legal amendments may have to wait.

Final lot of inedible stock for sale Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
The government is calling an auction for the final lot of inedible-grade rice stocks totalling 2 million tonnes, with stringent control measures vowed to prevent any abuses. Adul Chotinisakorn, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said as chairman of a panel handling the government's rice sales, responsible authorities would unveil the terms of reference (ToR) for 2 million tonnes of inedible-grade rice on June 4. The lot comprises 1.5 million tonnes of rice fit for animal feed production, and 500,000 tonnes inedible both for humans and animals, suitable only for fuel or energy production.

EU still unhappy with Thai fishing The Nation 16th May 2018
The European Union has kept a yellow flag for Thailand over the country’s illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing problems, a source at the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry revealed on Wednesday. The source said Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach was already informed of the results from the EU’s review of Thailand’s performance.  A delegation from the EU visited Thailand last month to discuss anti-IUU efforts.  “Two issues behind the EU decision to not upgrade Thailand’s anti-IUU ratings are fleet management and laws enforcement,” the source said.

Govt aims for smoother fishing rules Bangkok Post 11th May 2018
The government will decide next week whether to streamline the monitoring system at Port In Port Out (PIPO) centres as proposed by the fishing industry, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya said Thursday. Gen Chatchai, who is in charge of resolving IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing, said a proposal to streamline document inspections at PIPO centres will be put up for consideration by the IUU sub-panel headed by Gen Chatchai next Wednesday. If it is agreed upon it will take effect the following day. The PIPO centres, located in 22 coastal provinces, monitor fishing vessels as part of the government's attempts to combat IUU fishing.

Measures to curb palm price plummet Bangkok Post 10th May 2018
The government is set to introduce both short- and long-term measures to cope with the seasonal palm oil surplus to curb the fall of fresh palm nut prices. Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said as a short-term measure, the Commerce Ministry will cooperate with the Industry Ministry to require oil palm-crushing factories to buy fresh oil palm nuts with at least 18% oil content, a move to pressure farmers to produce higher-quality nuts. The Commerce Ministry has pledged to boost exports of crude palm oil as much as possible, ordering the Foreign Trade Department to launch more stringent import measures to curb cross-border palm oil trade from neighbouring countries, which is limited to 40,000 tonnes a year.

Landless farmers to use forests Bangkok Post 8th May 2018
Buri Ram: The government is granting landless farmers permission to use forest land for farming in Chaiyaphum, Buri Ram and Nakhon Ratchasima, according to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Karnjanarat. Farmers will have access to five forest reserves covering more than 1,400 rai in the three Northeastern provinces, Gen Surasak announced Monday. The announcement was made ahead of the mobile cabinet meeting in Buri Ram Tuesday.

Health & Life Sciences

Tobacco trade group urges delay in cigarette tax increase The Nation 16th May 2018
Following the discovery of rampant use of contraband cigarettes in the seven lower southern provinces, the Thai Tobacco Trade Association on Wednesday called on the government to delay the next cigarette tax hike, scheduled for October. Association director Waraporn Namat noted that a Nida Poll it commissioned found most tobacco retailers in the seven provinces believed cigarettes produced in the country illegally or smuggled in were eating into their revenues. Waraporn said 1,157 shop owners in Trang, Phatthalung, Satun, Songkhla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat were surveyed between March 12 and 30.

Draft law on medicinal cannabis research heads to NLA Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
Draft legislation permitting research into the effects of medicinal cannabis on humans will go to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for passage into law, a senior narcotics official said on Wednesday. Sophon Mekthon, head of the committee that drafted the law, confirmed the move, but did not give a timeline. Sirinya Sitdhichai, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), was quoted by the Thai News Agency on Sunday as saying he expected the legislative process to completed this month.

Risk of chemical-caused illness among farmers on upward swing, study finds The Nation 14th May 2018
The percentage of farmers at risk of developing health problems from their farm chemicals has risen over the past few years, according to the results of a large-scale study. “It’s up from 30.94 per cent in 2012 to 34.84 per cent in 2016,” Dr Chantana Padungtod said earlier this week, speaking in her capacity as the head of the Disease Control Department’s Bureau of Occupational and Environmental Diseases.  The 2016 monitoring operation conducted blood tests for 418,672 farmers across 72 provinces. Through interviews with the farmers, researchers were able to identify those at “high” or “quite high” risk. This group with was then subjected to blood tests. 

More financial help for pregnant women promised Bangkok Post 11th May 2018
Pregnant women insured under the social security system will be offered a new benefit aimed at encouraging them to visit their prenatal caregivers. Pregnant women who are subscribers of the social security fund will be offered reimbursement of 1,000 baht, which they will receive in three installments, for getting regular pregnancy care, said Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo. In addition to receiving the 13,000-baht subsidy toward the cost of childbirth, an insured pregnant woman will also be given up to 500 baht to help offset the expense of healthcare services in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, he said.

Move to ensure slick end to deceptive ads Bangkok Post 4th May 2018
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications (NBTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have come up with a way to fast-track the removal of advertisements of substandard products from television and social media. The NBTC and the FDA Thursday agreed to introduce a "fast-track regulatory enforcement" to increase efficiency in stopping advertisements of substandard or fake supplementary food and cosmetic products from being broadcast on television, radio and social media, NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said. The move comes as authorities are making a concerted effort to regulate cosmetics and supplementary foods in the market as well as make sure that sales tactics using celebrity "reviewers" adhere to strict standards.

ICT

Five firms pick up 1800MHz bid docs Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
Five companies all affiliated with the three major mobile operators picked up official bid documents for the planned 1800-megahertz auction on the first day the telecom regulator made them available. The bid documents will be available until June 14. Some companies are still soliciting advisory services before their boards decide whether to join the auction. The five companies are: Advanced Info Service (AIS) and its subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network; True Move H Universal Communication (TUC); and DTAC TriNet and DTAC Broadband, two subsidiaries of Total Access Communication (DTAC).

State, KBank to assist SMEs with e-sales Bangkok Post 15th May 2018
The Industry Ministry is collaborating with Kasikornbank (KBank) to offer an e-commerce platform -- K PLUS Market -- for the government's Creative Industry Village (CIV) scheme. The CIV is a 22-billion-baht state project intended to help villages, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and farmers increase their income under the Pracha Rat (People's State) initiative. The ministry aims to develop 160 villages in 76 provinces under the CIV.

Govt rolls out IT protection framework Bangkok Post 10th May 2018
The government has rolled out a framework for better protection of six pieces of national IT infrastructure and approved a fund of 350 million baht to build the capacity of 1,000 cyber security personnel. Digital Economy and Society Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said the framework was approved at a meeting of the national cyber security committee to help the country better cope with modern cyber security threats including information theft. The framework covers six branches of national IT infrastructure -- telecommunications; national security and public services; transportation and logistics; banking and finance; energy and public utilities; and public health.

NBTC incentivises messy-cable reports Bangkok Post 9th May 2018
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will give away 4,500 power banks to people who inform the regulator about fallen cables or messy cable lines that fail to comply with regulations. The move is an effort to encourage public awareness of tidy cable installations out of safety and property damage concerns. NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the free devices are supported by four telecom companies: Advanced Info Service (AIS), True Corporation, Triple Three Broadband (3BB) and Symphony.

NBTC cracking down on overhead cable mess Bangkok Post 4th May 2018
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has passed harsher measures that will force all telecom and broadcasting operators to comply with more stringent regulations for wire cables. Last week, motorcyclist Maneenet Charoen-ngao was knocked down by a wire falling across a road in Khon Kaen province. She was nearly decapitated and died at the scene. In response to the tragedy, the NBTC called all telecom and broadcasting operators to a meeting Thursday and demanded serious changes in cable wiring to comply with the new standard's conditions.

Infrastructure

New Sino-Thai draft on way Bangkok Post 16th May 2018
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) says it expects to receive a revised design for an 11-km section of the Thai-Chinese high-speed train project from China this month to ensure the bidding process takes place in July or August. Acting SRT governor Anon Lueangboriboon said the design for the Pak Chong-Kanan Jit section should be ready for consideration soon. The blueprint for this stretch was sent back to China for revision, pushing back the bidding which was expected to take place this month.

EEC Act in force after long delay Bangkok Post 15th May 2018
The much-awaited Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Act was finally published in the Royal Gazette Monday after a seven-month delay. The act should build up investor confidence in Thailand, said Suphan Mongkolsuthee, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI). "Foreign and local investors were waiting for clarity on the new law. Now that the law has been published, investors can move forward with their investment and business plans," he said.

PM assesses infrastructure projects for the Northeast The Nation 8th May 2018
After a grand reception to show their support for Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the people of ฺBhum Jai Thai party’s stronghold in Buri Ram and other three lower northeastern provinces had their project proposals seen by the Cabinet yesterday. While Prayut’s field trip to the region has widely been seen as a political move, the premier said local authorities and politicians who proposed the projects would not get everything they wanted. Among those considered yesterday included 40 projects, worth a total of Bt1 billion, on irrigation to solve flooding and drought issues. They accounted for almost half of all proposed agricultural and water resources development projects, with a total worth of Bt3.4 billion.