Thailand Update: February 8, 2019

Thailand Update | February 8, 2019
Authors: Riley Smith, Ella Duangkaew, David Mineo
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Momentum for March 24 Elections Continues to Build as Senior Royal and Prime Minister Prayut Confirm Prime Minister Candidacies

In a series of historic and unprecedented developments over the last week, Thailand’s political parties, Ministers and the Election Commission (EC) have taken important steps forward in the election process, all which demonstrate relative certainty that the country will move forward with the polls on March 24.

The most shocking development took place the morning of Friday, February 8, when the Thai Raksa Chart party announced Princess Ubolratana as their candidate for Prime Minister. The move is completely unprecedented, as a senior member of the Royal Thai Family has never participated in an election before. In addition, this announcement was closely followed by a Palace Statement read out to all Thai TV networks by King Maha Vajiralongkorn that said his sister’s candidacy was “inappropriate” and that it would “defy the nation’s culture.” There has been no response to the statement yet from the Thai Raksa Chart Party, an offshoot of the Pheu Thai Party, which is linked to former Prime Ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

The announcement of Princess Ubolratana’s candidacy for Prime Minister and King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s critical response closely followed current Prime Minister Prayut’s February 8 confirmation that he would officially accept the invitation to be the Prime Minister candidate for the Phalang Pracharath Party, which is composed of many former Ministers of the current administration. Four of these Ministers made an unprecedented move on January 29 by announcing their resignation from the Government. On the heels of the Cabinet Minister resignations and in response to appeals from Pheu Thai and Democrat politicians for the Prime Minister to step down, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared on January 29 that he would neither resign as Prime Minister or Chief of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), nor reshuffle the current Cabinet.

In addition, The EC opened registration of constituency and party-list candidates on Monday, February 4, and has published a number of rules governing the course of the event. The EC has also released a phone application that will provide voters with knowledge on the election process as well as copies of the 2017 Constitution. For more information on these developments and their implications on the progress of elections, see our forthcoming Analytical Update.

Thai Cabinet Approves 116 Projects to Develop Southern Economic Corridor to Complement Eastern Economic Corridor

On January 22, 2019, the Thai Cabinet approved the development of the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC), which will cover 116 projects and have a budget of 106.79 billion THB (around $3.39 billion USD). The development will last from 2019-2022 and take up approximately 300,000 square meters of land in the Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Sri Thammarat provinces. The infrastructure development projects that have been announced as part of the SEC are similar to those that fall under the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which covers the Chachoengsao, Chonburi, and Rayong provinces in the upper Gulf of Thailand. The EEC complements the Thailand 4.0 initiative, which endeavors aims to fuel economicThai growth through investments in new technologies and innovations.

While a detailed plan for the SEC has yet to be released, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) has indiacted that the SEC will comprise of four key strategic plans.

  • First, the SEC is planned to connect coasts along the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea with those of South Asia to link up with Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). This part of the SEC will cover 10 projects—including an upgrade to Ranong’s deep-sea port and several airports—worth roughly 50 billion THB (around $1.59 billion USD).
  • The second component of the SEC will feature 31-33 projects worth around 39.6 billion THB (around us$1.26 billion USD) and will expand Thailand’s “Royal Coast” tourist infrastructure project around Hua Hin—approved by the Cabinet in March— to include areas along the upper portion of the peninsula from the Kra Isthmus up to Samut Songkram province. This dimension of the SEC will coincide with a planned high-tourist campaign along the western coast designed to increase income in the region. To facilitate travel, the government has begun construction on a 107-km highway that will traverse the peninsula and connect the southern provinces. Nathporn Chatusripitak, an adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, also indicated that a 167-km railway linking Chumpon and Ranong will be completed by 2022.
  • The third part of the SEC will support 32-33 projects worth anywhere from 6.49-7.37 billion THB (around $205-233 million USD) and will be committed to the development of Thailand’s bio-based and processed agriculture industry. Additionally, the government will open research centers dedicated to the study of aquatic animals and rubber innovations.
  • The SEC’s final component covers 38-39 projects worth 7.12-9.6 billion THB ($225-304 million USD) and will promote natural resource preservation, smart city design, and the development of telecommunications infrastructure. The Cabinet has also approved another five SEC projects that will be financed with 448 million THB (around $14.2 million USD) from the FY 2019 budget.

The Thai Government aims for the EEC’s industrial, services, agricultural, and tourist bases to facilitate greater trade and investment links with its ASEAN neighbors and the rest of Northeast Asia. According to the ASEAN Post, the EEC has already attracted 259 direct investments worth nearly $10 billion USD. The Thai government expects over 1.7 trillion THB (around $53.9 billion USD) in investment flows by 2021. In addition, in August 2018, the Thai and Chinese governments signed a series of MOUs designed to connect China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the EEC and facilitate joint Chinese investment in 11 targeted industries. Through these MoUs, it is evident that China sees the EEC and cooperation with Thailand as compatible with its goal to spur technological innovations and update its own industries under the Made in China initiative. Japan currently remains Thailand’s largest foreign investor, but this position is being challenged increases in Chinese investment.

While it is still not clear from whom the Thai government will source the majority of its investments for the SEC, its focus on South Asia under the first dimension of the SEC will certainly broaden the scope of the EEC’s “Prime Gateway to Asia” design while attracting a greater diversity of investors. As the EEC and SEC schemes are closely aligned and geographically contiguous, it is possible that the SEC will both spark competition between China and India and facilitate greater cooperation between East and South Asia.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
Prayut launches ‘Asean Cultural Year’ with Thailand at helm
Military ordered to secure Asean meetings, prevent chaos
VN, Thailand head toward $20 billion in trade

National Affairs
Princess Ubolratana 'may not take political position'
Gen Prayut confirms candidacy for PM under PPRP banner
Princess Ubolratana is candidate for prime minister
Deluge of candidates for poll
Employers beware: The Labour Protection Act gets serious
Eager election candidates flock to register for ballot numbers
Pheu Thai chooses three as PM candidates
Nation cynical about election
Parties gearing up campaigns
NLA eyes 100 draft laws before election

Customs
Thai Dec exports unexpectedly fall 1.72% y-o-y

Defense & Security
MARA Pattani suspends peace talks, finds Thai negotiator’s attitude objectionable
Peace talks chief counters southern rebels' condemnation
Armed forces instructed to secure meetings
'Cobra Gold' drills to start next month

Economics
Steady economic growth, but slower exports forecast
SET rises on strong oil prices, other Asean stock markets drop
‘Overshooting’ baht raises fears of sluggish growth
Cross-border trade misses target, up 6%
Poll, VAT refund set to increase spending

Energy
Solar hybrid scheme aimed for cabinet
National power plan expands private output
Power plan backed along wIth 2 plants

Financial Services
BoT keeps policy rate steady as economic risks increase
BoT signs QR pact with Cambodia
BoT reduces local owner requirement for transfers
Minister urges baht to be reined in
Thai shares edge up, Philippine stocks shed early gains
EEC gets 400,000 rai for development
Banks mull novel debt ratio rule
Banks brace for holiday outlay
Payouts on offer for fishermen to quit

Food & Agriculture
Ruling on 3 farm chemicals edges closer
Amendment speeds up FDA nods
India seen as food export destination
Food industry hits alarm button over baht appreciation
New integrated law on water distribution, usage readied
PPRP touts wider use of reform land
Activists rally govt over water projects

Health & Life Sciences
City toxic haze eases for now
Air in greater Bangkok now deemed 'safe' as smog lifts
Thailand to revoke foreign patent requests on marijuana
Thailand lacking trained people for senior care services
Thai govt says sorry for toxic smog in Bangkok
Toxic smog forces Bangkok to close hundreds of schools
Govt urged to move people from high-salt diets
Philips banks on Thailand as Asean medical hub
Airing their grievances
The long road to zero | #AsiaNewsNetwork

ICT
NBTC targets violations by US sites
Culture Ministry gears up for Thailand 4.0 with ‘M-Culture Big Data’
Ecommerce in Thailand grew to  Bt3.2 trillion  last year: ETDA
E-tax bill on foreign firms unlikely to pass
Survey: IT and digital market projected to increase 13.7%
Chatuchak shops plied with e-commerce, loans
MEA and TOT investing in Smart Park
Depa plans March launch of government startup hub

Infrastructure
Pattaya continues rise as development hotspot
Bang Saray new destination on EEC
Election date won't affect state projects
PDMO wary of Chinese rail loans

Travel & Tourism
PM targets diesel cars, factories
Smart buses a priority for Democrats
Record 38.27m tourists in 2018; 41m expected in 2019

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Prayut launches ‘Asean Cultural Year’ with Thailand at helm The Nation 5th Feb 2019
Artists from Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia showcased regional diversity with performances that offered a glimpse of this year’s theme – “Asean: Oneness to the World”.  “We [Thailand] are very grateful and honoured to chair the Asean Summit this year. We, Asean, will strengthen our cooperation under the ‘3Ms’ strategy – mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit – to achieve this year’s goal of ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’,” Prayut said in his opening speech.  “Moreover, we will turn our cultural diversity into creative industry and turn our region into Asean 4.0,” he added. Thailand will also promote cultural cooperation among Asean members, as well as hold Asean roadshows in Europe and China. Representatives from Asean member states and international diplomats joined the launch in Bangkok, kicking off a year-long exhibition of cultural events in the Thai capital.

Military ordered to secure Asean meetings, prevent chaos Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
Leaders of the armed forces have been directed to “fully support” meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year and not allow a repeat of the disastrous summit in Pattaya in 2009. Thailand is again chairing the regional grouping and will host at least 180 meetings, big and small, throughout the year. Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon chaired the Defence Council meeting on Monday and ordered the top brass of all the defence forces to “fully support” the Asean meetings to be hosted by Thailand, ministry spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said. The armed forces leaders must learn from what happened in 2009, when Thailand was last in the chair,  and come up with measures to ensure there is no repeat, the spokesman said.

VN, Thailand head toward $20 billion in trade Vietnam News 26th Jan 2019
Việt Nam and Thailand have agreed to implement measures to boost economic co-operation with the aim of reaching US$20 billion in two-way trade turnover by 2020 at the meeting of their Joint Committee on Bilateral Cooperation in Thailand which wrapped up yesterday. The two-day meeting was co-chaired by Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. The two sides agreed to create favourable conditions for businesses of the two countries to increase investment and business cooperation as well as to facilitate agricultural import and export activities between the two countries. They also agreed to promote cooperation and share experience in rice research, production and export.

National Affairs

Princess Ubolratana 'may not take political position' Bangkok Post 8th Feb 2019
Princess Ubolratana is still a royal family member who is not allowed to take political positions although she has stepped down to be a commoner, according to His Majesty the King's announcement late on Friday. The royal announcement published in the Royal Gazette was nationally televised after the princess was registered as the candidate for the prime minister for the Thai Raksa Chart Party with the Election Commission in the morning. His Majesty made clear in the statement that although the princess had resigned from the royal family by law, she is still a royal family member by tradition. Princess Ubolratana still performed activities on behalf of the royal family, as well as being a beloved daughter of late King Bhumibol and a respected member of the royal family.

Gen Prayut confirms candidacy for PM under PPRP banner Bangkok Post 8th Feb 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has formally accepted an invitation to stand as candidate for prime minister under the Palang Pracharath Party's banner. Gen Prayut, the 2014 coup leader and head of the National Council for Peace and Order, announced his decision in a message to the Thai people released on Friday morning. In his announcement, he said violent political conflict and disunity had plagued the country, stalled national development and affected people's lives, democracy-based law enforcement and the exercise of administrative, legislative and judicial power for over a decade before the NCPO took over the national administration.

Princess Ubolratana is candidate for prime minister Bangkok Post 8th Feb 2019
The Thai Raksa Chart Party threw election politics into chaos on Friday when it nominated Princess Ubolratana as its candidate to be prime minister. The party officially registered the elder sister of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn as news people pushed for vantage points at the Office of the Election Commission. The move was the focus of election rumours on Thursday and overnight, but no media had been bold enough to mention her name or the royal connection until the actual event at 9am Friday.

Deluge of candidates for poll The Nation 6th Feb 2019
JUST TWO DAYS after the Election Commission (EC) began accepting applications, a record-breaking 6,400 candidates from 60 parties have registered in the run-up to the long-awaited national polls.  An expert put the huge turnout to the new election system – Mixed-Member Apportionment (MMA) – saying parties are fielding as many candidates as possible in order to gain votes. As of yesterday, 6,474 candidates had registered with the EC – more than twice the number of candidates who had registered in the 2011 election, which saw 2,422 MP candidates.  The agency’s secretary-general, Jarungvith Phumma, said 546 individuals had registered yesterday, while more than 5,000 had applied on Monday – the very first day of registration. However, not many parties have handed in the names of their party-list and PM candidates.

Employers beware: The Labour Protection Act gets serious Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019
Thailand's labour laws have long been known for the strength of protections afforded to employees. Continuing this trend, a slew of new amendments to the Labour Protection Act (LPA), passed on December 13, 2018, will further enhance worker protection, improve working conditions, and impose sanctions on employers who fail to uphold them. The updates to Thailand's labour law will come into effect 30 days after its publication in the Government Gazette, which is expected to be in early 2019. The key changes are summarised below:

Eager election candidates flock to register for ballot numbers Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019
Hopeful candidates flocked to designated registration centres across the kingdom on Monday, day one of the registration period for the March 24 general election. The busiest centres were in Bangkok, which has most constituency seats on offer, Nakhon Ratchasima -- the second largest number of electorates -- and the southern region, where the Democrat Party is up against the party set up by its former secretary-general and political influencer Suthep Thaugsuban. In Bangkok, 446 candidates of various parties gathered at the Bangkok Youth Centre in Din Daeng district in the morning,  all with the same goal -- to get the number they wanted. The Election Commission office in Bangkok had to draw the numbers.

Pheu Thai chooses three as PM candidates Bangkok Post 1st Feb 2019
Pheu Thai has chosen three as its prime ministerial candidates while pro-regime Palang Pracharath will officially ask Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to be its PM candidate on Friday. The three Pheu Thai PM candidates are former agriculture minister Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, ex-transport minister Chadchart Sittipunt and former justice minister Chaikasem Nitisiri. Pheu Thai members and executives met on Thursday to consider its PM candidates and party-list MPs. After eight hours, secretary-general Poomtham Vechayachai said five had been proposed as PM candidates. In addition to the trio, the names of deputy prime minister Pol Lt Gen Viroj Pao-in and former finance minister Kittiratt Na Ranong were put on the table. Pol Lt Gen Viroj later pulled out of the race, saying he was already the first on the party list.

NLA eyes 100 draft laws before election Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2019
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) now aims to pass about a hundred bills pending their second and third readings before the general election takes place on March 24. On average, between 10 and 15 bills will be passed over each of the remaining weeks, said NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai on Thursday. The NLA is authorised to deliberate draft laws until the new parliamentary session after the election begins. However, in the event that the NLA is required to pass important draft laws such as ones required to be passed before a deadline imposed on Thailand under an international treaty, the NLA may continue its work even after the election, he said.

Customs

Thai Dec exports unexpectedly fall 1.72% y-o-y The Business Times 27th Jan 2019
Thailand's customs-cleared exports dropped for a second straight month in December, down 1.72 per cent from a year earlier, as against analysts' forecast for a small rise, the commerce ministry said on Monday. Analysts in a Reuters poll had estimated a 0.4 per cent year-on-year rise in exports, a key driver of Thai growth. In November, shipments contracted 0.95 per cent year on year. The export decline in December was due to falling shipments of electronics amid the Sino-US trade war and lower gold exports, the ministry said. In December, imports fell 8.15 per cent from a year earlier after jumping 14.66 per cent in November. The poll forecast was for a rise of 3.87 per cent. That resulted in a trade surplus of $1.06 billion in December, compared with a forecast of a $1.1 billion deficit, and November's $1.18 billion deficit. Exports to the United States rose 0.6 per cent in December from a year earlier, while those to China fell 7.3 per cent. In 2018, exports rose 6.70 per cent from a year earlier while imports jumped 12.51 per cent. The ministry targets export growth of 8 per cent in 2019, while Thailand's central bank predicts a 3.8 per cent rise.

Defense & Security

MARA Pattani suspends peace talks, finds Thai negotiator’s attitude objectionable The Nation 6th Feb 2019
General Udomchai Thamsarorat, the chief negotiator on the Thai side, told media that he aimed to meet MARA Patani leader Shukri Hari in Malaysia this week not to hold talks but merely to make contact in person.  “I visited Kuala Lumpur to also meet Malaysian facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor, without the specific aim of talking with any particular group,” Udomchai told Isranews. He added that MARA Patani was, in fact, scheduled to meet a Thai working group led by Kriangkrai Sriraksa to set the procedure of the peace talks.  However, MARA Patani had issued a statement earlier saying it had suspended talks with Udomchai because it was disappointed by his attitude.  “Both Mara Patani and the Thai dialogue teams arrived in Kuala Lumpur on February 2 for the introductory meeting. However, we were informed that General Udomchai would not attend the meeting. He would only meet me [Shukri Hari] personally and separately.

Peace talks chief counters southern rebels' condemnation Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019
The head of the government's southern peace talks team said on Monday he had no appointment to meet the rebel Mara Patani delegation for talks in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday and therefore no obligation to attend, despite the rebel group's demand that he do so. The group's dialogue head, Shukri Hari, condemned Gen Udomchai for his refusal to meet them, accusing him of having a hidden agenda, and put off further talks on the violence-plagued far South until after the general election. Gen Udomchai Thammasaroraj said he was in the Malaysian capital, but only to meet Malaysian peace talks facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor. He had sent committee secretary Maj Gen Kriangkrai Srirak to attend the informal meeting with Mara Patani representatives on the agenda for the next round of peace talks, which includes the issue of decentralisation of power.

Armed forces instructed to secure meetings Bangkok Post 29th Jan 2019
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon instructed the armed forces Monday to provide full security for Asean leaders who will attend a series of meetings hosted by Thailand as the chair of the regional bloc throughout the year. The instruction was given at a Defence Council meeting chaired by Gen Prawit in his capacity as Defence Minister, Defence Ministry spokesman, Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich, said. The spokesman said that leaders and representatives of Asean members and other countries outside the region will be invited to attend more than 180 meetings that will take place at various venues across the country. Gen Prawit said state agencies must learn from "a lesson in the past", said Lt Gen Kongcheep. The spokesman was referring to the fiasco in April 2009, when red-shirt protesters disrupted an Asean summit in Pattaya, which forced the evacuation of regional leaders from the venue.

'Cobra Gold' drills to start next month Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2019
This year's 'Cobra Gold' military exercises, in which a total of 29 nations are expected to attend, is set to take place between Feb 12-22. Seven nations are also expected to take part in the main training excercise. The 38th annual military exercise will consist of Thailand, the US, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia, while Chinese and Indian soldiers will take part in an additional civil assistance programme drill. The Multinational Planning Augmentation Team drill will consist of 10 nations, namely Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, France, Britain, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines and Fiji. Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Israel, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland will attend another exercise called "observer" or "COLT".

Economics

Steady economic growth, but slower exports forecast Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking expects economic growth of 4.0-4.3% this year on private sector consumption and investment, but believes export growth will slow down. The committee on Wednesday said the economy grew about 4.1% last year, slowed by a fall in exports and government investment in the last quarter of 2018. Private consumption and investment increased steadily and should drive economic growth of 4.0-4.3% this year, it said. However, export growth would slow down from 6.7% last year to an expected 5-7% this year, due to global economic trends and the US-China trade war. The committee expressed its concern that the baht's appreciation might continue in the first half of this year and affect exports. This year,  as of Feb 1 the baht was 3.4% stronger, the second highest appreciation in the region, behind only the Indonesian currency, which was 3.7% stronger.

SET rises on strong oil prices, other Asean stock markets drop Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019
Thai stocks bucked the regional trend rising marginally, while other Southeast Asian markets ended lower in lacklustre trading on Monday, with Philippine and Indonesia indexes falling the most. The Stock Exchange of Thailand index added 2.22 points or 0.13% to 1,653,62, in trade of 31.74 billion baht. The market was supported by strong oil prices. PTT Exploration and Production Plc gained 1.50 baht or 1.2% to 125.50 baht, while IRPC Plc gained 10 satang or 1.7% to 5.90 baht. The Philippine index was the biggest loser in the region falling nearly 1%, with markets in Malaysia and Singapore closing early on account of Chinese New Year.

‘Overshooting’ baht raises fears of sluggish growth The Nation 4th Feb 2019
Teerana Bhongmakapat, former dean of economics at Chulalongkorn University, expressed concern about the baht’s rise against the US dollar and regional currencies. “The overshooting baht doesn’t align with economic fundamentals and could hurt growth,” he told The Nation.  With Bt31 now worth $1, Thai exporters fret it will render their products less competitive on the global market. The average exchange rate on Friday was Bt31.347 per dollar, down from Bt32.351 on January 2, according to the Bank of Thailand. Teerana said a combined central-bank rate hike in December and foreign investors’ positive sentiment have contributed to the baht’s rise in value relatively to the dollar and other Asian currencies. Meanwhile economic fundamentals are not keeping pace, he said. Economic growth is expected to be less than 4 per cent this year. Current growth is sluggish while private investment remains weak, with capacity utilisation ranging from 60-68 per cent, Teerana noted. Exports are expected to slow due to global economic deceleration.

Cross-border trade misses target, up 6% Bangkok Post 26th Jan 2019
Thailand fetched 1.4 trillion baht in 2018 from all cross-border trade, including transit trade, up 6% from the year before, but the figure fell short of the target. The figure fell short of the 1.5-trillion-baht target set by the Commerce Ministry. Adul Chotinisakorn, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, has cited the ongoing US-China trade row, natural disasters and foreign exchange fluctuations as factors hampering trade. Of the cross-border total, border exports represented 778.29 billion baht, down 0.8% year-on-year, and border imports were worth 614.33 billion baht, up 14.9%, resulting in a trade surplus of 163.95 billion baht. Thailand's border trade with all four neighbours rose 4% last year to 1.12 trillion baht, with exports making up 650.9 billion baht, down 0.5%, and imports worth 473.76 billion, up 11%.

Poll, VAT refund set to increase spending Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2019
Modern trade sentiment is expected to become more bullish in the first quarter this year as the upcoming general election and the value-added tax (VAT) refund for Chinese New Year shopping could spur a shopping spree among consumers. Thanavath Phonvichai, vice-president of research at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), said the election being set on March 24 and the shopping tax breaks are expected to greatly benefit not only large and medium-scale retail operators in Bangkok and the provinces, but also the overall economy in the first quarter. The university estimated 30-50 billion baht would be circulated during the campaign, boosting economic growth by 0.2-0.3%, while the government's shopping tax incentives from Feb 1-15 are expected to increase consumer spending by around 10 billion baht, raising GDP growth by 0.05-0.1%.

Energy

Solar hybrid scheme aimed for cabinet Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
State-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) expects to request the cabinet acknowledge and approve its massive investment plan for floating solar hybrid power generation at nine dams nationwide. Egat says the project will be the world's largest hybrid power scheme from hydro and solar. The pilot location is Sirindhorn hydropower plant and dam in Ubon Ratchathani province, at which Egat will install floating solar panels with a capacity of 45 megawatts, with a development cost of 2 billion baht. Thepparat Theppitak, Egat's deputy governor for power plant development and renewable energy, said that once the cabinet approves the huge project, Egat will seek companies to sign engineering, procurement and construction contracts.

National power plan expands private output Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2019
After three years of revising and drawing up a new version of the power development plan (PDP), the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC) has approved the plan for 2018-37, emphasising more participation from private companies in the country's power generation. The new version is expected to take effect from the second quarter. On Thursday the council, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, approved the PDP, which will be effective until 2037. The plan can be revised every five years as changes and technological trends occur in the power sector. The plan reduces the proportion of power generated by the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) from 35% in the previous version to 24%. The new PDP sees policymakers plan for new power capacity of 56,431 megawatts, up from 46,090MW in 2017. Of the planned new capacity, 20,766MW will be from renewable power projects. Power plants with a total capacity of 25,310MW will be retired during 2018-37, so total power capacity by 2037 will stand at 77,211MW. Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan said non-fossil power will represent 35% of total power capacity by 2037, while coal-fired power plants will be reduced to 12%.

Power plan backed along wIth 2 plants The Nation 24th Jan 2019
THE NATIONAL Energy Policy Council (NERC) has given the green light to the new Power Development Plan (PDP), which will boost power production capacity to more than 77,000 megawatts in 2037. The council also approved power plant projects in Surat Thani and in the Western region. Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan said that the NERC agreed on the new PDP - covering 2018 to 2037 – at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) was tasked with planning for Thailand's power transmission system development for higher power security, grid modernisation and for a regional grid connection centre covering five countries – Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and Cambodia. The Egat will also team up with the Provincial Electricity Authority to develop a smart grid in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to facilitate the needs of investors and enable power discounts. The NERC also agreed on a 1,400 MW power plant project in Surat Thani and a 1,400 MW plant in the West, of which a part will replace Ratchaburi Power Generating Holding's 700 MW Tri Energy power plant. The company’s contract will end in July 2020. The Committee on Energy Policy and the Energy Regulatory Committee will also consider a solar power plant project for community needs, with capacity of 100 megawatts per year for 10 years from 2019. The project is expected to begin in the middle of this year. In the new PDP, the country's power production capacity will rise from 46,090 MW in 2017 to 77,211 MW in 2037. New capacity is expected at 56,431 MW from 2019 to 2037.

Financial Services

BoT keeps policy rate steady as economic risks increase Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
The Bank of Thailand on Wednesday kept its benchmark rate steady after December's tightening, saying an accommodative policy would support the economy in the face of rising global risks. The Monetary Policy Committee voted 4-2 to hold its one-day repurchase rate at 1.75%, as expected by all 20 economists in a Reuters poll. The two dissenters favoured a 25 basis-point hike to curb financial stability risks and to build policy space. One member was unable to attend the meeting. In December, the rate was raised by 25 basis points to the current level from near record lows for the first time in more than seven years, mainly aimed at tempering financial stability risks. The vote was 5-2, with the two dissenters favouring no change to policy.

BoT signs QR pact with Cambodia Bangkok Post 5th Feb 2019
The Bank of Thailand has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation on a pilot project to develop interoperability of standard QR payment with the National Bank of Cambodia. The agreement is expected to facilitate retail payment services in Cambodia and payment linkages between the two countries, the Bank of Thailand said in a statement. "The MoU aims to enhance the collaboration on financial innovations and payment services to promote more efficient and secure domestic and cross-border payment transactions, as well as to promote the usage of local currencies, said central bank governor Veerathai Santiprabhob after signing the agreement at the annual bilateral meetings between the Bank of Thailand and its counterpart in Cambodia. The meetings are meant to strengthen cooperation between the two central banks, enhancing financial cooperation and promoting sustainable economic growth in Cambodia and Thailand, he said. Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said earlier the Bank of Thailand initiated cross-border fund transfers.

BoT reduces local owner requirement for transfers Bangkok Post 1st Feb 2019
The Bank of Thailand has eased qualifications for international money transfer operators to attract new players and increase competition, which in turn should lead to lower fees. The central bank has relaxed requirements on the percentage of Thai nationals needed as shareholders of cross-border money transfer providers, lowering the threshold to 25% from 75% in an effort to lure new operators to the business, governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said in a release. The new regulation took effect on Thursday. Individuals who send money to recipients overseas through commercial banks and agents in Thailand are charged about 7% in fees on average. The fee can be as much as 10% for transfers to some countries, above the rate of several regional nations, Mr Veerathai said.

Minister urges baht to be reined in Bangkok Post 31st Jan 2019
Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong urged the Bank of Thailand to rein in the strengthening baht after the currency hit a nine-month high against the greenback. Dealing with currency fluctuation is the central bank's duty and it must step in if the baht outpaces the country's trade competitors, helping the baht move in line with its nominal effective exchange rate, he said. When the baht strengthens faster than its trade competitors, Thailand's exports lose their competitiveness, Mr Apisak said. He prefers less volatility in the baht's movements. The baht on Wednesday rose to 31.47 against the dollar, the strongest level since April 2018, up from 31.50 on Tuesday.

Thai shares edge up, Philippine stocks shed early gains Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
Thai shares closed higher for a ninth straight session, while Philippine stocks ended flat on Monday, retreating from an over 10-month high hit earlier in the session, as investors booked profits ahead of US-China trade talks and Federal Reserve meeting later this week. The Stock Exchange of Thailand index ended 1.41 points or 0.09% higher to 1,625.03, in turnover of 48 billion baht. It closed higher for a ninth straight session. Philippine shares have outperformed regional peers so far this year, gaining about 7.9%, helped by cooling inflation, a dovish Fed and hopes of an ease in the country's central bank monetary policy. Investors now await resolution of US-China trade negotiations as attention shifts to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's visit to the United States on Wednesday and Thursday for the next round of talks.

EEC gets 400,000 rai for development Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
As much as 400,000 rai will be designated for industrial areas within the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). Monton Sudprasert, director-general of the Public Works and Town and Country Planning Department, said a town planning draft for the EEC was approved by the EEC Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week. The draft calls for the industrial areas to be expanded by 122,931 rai from 286,492 rai. The new EEC town plan covers the three eastern provinces of Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong, which together span 8.3 million rai. The three have 11% of plots designated as urban or city areas, a total of 913,000 rai, with 3.4% for industrial (283,561 rai), 68% for farmland (5.65 million rai), 18% for forest conservation (1.49 million rai), and the rest for other purposes. Under the draft EEC town plan, city areas will make up 16% of the total land (1.33 million rai), up by five percentage points, with industrial areas increasing to 4.9% (406,492 rai). Farmland drops five percentage points to 63% or 5.23 million rai, while forest conservation areas have been reduced to 10% (830,000 rai). The additional industrial area will be allocated largely to special investment promotional zones, 12 targeted industries, large infrastructure (including Map Ta Phut and Laem Chabang seaports), new city and commercial areas, and the logistics centre. Mr Monton said that after the EEC Policy Committee's approval the draft will go to the cabinet for approval, possibly in April.

Banks mull novel debt ratio rule Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
Commercial banks are expected to finalise a single standard for debt service ratio (DSR) in the first half of this year, as required by the Bank of Thailand, as a tool for controlling risk and reducing the household debt that is at a stubbornly high level. Banks have been discussing the issue since the central bank requested all banks apply the same DSR standard, said Predee Daochai, chairman of the Thai Bankers' Association. Each lender uses different calculation methods and figures for DSR, which is an indicator to determine a borrower's ability to repay debt, but the methods are quite similar.

Banks brace for holiday outlay Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2019
Commercial banks' net cash withdrawal from the Bank of Thailand to prepare for the public's spending over Chinese New Year is estimated to increase to 62.5 billion baht from 46 billion a year earlier, says a senior official at the central bank. Demand for banknotes during the festive period is higher than normal, and the central bank urged commercial banks to prepare new banknotes to keep pace with people's demand, said Somboon Chitphentom, assistant governor of the banknote management group. Chinese New Year falls on Feb 5. Bangkok Bank (BBL) plans to allocate cash reserves worth 50 billion baht during Chinese New Year through 1,000 micro-branches located in department stores and 10,000 ATM terminals nationwide. The bank is also preparing new banknotes for Chinese red envelopes, according to its statement. To ensure it has sufficient money for ATM withdrawals during the holiday, BBL plans to increase the frequency with which it refills cash in ATM machines, said the bank.

Payouts on offer for fishermen to quit Bangkok Post 24th Jan 2019
Authorities will compensate fishermen who want to quit their career under a state plan to reduce trawler numbers to better regulate fishing. Officials will compensate fishermen for their job loss, but "payment criteria must be drafted carefully", Fisheries Department chief Adison Phromthep said after a meeting on Wednesday chaired by Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry Minister Grisada Boonrach. The government is not going to hand money to all affected fishermen and those eligible are not likely to receive compensation at the same time, Mr Adisorn said, scheduling Feb 1 for a further meeting on criteria details. Whether they will get the money will depend largely on their past fishing performance and owners of smaller boats will "stand at the head of the queue", he said.

Food & Agriculture

Ruling on 3 farm chemicals edges closer Bangkok Post 7th Feb 2019
A suggestion to ban paraquat and put glyphosate and chlorpyrifos under restricted use will be forwarded to the national committee on hazardous substances so it can have a final say on the future use of these hazardous yet widely used chemicals in the farm sector. The committee is due to announce its decision on Valentine's Day, said PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhan. The proposal is based a recent academic study by the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), Mr Suwaphan said. He was speaking in his capacity as chair of the ad hoc panel. The study, commissioned by the committee that was formed last July, championed a ban of paraquat and restrictions on the other two substances.

Amendment speeds up FDA nods Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
The cabinet has approved amendment of the Food Act of 1979 to help manufacturers of food for export in addition to protecting consumers from food safety hazards. Nathporn Chatusripitak, an adviser to the minister of the PM's Office, said the amendment aims to enhance approval efficiency, especially of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has been quite slow in approving applications for food registration, particularly for health products, mainly because of a shortage of experts who handle the product evaluation and inspection, he said. Under the new Act, the FDA will be allowed to collect a fee from the private sector to hire outside experts to help evaluate and inspect products applying for registration.

India seen as food export destination Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
Thailand plans to increase exports of agricultural and food products to India this year as a way to offset the impact of escalating trade wars and the slower growth of the global economy. Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara said India has high potential for trade and investment, with a population of 1.34 billion that includes 200 million super-rich. The country also has a massive working population and a growing middle-income segment. Rapid urbanisation means greater demand for goods and services. Last year, Thailand and India reported two-way trade amounting to US$12.463 billion. Of the total, Thai exports made up $7.6 billion and imports from India were worth $4.863 billion. Ms Chutima said the government has set a target to increase exports to India by 8% this year to $8.208 billion.

Food industry hits alarm button over baht appreciation The Nation 4th Feb 2019
The Board of Trade of Thailand, the National Food Institute (NFI) and the Federation of Thai Industries’ Food Processing Industry division have jointly set a Bt1.12 trillion target for export of food products. That would be an 8 per cent growth over last year’s Bt1.031 trillion in food exports. “The strength of the Thai baht in the coming months of this year will be a key factor influencing whether this target is reached,” Poj Aramwattananont, vice chairman of Thailand’s Board of Trade told a press conference yesterday.  The baht’s appreciation had damaged exports of food products in 2018, he said, especially in the first two quarters, and lowered incomes for those in the agricultural sector. “Although the total exports of food products for 2018 stood at Bt1.031 trillion, growing only by 1.6 per cent year on year when calculated in US dollars, the total value of food exports stood at $32.19 billion, growing by up to 7.3 per cent year on year,” he said.  The appreciation of the baht resulted in the differing values and growth rates behind the two calculations, he explained to reporters.

New integrated law on water distribution, usage readied The Nation 4th Feb 2019
The laws are currently at the draft stage and public hearings on collection fees and the authorisation of water usage will be held to gauge the views of all concerned stakeholders, Somkiat Prajamwong, secretary-general of the Water Resources Management Office said this week. He added that aim is to ensure no fees are collected for water used for basic needs.  “We are now studying proposals from concerned agencies including the Royal Irrigation Department to ensure fairness for all parties. The extent of water usage and the means of collecting fees from some sectors such as the industrial sector will be studied thoroughly and public hearings will be held to gauge views first,” Somkiat added.  The newly endorsed water resources law should go into effect within 90 days after it was published in the Royal Gazette in late December. Somkiat expects the law to help achieve integrated water management, which is now scattered among concerned agencies. 

PPRP touts wider use of reform land Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019
The Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) has vowed to push for a controversial land policy proposal that would allow farmers holding Sor Por Kor documents to seek commercial gains from their properties if it forms government after the March 24 election. The proposal is the brainchild of PPRP heavyweight Suchart Tancharoen, who suggested the use of Sor Por Kor land should be expanded instead of being limited to farming only. Mr Suchart on Sunday explained the proposal as PPRP leader Uttama Savanayana led party executives and members on an election campaign stop in Lop Buri's Ban Mi district.

Activists rally govt over water projects Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
A group of residents protesting against the government's four water projects in the South Sunday insisted on rallying at Government House today, despite the government's assurance that it won't press ahead with these projects without public consensus on them. Calling itself a network protecting Nakhon Si Thammarat-Phatthalung land, water and forest, the group said they are determined to submit its calls regarding the four projects to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House. The group's stance is the government will have to have the projects revised. The projects are the construction of dams at Khlong Sang and Wang Heeb, a water diversion canal at Muang Nakhon, and a water gate at Pak Pra

Health & Life Sciences

City toxic haze eases for now Bangkok Post 7th Feb 2019
While the level of PM2.5 has declined in the capital, the hazardous dust has hit Khon Kaen, Phrae and Nakhon Sawan, with the worst air quality recorded in Khon Kaen. The Pollution Control Department (PCD) reported yesterday morning there were no hazardous levels of fine dust in greater Bangkok, with PM2.5 readings at 18-44 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³) over the last 24 hours. Levels of particulate matter 2.5 micrometres and less in diameter (PM2.5) fell in almost all air measurement areas in the city and surrounding provinces.

Air in greater Bangkok now deemed 'safe' as smog lifts Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019
Greater Bangkok was free of hazardous levels of toxic dust for the past 24 hours, but anti-smog measures were continuing, the Pollution Control Department reported on Monday. The safe threshold of particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter is set at 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air. Over the previous 24 hours PM2.5 levels in greater Bangkok ranged from 15 to 43mcg, the department statement said. The lowest PM2.5 reading was on Rama III Road in Bangkok's Yannawa district, and the highest was on Phahon Yothin Road in the capital's Bang Khen district.

Thailand to revoke foreign patent requests on marijuana Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
Thailand on Monday effectively revoked all foreign patent requests for the use of marijuana, after fears foreign firms would dominate a market thrown open last month when the government approved the drug for medical use and research. The National Legislative Assembly voted to amend the 1979 Narcotic Act in December in what it described as "a New Year's gift to the Thai people". Until the 1930s, Thais used marijuana to relieve pain and fatigue.  While countries from Colombia to Canada have legalised marijuana for medical or even recreational use, the drug remains illegal and taboo across much of Southeast Asia. But in Thailand, the main controversy with the legalisation involved patent requests by two foreign firms, British giant GW Pharmaceuticals and Japan's Otsuka Pharmaceutical, filed before the change to the law.

Thailand lacking trained people for senior care services Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2019
Thailand is sorely lacking in people with the skills needed to provide services for an ageing society, according to the Business Development Department. Director-general Wuthikrai Leeweerapan said on Friday that Thailand possessed people with a mind for service, reasonable prices and a wide range of tourist attractions and resorts, all suited to cater to ageing populations in Thailand, Japan and European countries. However, Thailand lacked doctors, nurses, assistant nurses, nutritionists and therapists to meet the demand for senior care, he said. In addition, some of existing senior care premises provided substandard services, and there were complaints about inadequate care and inability to handle deaths of elderly people, Mr Wuthikrai said.

Thai govt says sorry for toxic smog in Bangkok The Straits Times 3rd Feb 2019
The Thai government has apologised to Bangkok citizens about the air pollution that continues to disrupt their daily lives and is threatening their health. The amount of harmful PM2.5 dust particles in the air has exceeded the safe limit in the capital and adjacent provinces almost daily since late December. The blue sky typical of this time of year is hidden beyond a grey-yellow haze that could have serious long-term effects on health, and emotions are starting to burn along with the waste and cropland fires that contribute much to the problem. Residents have been venting their frustration on social media, complaining about difficulty in breathing and pressing hard for the government to do more to solve the problem in a concrete manner. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and relevant authorities have taken some action to ease the problem in areas under heavy smog.

Toxic smog forces Bangkok to close hundreds of schools The Guardian 30th Jan 2019
Toxic smog forced Bangkok authorities to issue an unprecedented order to shut nearly 450 schools on Wednesday as authorities struggled to manage a pollution crisis that has stirred widespread concern. The Thai capital has been shrouded in murky haze for weeks, forcing residents to don masks and sparking social media criticism of the uneven response by the government. Reasons given for the lingering pall include exhaust from traffic, unfettered construction, the burning of crop stubble, and pollution from factories getting trapped in the city. Authorities have seeded clouds to provoke rain, sprayed overpasses with water to catch micro-pollutants and even asked people not to burn incense sticks and paper during Chinese new year celebrations. The measures so far have provoked derision from many Bangkok residents, while stocks of pollution masks have run out in many shops. But on Wednesday the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration stepped up its health warnings, ordering all 437 city-controlled public schools to close from lunchtime until Friday, while designating 1,500 square kilometres (580 square miles) of the city a “control area”.

Govt urged to move people from high-salt diets The Nation 30th Jan 2019
Academics and health advocates are therefore calling on the government to impose a tax on high-sodium food products, claiming that such a measure will lead to the food industry adjusting people’s diets in a move that would cost just Bt5.3 million but help save the lives of 32,670 people. Low Salt Thailand Network chairman Dr Surasak Kantachuvesiri told a seminar that 13.2 million Thais suffered from high blood pressure, 500,000 Thais from stroke, 750,000 Thais from coronary artery disease and 7.6 million from kidney disease – the last of which also led to 20,000 new people requiring kidney dialysis treatment every year. The seminar was part of the Prince Mahidol Award Conference being held in Bangkok until February 3. Surasak said it was necessary to raise public awareness about the dangers of high-salt diets, and force the food industry to adjust what it offered to be low-sodium. A tax measure –not meant to make the state richer but to make Thais consume less salt and buy low-sodium food products at cheaper prices – could be imposed to make the food industry abide by this, he said. There was the need to cap imported food products’ sodium levels, he claimed, citing the fact that Thai instant noodle had up to 2,000 milligrams of sodium per pack, while a Korean imported one had 7,000.

Philips banks on Thailand as Asean medical hub The Nation 30th Jan 2019
Viroj Vithayaveroj, chairman and managing director of Philips (Thailand), said that the medical equipment market is expected to see sustained growth, pointing to the ageing population and the increased health consciousness of the middle class. Urbanisation will also spur demand for innovative products, especially in the healthcare industry, Viroj said. The government’s efforts to promote Thailand as a medical hub in the Asean reason, with world-class medical services and an increased number of hospitals, will further underpin the market. On the regional dimension, Viroj said the Asean Economic Community (AEC) will provide opportunities for hospitals to welcome more patients with purchasing power from neighbouring countries. 

Airing their grievances Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
Smiles in Bangkok are beginning to fade as fears of the perilous PM2.5 particles prompt people to cover their faces with dust masks or risk a host of illnesses. Thailand's capital has long been associated with air pollution and smog, but the air quality is getting worse as the capital has been troubled by accumulated fine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres for many weeks. PM2.5 has exceeded the safety limit of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre in many districts during the past few weeks. Exposure to PM2.5 has been found to cause short-term adverse health effects such as eye, nose, throat and chest irritation, as well as being linked to long-term health conditions such as asthma and cardiovascular disease. Construction projects and emissions from cars are major contributors to air pollution, while a lack of wind has allowed pollution to accumulate in the air, according to the Pollution Control Department.

The long road to zero | #AsiaNewsNetwork Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 28th Jan 2019
Like most member nations of the United Nations, Thailand has set itself the goal of eliminating new infections of HIV/Aids and reaching “Getting to Zero” by 2030. It is an ambition that faces many challenges. Current figures show that the nation has more than 400,000 HIV-infected patients and that 21 per cent of them are over the age of 50. Improved medical treatment and more efficient drugs will push an increasing number of those infected into the 50 years-plus bracket as the target date draws near, thus exposing them to age-related medical conditions. 

ICT

NBTC targets violations by US sites Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
The telecom regulator has asked the US embassy for help with 788 encrypted web pages or URLs in America that violate intellectual property rights (IPR) in Thailand. The move comes after numerous complaints received by the newly established Center of Operational Policing for Thailand Against Intellectual Property Violations and Crimes on the Internet Suppression (Coptics). Many illicit URLs are unable to be processed because of technical complications. Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, said the NBTC sent a letter on Jan 28 to charge d'affaires Peter Haymond asking for assistance from the embassy. Details of the URLs were attached with the letter. Mr Takorn said the NBTC is operating in line with government policy to tackle and suppress online infringement of IPR.

Culture Ministry gears up for Thailand 4.0 with ‘M-Culture Big Data’ The Nation 5th Feb 2019
“The ministry is developing our new big data from all departments, for helping our officials and the general public gain easy access. Moreover, our big data is also integrating cultural information from the private sector and the ministry’s cultural networks,” he said. The Kingdom is moving toward an innovation-driven economy, under the Thailand 4.0 policy, through “Pracharat” – the “Public-Private-People Partnership” mechanism. The Culture Ministry, for its part, is aiming to turn the country’s cultural diversity into a competitive creative economy, Kitsayapong said.  The big data in the new campaign features national heritage sites, museums, art galleries, cultural centres, cultural activities and a record of the national Silpathorn (for mid-career) artists.

Ecommerce in Thailand grew to  Bt3.2 trillion  last year: ETDA The Nation 4th Feb 2019
The number of internet users has grown four times over the past 10 years, and many Thaiinternational platforms have grown to support the number of online shoppers, along with increasing confidence in ePayment and faster logistics and delivery services, ETDA said. Service providers have chosen to use Big Data to analyse the behaviour and needs of consumers, while AI is being used to develop the quality of the product and services through uses of Chatbots.  Trends show that growth will continue with the arrival of 5G, creating new innovations that will lift up the quality of life for consumers. Surangkana Wayuparp, president of Electronic Transactions Development Agency (Public Organisation) or ETDA, Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DE) said that the results of surveys show that the value of eCommerce in Thailand has grown consistently between 810 per cent per year.

E-tax bill on foreign firms unlikely to pass Bangkok Post 29th Jan 2019
The Revenue Department expects a draft bill on e-business tax, a levy on foreign-based online platform operators earning income in Thailand, will not be vetted by lawmakers before the Prayut Chan-o-cha government leaves office. The draft bill, a priority for the Finance Ministry to be passed ahead of March's general election, is not on the National Legislative Assembly's agenda yet because it is still being deliberated by the Council of State, said Ekniti Nitithanprapas, director-general of the Revenue Department. "We proposed the draft law more than two years ago. We understand the Council of State is overloaded with a large number of draft bills and cannot deliberate all of them. The department is preparing to propose the law to the next government for consideration," he said.

Survey: IT and digital market projected to increase 13.7% Bangkok Post 29th Jan 2019
The information technology (IT) and digital market in Thailand this year is forecast to be worth 527 billion baht, 13.7% larger than the previous year, according to a study by IMC Institute commissioned by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa). Of the total, hardware makes up the largest portion at 234 billion baht, followed by smart devices (122 billion), software (106 billion) and digital services (65.2 billion). The hardware segment (notebooks, PCs, servers, mini-computers, printers, hard disks, storage and SD cards) will grow only 5% this year, bested by digital services (34%), smart devices (20%), and software (17%).

Chatuchak shops plied with e-commerce, loans Bangkok Post 29th Jan 2019
The Industry Ministry plans to encourage 11,505 merchants at the Chatuchak Weekend Market to join the e-commerce platform and use short-term loans to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The ministry is teaming up with Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME Bank) and the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) to work on this programme. E-commerce site Shopee was chosen to support 11,505 merchandisers at the market. The ministry plans to bring Chinese and Indian SMEs to take part in the business matching scheme.

MEA and TOT investing in Smart Park Bangkok Post 24th Jan 2019
The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) has signed agreements with two state-run agencies to develop two advanced infrastructures in the Smart Park Industrial Estate in Map Ta Phut, Rayong, with a budget of 2.8 billion baht. The first agreement was signed with TOT to develop digital and telecom infrastructures. TOT plans to invest in the system and platforms such as big data, cloud service and fibre optics to facilitate industrial and business operators in the project. The second agreement is with the Metropolitan Electricity Authority to develop a smart energy system in the industrial estate.

Depa plans March launch of government startup hub Bangkok Post 24th Jan 2019
The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) will start operating the government startup centre in Bangkok by March to promote and scale up local startups, serving the government's goal of creating a hub in the region. Located at the Ladprao Hills building, the startup centre will partially operate as a pioneer unit of the IoT (Internet of Things) Institute, which will be located in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). Depa will transfer staff and operations from the Chaeng Wattana Government Complex to Ladprao Hills, where the agency will rent the eighth floor starting in March.

Infrastructure

Pattaya continues rise as development hotspot Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
Pattaya has been a focal point for development historically. In the past decade, Pattaya's more popular areas such as Wong Amat, Phra Tamnak, Jomtien and Na Jomtien were developed heavily for the condominium market. With limited beachfront land along these beaches, developers are looking further down the coastline in areas between Bang Saray and Sattahip. This shift in development to the south coincides with the government's plans to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which further increases the opportunity for the area's potential for future growth and expansion.

Bang Saray new destination on EEC Bangkok Post 6th Feb 2019
Pattaya has been a focal point for development historically. In the past decade, the resort town's more popular areas such as Wong Amat, Phra Tamnak, Jomtien and Na Jomtien were developed heavily for the condominium market. With limited beachfront land along these beaches, leading developers are looking further down the coastline in areas between Bang Saray and Sattahip. The shift in development to the south coincides with the government's plans to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which further increases the opportunity for the area's potential for future growth and expansion. In 2018, Pattaya was the 18th most-visited city in the world, attracting 8.67 million international travellers, according to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index 2018. This makes the city more popular than Bali and creates a powerful focal point for the EEC region.

Election date won't affect state projects Bangkok Post 24th Jan 2019
The government's flagship development initiatives, notably the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), are unlikely to be affected by the general election date, now set at March 24. Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, said the five main infrastructure projects in the EEC will move forward as planned, with the winning bidders expected to become available before April. The EEC Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha acknowledged Wednesday the progress of five projects, which were all endorsed by the cabinet. They are a high-speed railway linking three airports (225 billion); U-tapao aviation city (290 billion); a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre (10.6 billion); the third phase of Laem Chabang seaport (114 billion); and the third phase of Map Ta Phut seaport (55.4 billion). Mr Kanit said the government expects to come to an agreement with private bidders for the high-speed rail line linking the three airports by the end of this month.

PDMO wary of Chinese rail loans Bangkok Post 24th Jan 2019
Thailand plans to secure funding from China to finance the high-speed railway planned from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima only if an overseas loan is needed and the rate is lower than that of the Thai government's 12.5-year-tenor bond, says a senior official at Public Debt Management Office (PDMO). Loan conditions have not been concluded, but PDMO has joined 26 meetings under the Framework of Cooperation between Thailand and China for the high-speed rail project, said Jindarat Viriyataveekul, PDMO's deputy spokeswoman. The Thai government bond with a 12.5-year maturity now carries a coupon rate of 2.8% per year. The Thai-Sino high-speed railway stretching from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima is the first phase of a rail route to Nong Khai. The first section is under construction and carries a cost of 179 billion baht, of which 13.2 billion will be financed by the government's budget and the remaining 166 billion by borrowing.

Travel & Tourism

PM targets diesel cars, factories The Nation 6th Feb 2019
BANNING the use of diesel vehicles, promoting the use of electric cars, and suspending the operations of polluting factories were among the measures to tackle Bangkok’s dangerous air pollution that were considered by the Cabinet yesterday. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told a press conference after the meeting that all related official agencies were cooperating to solve the air pollution problem in the capital and nearby provinces for the short-, medium-, and long-term. The main focus will be on the transport sector, which has been fingered as the largest source of Greater Bangkok’s air pollution. Up to 50 per cent of the very fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, or PM2.5, was from the traffic and transport sector, said General Prayut. Stakeholders must choose measures to reduce that to 35 per cent of PM2.5 particulates, he said.

Smart buses a priority for Democrats Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019
The Democrat Party rolled out its policy platform Sunday, aimed at upgrading Bangkok residents' quality of life, including a smart bus project to push for 5,000 electric buses in seven years, making Bangkok a world-class tourist spot and promoting clean and well-organised food stalls. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the policies are not pipe dreams but are based on feedback the party gathered from city residents. "The party has come up with these policies because we understand the lifestyle of Bangkok residents. These policies are not castles in the air, but we have gathered the needs and problems facing people in Bangkok,'' Mr Abhisit said. "Bangkok must be liveable, beautiful and clean. It must be a city of opportunities and a safe place to live,'' Mr Abhisit said.

Record 38.27m tourists in 2018; 41m expected in 2019 Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
Thailand saw a record 38.27 million tourists in 2018, up 7.5% from 2017, the Tourism Ministry said on Monday. The country's December tourist arrivals were 3.85 million, the ministry said in a statement. Chinese tourists are returning after a slowdown sparked by a tour boat tragedy that triggered concerns about safety standards. The number of Chinese holidaymakers rose 2.8% in December from a year earlier, to 838,634. Chinese visitors are the top source of foreign receipts in an industry that makes up about a fifth of the economy. Foreign tourist receipts directly account for about 12% of Thailand's gross domestic product. Tourism is a key engine of growth, but managing the influx is a challenge amid pressure on the environment as well as clogged international airports.