Thailand Update: September 6, 2018

Thailand Update | September 6, 2018
Author: Ella Duangkaew
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

NLA Passes 2019 Fiscal Budget Bill

On August 30, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) of Thailand passed its 2019 fiscal year budget. The budget amounted to 3.3 trillion baht ($100 billion USD) and will finance the government for the 2019 fiscal year starting on October 1. The budget was deliberated for three hours before being endorsed by 2016 NLA members, with two abstentions.

According to the Bangkok Post, the largest amount allocated to any one government Ministry 297.35 billion baht (or $9.06 billion USD) to the Ministry of Education; the second largest amount (117.58 billion baht or $3.58 billion USD) to the Ministry of Defense; the third largest amount (43.92 billion baht or $1.34 billion USD) to the Ministry of Interior; and the fourth largest amount (25.47 billion baht or $775.9 million USD) to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. In addition, 40 billion baht (or $1.22 billion USD) was allocated to the Pracharath scheme, which is a highly-touted government scheme that calls for public-private partnerships to strengthen the country and boost the economy at the local level.

The budget underwent many cuts before the final allocations were decided, including a 1.3 billion baht (or $39.6 million USD) cut to the Ministry of Education’s original allocation; 534 million (or $16.27 million USD) baht reduction to the Ministry of Defense’s original allocation; a 253 million baht (or $7.71 million USD) reduction to the Ministry of Transport’s allocation; and a 453 million baht (or $13.8 million USD) reduction to the Ministry of Interior’s allocation. Interestingly, the Pracharath scheme did not receive any cuts during deliberation. In addition, 7.2 billion baht (or $220 million USD)was added to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative’s allocation, and 2.5 billion baht (or $76.16 million USD) was added to the Equitable Education Fund.

The budget’s cuts and allocations indicate that education, defense, social welfare and agriculture will be high priorities for the government for the coming year. These allocations align with Thailand’s projected economic and social priorities, particularly as the defense and agriculture sectors are both key to the 10 S-Curve industries that the country is looking to grow to achieve economic advancement; likewise, improving education and social welfare are essential to domestic interests, which are significant ahead of an election year. It is unclear how much the government has allocated to other areas, or when the budget will be made public. However, the NLA’s swift passage of the budget indicates that the Thai government is generally united along these priorities, particularly as strong majority of the NLA voted in favor of the budget.

NCPO to Allow Parties to Engage in Limited Political Activities

On August 25, Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) approved a partial lift on its ban of political activities. According to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the partial lift will allow for political parties to hold meetings, made adjustments to regulations, appoint managers, and accept new members, and will be put into place via a Section 44 order soon. Deputy Chief of the NCPO General Tanasak Patimapragorn stated that the partial lift was approved to allow for parties to prepare for the general election tentatively set for February 24, 2019. However, according to a source for the Bangkok Post, election campaigning will still not be permitted.

The ban on political activity has been in place since the military government assumed power in 2014, and bans any activity by a political party, including political gatherings of five or more people. In March 2018, the government promised to lift the ban in June, stating that it would do so to allow political parties the time to get ready to begin activities. Also in March, the government allowed political parties to register to vote, though no other activities were permitted. However in June, Prime Minister Prayut stated that the ban would remain to ensure harmony and order in elections, particularly to avoid street protests.

These concerns may explain why a full lift has not yet been enacted, though the partial lift is certainly a positive step towards freer and fairer elections, particularly as it gives other political parties the chance to engage in critical planning activities prior to the elections. It will be important for the Thai government to lift the ban fully prior to elections, particularly to allow for campaigning, to ensure the elections are conducted with utmost transparency. It remains unclear if elections will take place as planned, particularly given the recent development that the NLA will need to redraw constituent boundaries, which may further delay the election. However, the partial lift may indicate that the government is committed to ensuring elections take place in February, and that all involved parties are prepared for this timeline.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Trade talks planned for Laos
Thai-China dealings targeted to double
Govt endorses China’s leadership in globalisation

National Affairs
EC ready for selection of 50 senators
Prawit: No more politicians will be appointed to cabinet
Local polls must wait, Meechai says
Rush to redraw constituencies
Bimstec talks highlight cooperation
NLA passes 2019 fiscal budget bill
NCPO to allow parties limited political activities

Customs
Digital services set for foreign trade
Online payment for overseas packages
Tax boss targets online shopping 
Bans on Imported Waste Continue in Southeast Asia
Time to Restrict GSP Benefits to Fight Trade Mercantilism

Defense & Security
Army reshuffle sees loyalists appointed
Work to begin on China-sourced sub
Commando unit formed to protect royal family

Economics
Prayut orders rethink of SEZ investment target
Governor: External buffers render interest rate hike unnecessary
Cabinet OKs 15% income funds tax
PromptPay raises fee-waiver ceiling
NLA spares Pracharat scheme from budget trim
Bank of Thailand's hawkish tilt adds another tailwind for baht
BoT foresees trade spat hurting GDP at year-end
Exports rise for 17th month
Tax privileges prove a drag on revenue
Thai trade with FTA partners rises 14%
MPC wary of risks, talked about rate hike timing

Energy
State energy bodies to see key position changes
Egat eyes February LNG deadline
Officials try to sort waste import ban
Egat seeks to import LNG directly for first time

Financial Services
FPO presents hearing on AFAS protocol
BoT reshuffles assistant level posts
Providers consider Thailand's e-commerce market crucial
PromptPay transfer ceiling jumps to B2m from B5,000
Bank of Thailand digital currency scheduled for 2019
Asian countries vie to set up region's 'crypto valleys'

Food & Agriculture
Rice exports slip in July, still poised for 11m tonnes
Gavel falls on final state rice auction
Minister backs pesticide ban
Cigarette tax hike likely pushed to 2021
Surat Thani oil palm city proposal headed to cabinet

Health & Life Sciences
New bill aims to boost R&D and incentivise researchers
Special panel to discuss drugs draft bill
FDA expands drug recall

ICT
NBTC surprises with October auction
E-commerce bill gets second hearing
DTAC expiry hangs over NBTC
Thailand government may build digital wallet to hold crypto assets seized in crimes
Asean ICT master plan in the works
Thailand is becoming a critical country for blockchain
ETDA hastening compliance with EU rules
Landmark waste bill edges closer
Rocky road to 5G adoption
Regulator rethinks licence conditions
NBTC's spectrum auction woes go on

Infrastructure
Making transparent concessions
Thailand, Cambodia edging closer to cross-border rail deal
MPI increases for 15 straight months
Laos discharges 'may be issue'
MoU slate to bring Chinese into EEC
Small fry get first go at TFF
Public debt in fiscal 2019 for infrastructure to be B100bn

Manufacturing
Excise change not expected to dent sales

Travel & Tourism
Cabinet mulls master plan for marine safety
July clocks 3m visitors despite Phuket boat accident
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Trade talks planned for Laos Bangkok Post 1st Sep 2018
Thai trade delegations are scheduled to attend a joint meeting with their Lao counterparts in Vientiane this week, aiming to raise bilateral trade to US$11 billion (360 billion baht) in 2021. Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the joint meeting is part of strategic partnership efforts the government is focusing on to boost trade and investment. Key agenda items include transport connectivity between the two countries to facilitate trade, trade and investment promotion activities, cooperation on agricultural products, human resource development and banking cooperation, he said.

Thai-China dealings targeted to double Bangkok Post 25th Aug 2018
Thailand and China aim to beef up their strategic trade and investment partnerships to reach a value of US$140 billion (4.58 trillion baht) by 2021, up from $73 billion. The partnerships will be driven by Thailand's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme and China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Govt endorses China’s leadership in globalisation The Nation 24th Aug 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Friday expressed the government’s support for China as it pursues a leading role in promoting free trade and globalisation amid an escalating tariff war with the United States. In his keynote speech at the Thailand-China Business Forum in Bangkok, Somkid noted that China’s leadership in promoting globalisation had been challenged, an apparent reference to the ongoing trade dispute between the world’s largest economies. Somkid foresaw Thailand having a closer relationship with China in trade, investment, education, culture and human-resource development.

National Affairs

EC ready for selection of 50 senators Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2018
The Election Commission (EC) is ready to proceed with the selection of senators, which is likely to be completed within 90 days of the process starting. EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said the selection process will begin as soon as an organic bill governing the selection of senators is royally endorsed and published in the Royal Gazette. He was speaking after a meeting with senior officials from the Interior Ministry to discuss cooperation and necessary preparations for the Senate polls.

Prawit: No more politicians will be appointed to cabinet Bangkok Post 5th Sep 2018
The government will not appoint any more politicians to the current cabinet to ensure their loyalty after the coming polls, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Wednesday. The prime minister would reshuffle the cabinet only if a minister resigns, Gen Prawit said. He dismissed speculation the government might bring politicians into the present cabinet, because they were then likely to be in the next government with the prime minister.

Local polls must wait, Meechai says Bangkok Post 5th Sep 2018
Local polls will take place after the general election, not before, to give the Election Commission (EC) sufficient time to make preparations, said Meechai Ruchupan, head of the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC). Mr Meechai said the six draft bills governing local elections have yet to be scrutinised by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). By the time these bills are passed into laws by the NLA, it will be close to the planned general election, he said.

Rush to redraw constituencies Bangkok Post 4th Sep 2018
The Election Commission (EC) has until mid-November to redraw constituencies as enacted by the new constitution and dictated by the population growth, according to deputy secretary-general Nat Laoseesawakul. The deadline was announced Monday when Mr Nat also explained that the constituency redesignation time frame forms a sub-deadline within a bigger deadline. The next election must be called within 90 days of the organic law on the election of MPs being published in the Royal Gazette, most probably in the middle of this month, according to Mr Nat.

Bimstec talks highlight cooperation Bangkok Post 1st Sep 2018
Thailand and India on Friday pledged to work more closely to enhance bilateral trade and investment cooperation under the framework of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec). Speaking after the Thai-Indian bilateral meeting at the 4th Bimstec summit in Kathmandu, deputy government spokesman Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak revealed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields of economic relations, development, and maritime and aerial connectivity.

NLA passes 2019 fiscal budget bill Bangkok Post 31st Aug 2018
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) endorsed the 3.3-trillion-baht budget on Thursday that will finance fiscal year 2019 beginning on Oct 1. After three hours of deliberation, the 2019 budget bill sailed through second and third readings with 206 lawmakers voting to support it, with two abstentions. The bill was presented to the assembly by the committee scrutinising it led by Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong after the panel had trimmed down several sections.

NCPO to allow parties limited political activities Bangkok Post 28th Aug 2018
The National Council for Peace and Order has approved the partial lifting of the ban on political activities, with an official announcement to be issued shortly, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Prayut said after a junta meeting that the new rules would allow political parties to hold meetings, make adjustments to regulations, appoint managers and accept new members ahead of polls loosely scheduled for February.

Customs

Digital services set for foreign trade Bangkok Post 25th Aug 2018
The Foreign Trade Department is claiming to be the first to offer comprehensive digital services to facilitate ease of doing business, cut operating costs and save time for exporters and importers, in line with the Thailand 4.0 policy. According to director-general Adul Chotinisakorn, the Foreign Trade Department yesterday launched integrated digital services for a combined 11 services that will help facilitate and accommodate import and export businesses and reduce processing time and costs for them.

Online payment for overseas packages Bangkok Post 24th Aug 2018
The Customs Department will allow those who buy small goods priced over 1,500 baht from vendors outside Thailand to pay import duties online, eliminating the need to pick up parcels at Laksi Post Office. With the Customs Department's digital system, buyers can track the customs-clearing process and pay import tariffs via the online channel, outgoing director-general Kulit Sombatsiri said without specifying when the system will become available.

Tax boss targets online shopping  The Nation 23rd Aug 2018
The Customs Department has stepped up its tax collection for online shopping and provided more convenient services for taxpayers, Kulit Sombatsiri, director general of the Customs Department, said on Thursday. E-shopping for foreign goods had led to tariff collection worth about Bt5 million every month, he said.

Bans on Imported Waste Continue in Southeast Asia Lexology 20th Aug 2018
On August 16, 2018, Reuters reported that Thailand plans to ban imports of a variety of scrap electronics within the next six months and recycled plastic within the next two years. The Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Kanchanarat, cites environmental and health concerns as the reason for the ban.

Time to Restrict GSP Benefits to Fight Trade Mercantilism Information Technology & Innovation Foundation 20th Aug 2018
Duty-free access to U.S. markets represents a major benefit for many trading partners that clearly do not provide fair and reasonable market access or treatment of U.S. firms and their goods and services. At the heart of the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) lies a recognition that free trade supports economic growth in developing countries, and such trade can be mutually beneficial. However, with their duty-free access to U.S. markets comes the responsibility of abiding by free and fair trade practices. Yet, a number of the developing countries that benefit from the GSP—most notably Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Thailand—have enacted a broad range of trade barriers and other market distortions that hurt U.S. firms and workers, and contravene the GSP’s requirement that they provide reasonable and fair market access to U.S. firms and their goods and services.

Defense & Security

Army reshuffle sees loyalists appointed Bangkok Post 3rd Sep 2018
The annual military reshuffle has seen the appointment of assistant army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong as the new army chief -- a position perceived to be critical to smoothing the way for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to reclaim his premiership and stay on in power after the next election. The reshuffle, which involved 935 senior officers with ranks equivalent to colonel and upward, was published in the Royal Gazette on Saturday and takes effect on Oct 1. Gen Apirat's promotion came as no surprise as it was already widely expected when he was appointed commander of the 1st Army in October 2016.

Work to begin on China-sourced sub Bangkok Post 29th Aug 2018
China will begin building a 13.5-billion-baht submarine ordered by the Thai navy on Sept 4, according to a navy source. The navy and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co, a Chinese submarine supplier, signed the procurement contract for the Yuan-class S26T submarine, powered by both electricity and diesel, in May last year. The source said the technical design work has been completed, noting 20 naval architects also took part in the task.

Commando unit formed to protect royal family Bangkok Post 27th Aug 2018
The Police Commission has approved a proposal to upgrade the Crime Suppression Division commando unit to be responsible for ensuring security for His Majesty the King and members of the royal family, a source says. When obtaining its division status, the commando unit will report directly to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), the source said, adding that the proposal is expected to be forwarded to the cabinet for approval in one or two weeks.

Economics

Prayut orders rethink of SEZ investment target Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2018
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday mandated that the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) and the Board of Investment (BoI) jointly revise the investment target for 10 special economic zones (SEZs) to make them more attractive to investors. The two agencies met the SEZ policy committee chaired by Gen Prayut and were ordered to complete a feasibility study for the SEZs to promote investment, including trade, tourism and training alongside industrial projects.

Governor: External buffers render interest rate hike unnecessary Bangkok Post 30th Aug 2018
The central bank is under no immediate pressure to raise interest rates in line with emerging-market peers, given the nation's solid buffers and relatively strong currency, says governor Veerathai Santiprabhob. The Bank of Thailand is monitoring economic developments closely, including risks to the growth outlook from trade protectionism, Mr Veerathai said in an interview with Bloomberg TV's Haslinda Amin in Bangkok. Inflation has returned to the 1-4% target range but remains subdued, he said.

Cabinet OKs 15% income funds tax Bangkok Post 29th Aug 2018
The cabinet on Tuesday approved a 15% withholding tax on gains from investment in income funds, a move estimated to generate up to 2.5 billion baht a year for state coffers. The tax is aimed at ensuring fairness among investors, as those who directly buy bonds are now liable for the 15% withholding tax, while those who invest via income mutual funds are not, said Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong. The Finance Ministry expects to fetch annual revenue of 1.6-2.5 billion baht from the 15% withholding tax, Mr Apisak said.

PromptPay raises fee-waiver ceiling Bangkok Post 28th Aug 2018
The National e-Payment Committee will substantially raise Promptpay's fee-waiver ceiling for money transfers of up to 700,000 baht in the next two months, before raising the cap further to 2 million baht to encourage the use of the national e-Payment scheme. According to Finance Minister Adisak Tantivorawong, the Thai Bankers' Association (TBA) have agreed to the new ceiling for transactions made through PromptPay's system.

NLA spares Pracharat scheme from budget trim Bangkok Post 28th Aug 2018
A proposed 40-billion-baht budget for the Pracharat scheme has been spared from being trimmed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) panel vetting the 2019 fiscal budget bill. Pracharat is the much-touted government initiative calling for public-private partnerships where all sectors of society join hands to strengthen the country and boost the economy at a local level. The three-trillion-baht bill will be deliberated in the second and third readings by lawmakers on Thursday and Friday.

Bank of Thailand's hawkish tilt adds another tailwind for baht Bangkok Post 26th Aug 2018
The Bank of Thailand is giving the baht -- the most-loved emerging-market currency this month -- one more reason to keep up its outperformance. Piggybacking on a strong current-account surplus, the baht has braved developing-market doldrums and topped returns among 24 currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It is also the sole gainer in Asia this quarter.

BoT foresees trade spat hurting GDP at year-end Bangkok Post 24th Aug 2018
The trade dispute between the world's biggest economies is expected to take a toll on the Thai economy from the end of this year at the earliest, says the Bank of Thailand's chief. The trade spat is escalating and posing greater risk to economies, currencies and capital markets across the world, said governor Veerathai Santiprabhob. External risk could also accelerate currency volatility and hurt confidence as well as private investment, he said.

Exports rise for 17th month Bangkok Post 23rd Aug 2018
Exports grew for a 17th straight month in July, elevating their performance in the first seven months to a seven-year high. The Commerce Ministry reported Wednesday that customs-cleared exports rose 8.3% year-on-year in July, fetching US$20.2 billion (662 billion baht), after growing 8.2% in June and 11.4% in May. Exports in baht terms rose by 4.1% compared with the same month of last year, to 662.17 billion baht.

Tax privileges prove a drag on revenue Bangkok Post 22nd Aug 2018
The state's net revenue collection exceeded the target by 3.4% for the 10 months through July as the Revenue Department's tax revenue shortfall narrowed. The government amassed 2.03 trillion baht from October to July, exceeding the target by 67.3 billion and rising 6.3% from a year earlier, said Finance Ministry spokeswoman Kulaya Tantitemit. The higher-than-targeted revenue collection was due to income remittance by state enterprises and revenue collection of non-tax-collecting agencies as they outpaced targets by 20.8% and 17.5%, respectively, she said.

Thai trade with FTA partners rises 14% Bangkok Post 22nd Aug 2018
Thailand's trade with free-trade agreement (FTA) partners rose by 14.2% year-on-year in the first half of the year. Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said the trade value between Thailand and 17 trading partners under the 12 effective FTAs amounted to US$148.2 billion, with exports contributing $73.79 billion, up 13.3% year-on-year, with imports valued at $74.41 billion, up 15.2%. The top five FTA partners that Thailand exported to for the period were Asean, China, Japan, Australia and India.

MPC wary of risks, talked about rate hike timing Bangkok Post 22nd Aug 2018
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) held interest rates steady this month but discussed the timing of the first tightening in years amid concerns about the risks of keeping policy too easy for too long, minutes of the central bank meeting showed on Wednesday. On Aug 8, the committee voted 6-1 to leave the Bank of Thailand's one-day repurchase rate at 1.5%t, where it has been since April 2015. One member voted for a quarter-point hike.

Energy

State energy bodies to see key position changes Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2018
Over a dozen high-ranking positions at three energy state enterprises and energy policymakers are open to alternative resources, marking a sea change in the sector. PTT Plc, the national oil and gas conglomerate, expects to elect four high-ranking executives to replace retirees at the end of last month. Chansin Treenuchagron was appointed president and chief executive by PTT's board of directors in April to replace Tevin Vongvanich. Mr Chansin started his new position last Friday.

Egat eyes February LNG deadline Bangkok Post 1st Sep 2018
After several delays in importing 1.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas, the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has announced an auction to seek an LNG supplier and expects to complete all processes by February. On Aug 20, Egat issued a request for expression of interest (REoI) to any interested foreign supplier to ship LNG in the amount of 800,000-1.5 million tonnes to be stored at the LNG receiving terminal in Map Ta Phut, Rayong.

Officials try to sort waste import ban Bangkok Post 21st Aug 2018
The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) aims to talk with two ministries about waste imports after a ban on waste imported for recycling was announced a few months ago. The FTI is seeking a resolution to manage waste from overseas in the long run and will propose a plan to the Industry and the Natural Resources and Environment ministries in the next few months.

Egat seeks to import LNG directly for first time Bangkok Post 21st Aug 2018
State-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is seeking to directly import liquefied natural gas (LNG) for the first time, as part of a government plan to boost competition in the power sector. The kingdom joins other Asian countries such as China where LNG imports have risen exponentially over the past few years driven by strong economic growth and a push for cleaner air. "This seems to be a continuation of the current trend, where we see increasing amounts of end-user buyers coming to the market to procure LNG directly," said Edmund Siau, analyst with energy consultancy FGE.

Financial Services

FPO presents hearing on AFAS protocol Bangkok Post 4th Sep 2018
The Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) is launching a public hearing on protocol to implement the eighth package of commitments on financial services under the Asean Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), which will allow the Bank of Thailand to push toward the long-awaited establishment of the Qualified Asean Bank (QAB) with Bank Negara Malaysia. The commitment on QAB will pave the way for Asean commercial banks to operate in other countries in the region with more flexibility, said a source at the Finance Ministry who requested anonymity. The Bank of Thailand signed its first heads of agreement on a reciprocal bilateral arrangement regarding QAB with Bank Negara Malaysia on March 14, 2016.

BoT reshuffles assistant level posts Bangkok Post 31st Aug 2018
The Bank of Thailand's board of directors has approved a major shake-up at the assistant governor level by rotating three assistant governors and appointing four new ones, effective from the end of this month. Somboon Chitphentom, assistant governor for the financial institutions policy group, will succeed Woraporn Tangsaghasaksri, who is assistant governor for banknote management group and will be moved to oversee the human resource management and development department, said the central bank. Jaturong Jantarangs, assistant governor for the monetary policy group, will be rotated to the supervision group.

Providers consider Thailand's e-commerce market crucial Bangkok Post 30th Aug 2018
Thailand is the most important e-commerce market for key overseas players as the retail market keeps evolving, say logistics providers. Speaking at a panel on the "Retail Business Revolution", Alex Ng, executive director of Kerry Express Thailand, said the parcel delivery segment will grow faster in next 5-10 years. "Kerry's services will go deeper and wider in the Thai community in the next 5-10 years," he said. Kerry is the first parcel delivery service to introduce QR payment upon delivery.

PromptPay transfer ceiling jumps to B2m from B5,000 Bangkok Post 27th Aug 2018
The National e-Payment Committee will gradually increase the ceiling of free money transfers through PromptPay to 2 million baht from 5,000 baht in the future, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said on Monday. The minister said after the meeting that the ceiling for free money transfers would be increased in steps from 5,000 baht to 700,00 baht in the next few months. He did not give a specific timeline when the maximum ceiling of 2 million baht will take effect.

Bank of Thailand digital currency scheduled for 2019 Bangkok Post 22nd Aug 2018
The first phase of the Bank of Thailand's wholesale Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which will be used for interbank fund transfers, is expected to be completely developed by the first quarter of next year, says the central bank. The Bank of Thailand and eight commercial banks under Project Inthanon Phase 1 will design, develop and test a proof-of-concept prototype for domestic wholesale funds transfers by using wholesale CBDC, the central bank said in a release.

Asian countries vie to set up region's 'crypto valleys' Nikkei Asian Review 20th Aug 2018
The race to establish cryptocurrency hubs in Asia is gathering pace, with several countries easing regulations and unveiling projects to lure financial technology companies. Japan is ahead of the game for now, but opportunities to catch up is also growing fast. The Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in northern Philippines is building the "Crypto Valley of Asia," a $100 million blockchain hub that aims to mimic Zug in Switzerland, the birthplace of Ethereum that is now home to almost 200 blockchain companies.

Food & Agriculture

Rice exports slip in July, still poised for 11m tonnes Bangkok Post 4th Sep 2018
Thai rice exports fell in July, both in volume and value, especially for hom mali fragrant rice and parboiled rice, but traders remain upbeat the country's overall rice shipments can reach 11 million tonnes as expected. The Thai Rice Exporters Association's report said shipments fell to 836,381 tonnes in July, down 7.3% from the same period last year, with values worth 13.83 billion baht, down 6.4%. The association's president, Charoen Laothammatas, said the drop was primarily because of dips in shipments of parboiled and hom mali rice.

Gavel falls on final state rice auction Bangkok Post 31st Aug 2018
The government is inching closer to fully unloading its hefty rice stocks after selling a combined 267,300 tonnes for animal feed and energy purposes at Thursday's final auction. The burdensome rice stocks have taken four years to clear, amounting to 17-18 million tonnes accumulated from state-sponsored rice pledging schemes. The government is estimated to incur a loss of at least 500 billion baht from the costly populist programme.

Minister backs pesticide ban Bangkok Post 29th Aug 2018
Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Wiwat Salyakamthorn has thrown his support behind a total ban on three hazardous herbicides -- paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos. Mr Wiwat, also a renowned farm scholar who has championed a shift away from conventional farming towards more sustainable production, reiterated Tuesday his firm stance against the use of the three farm chemicals, saying they must be banned totally and immediately. Toxic farm chemicals have become a serious national threat to public health and the environment, particularly paraquat, the popular weed killer better known under its trade name Gramoxone, he said.

Cigarette tax hike likely pushed to 2021 Bangkok Post 28th Aug 2018
The Finance Ministry has informally delayed doubling the excise tax on cigarettes to 40% for another two years to October 2021, claiming the higher levy will be a heavy blow to state-run Thailand Tobacco Monopoly's (TTM) sales revenue, and impede on its plan to buy tobacco from local farmers. The ministry has informally agreed with the plan to postpone raising the excise tax from next year to 40%, said Daonoi Suttiniphapunt, managing director of TTM.

Surat Thani oil palm city proposal headed to cabinet Bangkok Post 21st Aug 2018
The Industry Ministry will seek cabinet approval on Tuesday for the oil palm city project in Surat Thani province to support local farmers in the South and boost competitiveness in related industries. The mobile cabinet meeting is heading to Chumphon province on Tuesday after visiting Ranong. Thailand ranks third globally among oil palm producers, with a combined plantation area of 4.5 million rai, trailing Indonesia (58 million) and Malaysia (35 million).

Health & Life Sciences

New bill aims to boost R&D and incentivise researchers Bangkok Post 5th Sep 2018
The cabinet has approved a draft bill that promotes the use of R&D and lets researchers own the right to transfer their research to private companies. Nathporn Chatusripitak, an adviser to the Prime Minister's Office minister, said on Tuesda that once the bill comes into force, researchers who won financial support from the government's research agencies will be eligible to own the right to transfer the research to the private sector for commercial purposes. Under the current structure, researchers sponsored by the government have no rights to their work, which belongs, by law, to the state agencies that provide financial support.

Special panel to discuss drugs draft bill Bangkok Post 28th Aug 2018
A special committee will be set up to discuss opposing views on a controversial part of a draft bill on pharmaceuticals, which would allow healthcare professionals other than doctors and pharmacists to dispense medications. The formation of the ad-hoc panel, approved by Public Health Ministry Monday, is seen as a move to ease growing pressure against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Public Health Ministry as the drafters of the bill.

FDA expands drug recall Bangkok Post 26th Aug 2018
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded its recall of valsartan, a medicine used to control blood pressure and help prevent heart failure, after some ingredients were found to contain an impurity. In the latest alert, the FDA is recalling the batches of valsartan that use pharmaceutical ingredients supplied by India's Hetero Labs Limited. The ingredients contain high levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a substance that poses a potential cancer risk.

ICT

NBTC surprises with October auction Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2018
The next round of the 1800- and 900-megahertz spectrum auctions has been rescheduled to take place in October, four months before the initial projected date. The board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) passed a resolution for the auctions on Wednesday. The regulator decided that rescheduling was a key factor in deciding if Total Access Communication (DTAC) should be awarded a remedy period for its 360,000 customers using mobile service on the 850MHz network after the concession expires on Sept 15.

E-commerce bill gets second hearing Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2018
A draft bill to supervise e-commerce transaction reports is undergoing a second public hearing after the Council of State concluded the vetting process, says a source at the Revenue Department. The law will improve the Revenue Department's tax collection efficiency as e-commerce businesses boom, providing a tool for the department to determine if online vendors are understating or evading tax payments. The public hearing will run through Sept 15 on the department's website, the source said.

DTAC expiry hangs over NBTC Bangkok Post 4th Sep 2018
Over 1 million mobile customers using Total Access Communication's (DTAC) 850-megahertz spectrum network will be disconnected from mobile service after Sept 15, as the board of the telecom regulator will likely cut off the mobile network service after the concession expires. Furthermore, all 21 million DTAC customers will lose their mobile connection in areas the company's 850MHz network covers.

Thailand government may build digital wallet to hold crypto assets seized in crimes e27 4th Sep 2018
Thailand’s legal framework is not build to handle cryptocurrency crimes, making the country a haven for cyber criminals. If it launches, the digital AMLO Wallet will not be used to pay for goods, it will not be used to trade for bitcoin and there will be zero intention to scale the product. The wallet, which is the brainchild of Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office, is meant to hold digital currencies that have been confiscated by the police, according to The Nation.

Asean ICT master plan in the works Bangkok Post 31st Aug 2018
The government is developing an ICT master plan for Asean connectivity to implement practical guidelines for digital collaboration across Asean countries. The development is to prepare the country for Thailand's chairmanship of the two Asean Summits in 2019, said Digital Economy and Society (DE) Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj. The Asean ICT master plan is expected to help shape more effective cooperation in a wide range of areas, including harmonisation of digital laws and regulations in the region, acceleration of development in regional infrastructure connectivity and creation of a digital workforce.

Thailand is becoming a critical country for blockchain TechCrunch 31st Aug 2018
While United States regulators are still trying to figure out how to think about cryptocurrencies, Thailand’s government is already mapping out its own central bank digital currency. This is just one of numerous examples how Thailand has emerged as one the most interesting cryptocurrency and blockchain countries in Southeast Asia in 2018.

ETDA hastening compliance with EU rules Bangkok Post 30th Aug 2018
The Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) has urged the government to submit the Data Protection Act to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) this month to avoid sanctions from the EU for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. The GDPR states that the EU will conduct business with countries that have the same level of data protection, particularly to protect EU citizens' data. Surangkana Wayuparb, executive director of the ETDA, said the data protection draft is being considered by the Office of the Council of State and is expected to be passed to the NLA this August.

Landmark waste bill edges closer Bangkok Post 28th Aug 2018
A draft bill that would require manufacturers to collect and dispose of electronic waste arising from products they sell is set to be tabled before the cabinet and then lawmakers for final approval. Suwanna Tiersuwan, deputy chief of the Pollution Control Department (PCD), said the National Legislative Assembly's whip yesterday agreed to accept the draft Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) bill for reading. The bill is expected to go before legislators sometime before the end of the year. Ms Suwanna said the NLA whip's approval was considered a major victory for the PCD, which has spent five years struggling to push this legislation through.

Rocky road to 5G adoption Bangkok Post 27th Aug 2018
Despite being named as a critical item on the national agenda, adoption of 5G wireless broadband service by 2020 is an uphill task, with both regulators and telecom operators scrambling to introduce the technology. Three obstacles could cause Thailand to miss the 5G train: the financial burden shouldered by telecom operators, including a combined cost of 270 billion baht for the previous 3G and 4G licences; how much more spectrum bandwidth has to be allocated; and the telecom regulator's authority, as only an acting board now manages the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

Regulator rethinks licence conditions Bangkok Post 23rd Aug 2018
The telecom regulator is amending the existing terms of licence payments for the 1800- and 900-megahertz spectra to foster more competitive bidding for bandwidth left over from the most recent auction. There is 35MHz of bandwidth (35x2 for upload and download) on the 1800MHz spectrum left over from the second-round auction on Aug 19. There is also 5MHz of bandwidth on the 900MHz band left over from the aborted first-round auction.

NBTC's spectrum auction woes go on Bangkok Post 20th Aug 2018
After a first-round farce where the country's three largest operators failed to bid, the second-round auction of 1800-megahertz spectrum licences ended Sunday with only two out the nine blocks having been sold, without competition. Advanced Info Service (AIS), through its subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network, won one block containing 10 MHz of bandwidth for upload and download for 12.5 billion baht, barely above the reserve price, while Total Access Communication (DTAC) through dtac TriNet won another block, also for the same price.

Infrastructure

Making transparent concessions Bangkok Post 3rd Sep 2018
September marks a series of seismic auctions that will determine whether Thailand's business realm will continue to be dominated by the same old oligarchs or if newcomers with big bucks could shake up the monopolistic arena. The terms of reference (ToR) for the 200-billion-baht high-speed railway linking three major airports -- Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao -- to serve the government's much- touted Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme are set to be unveiled this month.

Thailand, Cambodia edging closer to cross-border rail deal Bangkok Post 30th Aug 2018
Cambodia and Thailand are both reviewing draft agreements for a deal on the transportation of goods and people across their shared border, a Cambodian official said, adding that the final agreement is likely to be signed before the end of the year. The railway systems of both countries have already been unofficially connected, but to begin transporting goods and people across the border, the countries must first reach an agreement on cross-border rail transportation.

MPI increases for 15 straight months Bangkok Post 29th Aug 2018
The Office of Industrial Economics (OIE) has reported the manufacturing production index (MPI) in July rose 4.64% year-on-year to 112.6, helped by growth in exports as well as consumer confidence and industry sentiment indicators. The MPI in July increased for a 15th consecutive month, but contracted 3.01% from the figure in June. Overall shipments from Thailand stood at US$20.42 billion (665 billion baht) in July, a year-on-year rise of 8.3%, with exports growing for the 17th consecutive month.

Laos discharges 'may be issue' Bangkok Post 26th Aug 2018
Thailand is being advised to closely monitor the water discharge rate at two dams in neighbouring Laos to obtain information important for Thailand's handling of the flood situation, particularly in the Northeast. Citing communications received from Mekong River Commission (MRC), a source said the rising water in the Mekong River has been caused by the increase in water released from the Nam Ngum and Nam Theun dams in Laos. Thailand must closely monitor the discharge rate at these two dams as it braces for more floods in Nakhon Phanom and nearby Mukdahan, said the source.

MoU slate to bring Chinese into EEC Bangkok Post 23rd Aug 2018
The government will sign 17 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Chinese counterparts, expecting to capture new trade and investment for the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme. "The aim is to connect the EEC to China's One Belt, One Road initiative," Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said, referring to the scheme to link southern China with Southeast Asia and other regions. Of the 17 MoUs, 10 will be subject to signing ceremonies by the ministry and the EEC Office on Friday and Saturday, when Chinese officials will visit Thailand with 504 high-ranking company executives.

Small fry get first go at TFF Bangkok Post 20th Aug 2018
The initial subscription in investment units for the first batch of the Thailand Future Fund (TFF) will be based on the "small lots first" concept of the Securities and Exchange Commission, says the State Enterprise Policy Office (Sepo). Those subscribing to investment units at a small amount will be entitled to subscribe first, a move aimed at supporting retail investor subscription, said Charnwit Nakburi, deputy director-general of Sepo.

Public debt in fiscal 2019 for infrastructure to be B100bn Bangkok Post 18th Aug 2018
Public debt for big-ticket infrastructure projects in the next fiscal year will be 100 billion baht, 20-30 billion baht lower than previously expected, due to a delay in certain projects, says a Finance Ministry source. On Thursday, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong chaired the third Public Debt Management and Policy Committee meeting of 2018 to consider the public debt management plan for fiscal 2019, to be submitted to the cabinet for approval. The source said that according to the debt management plan for fiscal 2019, government borrowing to invest in big-ticket infrastructure projects will be 20-30% lower than expected, totalling 100 billion baht.

Manufacturing

Excise change not expected to dent sales Bangkok Post 17th Aug 2018
The Excise Department is confident that 90% of motorcycles sold in the country will see minimal impact from the new excise tax structure, which shifts the calculation basis from engine size to CO2 emissions. The new structure will be in line with the recalibrated car excise tax, which was previously based on engine size and went into effect in 2016. A source familiar with the matter told the Bangkok Post that the new tax structure on motorcycles has yet to be finalised because the department must get cabinet approval.

Travel & Tourism

Cabinet mulls master plan for marine safety Bangkok Post 23rd Aug 2018
The Tourism and Sports Ministry has presented a new master plan to improve safety in marine tourism to the cabinet, featuring a new Marine Surveillance and Assistance Centre to offer better protection to tourists. Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said the ministry submitted the plan for consideration at the mobile cabinet meeting in Chumphon and Ranong this week.

July clocks 3m visitors despite Phuket boat accident Bangkok Post 21st Aug 2018
More than 3 million foreigners visited Thailand in July as China remained on top of arrivals, despite the boat tragedy in Phuket that took place early in the month. Trip cancellations from the Chinese market were detected after the incident, but the situation has improved after Thai officials stepped up security measures. Pongpanu Svetarundr, permanent secretary of the Tourism and Sports Ministry, said about 3.2 million foreigners visited Thailand in July this year, representing growth of 2.9% compared with the same month last year.