Thailand Update: July 25, 2019

Thailand Update | July 25, 2019
Authors: Riley Smith, Ella Duangkaew, Sarina Divan
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Thailand Pushes Major EEC Infrastructure Projects Forward

Building Thailand’s infrastructure, particularly by developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), has been one of the Government’s main priorities to advance the Thai economy. In the recent elections, infrastructure development was a platform shared by nearly every party, including those within the majority coalition. Progress has been made on several infrastructure projects in the EEC, and the EEC Policy Committee is expected to review the full draft of the new town plan for the EEC next month. However, local communities have raised concerns about the impact of EEC projects on the environment and the livelihood of residents, and have urged the Government to gain greater local input and consider environmental ramifications as development of the EEC progresses.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) recently announced that construction of the double-track railway facilitating transport between the EEC and the North and Northwest of Thailand is nearing completion. The railway will link Chachengsao, a province in the EEC zone, and Saraburi, reducing costs for companies transporting goods to and from ports in the EEC. Further, the new railway will use less fuel, providing an additional environmental benefit. Farmers in Chachoengsao, however, are concerned about how EEC infrastructure projects in the province, such as this one, will affect their land, particularly by blocking flood-draining pathways and creating industrial pollution that will contaminate their soil and water.

Additionally, the SRT is expected to transfer land to the consortium led by the Charoen Pokphand Group soon to begin constructing the high-speed railway linking the Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, and U-Tapao airports. This high-speed railway is one of the key projects in the EEC and is expected to begin operating in 2024. According to Worawut Mala, the acting Governor of SRT, the two sides are set to sign a contract before the end of the month. The SRT will hand over 80 percent of more than 10,000 rai (approximately 3950 acres) of land to the group as soon as the contract is signed, as there are still expropriation and eviction problems with the remaining 20 percent of the land. Included in the planned area for this railway is 497 rai (approximately 200 acres) of land in the Makkasan area, which civic groups argue should be excluded from the plans. They have emphasized the importance of the Makkasan area in the city of Bangkok and see the maintenance depot as a heritage site. Moreover, as with the railway connecting the EEC to North and Northwest Thailand, community groups have argued that farmers will be adversely affected by this project.

Beyond these two EEC projects, there are plans for a 109-kilometer Nakhon Pathom-Cha-am Motorway project. Many residents have also protested this project, which they believe will hurt their farms and livelihoods. Residents are demanding a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) from the Department of Highways, as the project’s previous EIA results, which were approved back in 2010, fall outside the five-year validity period of EIA results, as stated in the Environment Promotion Act.

With the public increasingly raising concerns about EEC development, it is crucial for the Government to continue assessing the environmental impact of its projects in the EEC to ensure that the projects’ benefits for local residents are not outweighed by their environmental footprint. This is especially true in agricultural areas, given the importance of the agriculture industry in Thailand. Ms. Tasanee Kiatpatraporn, Deputy Secretary-General of the EEC, has promised that the EEC would take into account the law and the opinions of local organizations and residents before implementing any project. Going forward, the EEC will continue holding a series of public hearings to understand the public’s concerns.

Labor Ministry Considers Minimum Wage Increase

The Ministry of Labor plans to incrementally increase the minimum wage in Thailand, according to newly appointed Labor Minister MR Chatumongol Sonakul. Last year, Thailand increased the minimum wage for the first time since 2013, making the daily range 308 baht (US$10.96) to 330 baht (US$10.68), approximately 2 percent to 7 percent higher than before, respectively. In the recent general election, wage increases became a focal point, as raising the minimum wage to 400-425 baht (US$12.94-US$13.75) per day was one of the Palang Pracharath Party’s key campaign promises. Facing an aging population and low birth rate, a minimum wage increase is considered to be a possible solution to Thailand’s labor shortage. Addressing this issue is increasingly important as the Government promotes several labor-intensive projects to boost the Thai economy, such as the major infrastructure projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor.

Despite being a key part of the Palang Pracharath Party’s platform during the general election, Minister MR Chatumongol has since stated that a significant increase in the minimum wage could not be implemented immediately due to its larger effect on employers and the macroeconomy. In particular, increasing the minimum wage would result in inflation and a rise in interest rates. Given these larger considerations, Minister MR Chatumongol stated that a minimum wage increase would have to be assessed by the tripartite national wage committee. Further, this wage hike will not affect all industries equally; it will not be applied to all industries at the same time, and only industries that appear able to absorb the wage increases will receive them.

While increasing the minimum wage could alleviate the labor shortage and boost domestic consumption, in the absence of investments to boost labor productivity it would also raise employers’ production costs and decrease Thailand’s relative cost competitiveness. In particular, industries that rely heavily on manual labor, such as food and agriculture, will likely be hit the hardest by a decrease in profits. Meanwhile, larger industries, such as energy and retail, can expect a smaller impact. The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has publicly opposed the minimum wage increase, citing the detrimental effect it would have on small- and medium-sized enterprises and the farming sector in Thailand. Further, those supporting the wage increase have also pointed out the need for the Government to mitigate rising prices in Thailand and ensure employer compliance to ensure workers fully benefit from the increase.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Govt inks search and rescue deal with Laos
PH urges Thailand to comply with WTO ruling

National Affairs
Thammanat confirms Prawit has applied to join PPRP
Afternoon policy debate focuses on economy, forest reclamation and crops prices
Govt questioned over lack of clarity in economic policies 
Uttama outlines ambitious plans
EC hurries local poll rules
Little wiggle room likely in budget
Pheu Thai launches 'Pheu Thai Plus' group
Prayut submits govt policies to parliament
Constitutional Court accepts Prayut and FFP cases
Cabinet ministers sworn in
Sompong elected Pheu Thai leader

Customs
Law on import duty clarified after backlash
Thailand 'violated customs law'

Economics
Suvit to create startup fund, roll out key laws
IMF urges expansionary policy for Thailand
Economic boost of up to Bt100 bn tipped from stimulus 
Shipment drop runs straight into 4th month
Agencies to lure SMEs to border SEZs
Somkid eyes ‘economic cabinet’
Commerce minister to focus on agriculture, exports and trade deals
Wage-hike disaster looms for many companies, FTI warns
Uttama eyes tax adjustments
Rebuilding confidence top priority, says Somkid

Energy
New gas outline close to complete
Transparency a new goal for energy
First task for Energy minister: Defuse electricity generation battle
New energy minister stresses sustainability
Energy Minister directs PTT to cap LPG-NGV prices for two more months
Egat begins public hearings for Mae Moh coal plant units
ERC readies renewed push for solar rooftop scheme
Egat moves coal plant along
Thailand sets its sights on larger LNG share

Financial Services
BoT starts siege on hot-money flows
Thai banks to secure bank services with palm and facial biometrics as national ID gateway opens
Thai Commerce Ministry, Lazada join for 'Smart Village Online'
New Thai finance minister says will not interfere in central bank policy
Bank of Thailand Is Open to Discuss Libra, Concerned Over Security
Banks to ride on digital ID scheme with new services
Thai c.bank agrees to prepare capital inflow measures as baht climbs
New reporting rule for digital asset trading
Top Thai Bank’s Digital Platform to Drive Loan Growth Surge

Food & Agriculture
BAAC earmarks Bt55 bn for special loans to drought-hit farmers
Commerce ministry frets over rice output
Agriculture minister to tackle drought and falling prices
Civic groups call for reviews into Mekong River dam projects
Thailand publishes first draft proposal of new chemical law
Drought Devastating Rice Crops in North and Northeast of Thailand
Chiang Mai tells farmers to delay planting rice, raising fish 
Thai chicken exports boosted by Chinese demand

Health & Life Sciences
New minister hopes to have medical marijuana prescribed from August
Experts slam storing of biometric data
Govt defends new plan for health tourism
Anutin says no rush over weed plans
Resistant malaria spreading in South East Asia
Anutin to list pot as essential drug
Healthcare promotion urged for Thailand’s ageing society
Thailand Developing Telemedicine Programs in Rural Areas

ICT
Depa project gets backing from 14 firms
Digital asset scope may grow
DE minister to establish anti-fake news centre
NBTC, DE Ministry focus on critical trio
NBTC readies ratings system for August launch
Department has IP violators in sights
Top Thai bank expects digital lending to surge
NBTC to charge conduit fees

Infrastructure
Draft EEC town plan headed for approval
Bids in for SRT's B11.4bn double-track rail project
Calls for suspension of EEC city plan
Transport minister moving ahead with B880bn infrastructure projects
Third Bangkok airport proposed
Saraburi to Chachoengsao line to open soon
Makkasan land plans trigger rally
Department of Highways urged to review motorway plan
Thai Government Urged to Fast Track New BKK Terminal
New Bt70-billion toll motorway from west of Bangkok to upper South planned for 2024

Travel & Tourism
Tourism operators want handout sped up
Free cash to spur tourism, economy
New tourism minister sees lure of marijuana
Tourists’ safety my priority: new minister
Phuket tourism slows even as hotels, condos booming
Stronger baht not keeping tourists away
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Govt inks search and rescue deal with Laos Bangkok Post 15th Jul 2019
Thailand and neighbouring Laos on Saturday signed a bilateral agreement on aircraft search and rescue cooperation under the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) Convention on International Civil Aviation. "This agreement between Thailand and Laos will bring about better cooperation and understanding in this field of work," said former transport minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

PH urges Thailand to comply with WTO ruling Inquirer.net 14th Jul 2019
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez urged Thailand to give the Philippines what is due to the country after the former unfairly treated cigarettes imported from the Philippines. This developed after the World Trade Organization (WTO) sided with the Philippines on July 12 and upheld the country’s claims that Thailand violated WTO law on customs valuation. “This WTO dispute has been going on for more than 10 years now, Thailand has lost all three panel and appellate rulings, and it is about time that Thailand accepts the rulings and implement the customs valuation reforms called for by those rulings,” Lopez said.

National Affairs

Thammanat confirms Prawit has applied to join PPRP Bangkok Post 25th Jul 2019
Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompao on Thursday confirmed that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has applied for membership of the Palang Pratcharath Party. In doing so, he shrugged off claims that Gen Prawit had illegally wielded "outsider influence" on the party by attending a meeting of Palang Pracharath MPs on Monday this week.  The PPRP heavyweight said Gen Prawit had already applied for membership of the party and would not have control over the party’s operations. 

Afternoon policy debate focuses on economy, forest reclamation and crops prices The Nation Thailand 25th Jul 2019
Future Forward Party co-founder Piyabutr Saengkanokkul didn’t mince his words on the first day of parliamentary debate on the new government’s policies. The party’s secretary-general said the 35-page policy statement presented earlier by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha resembled nothing better than rushed homework, adding: “These policies can be summarized in 3 words: vague, indecisive and deceptive.” He didn’t finish there, describing the policies as just “lists of random, unrelated issues with no focus or clear objectives whatsoever”. Said the party list MP: “They are full of vague words like ‘development’ and ‘promotion’ but contain no steps leading to practical implementation. Some of the policies are indecisive and self-contradictory, such as the forest reclamation clause, which is listed together with the policy that promotes coexistence of people and the forest, or the guarantee of corps prices and farmers’ revenues, which clearly cannot be done simultaneously."

Govt questioned over lack of clarity in economic policies  The Nation Thailand 25th Jul 2019
Leaders of the opposition have criticised the government’s economic policies for lack of clarity in terms of funding, time frames and details of implementation, saying that it would exacerbate the problem of income disparity and household debt.  Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered his government’s policies to the parliament today, followed by a debate session in which key opposition leaders criticised the economic policies for lack of clarity, especially on how the government would fund the proposed projects. “The government has only given a general outline of their policies without disclosing sufficient details to members of parliament, on agriculture in particular,” said Pheu Thai Party leader Sompong Amornwiwat. On agricultural policy, Prayut stated that the government would guarantee income for farmers as well as implementing appropriate measures to stabilise the prices of agricultural produce. Sompong questioned how the government would guarantee farmers’ income, criticising it for not releasing enough details of the budget plans.

Uttama outlines ambitious plans Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
Addressing cost of living, easier retail loan accessibility, extending state welfare to pregnant women and firstborns, and improving healthcare services are among the Finance Ministry's priorities, says Minister Uttama Savanayana. Widening access to medical services, alleviating congestion at large hospitals and assisting top-scoring students who have financial difficulties will also be on the ministry's urgent list, he said after a discussion with the ministry's high-ranking officials. The short-term measures will be financed by the 2019 annual budget, while the longer-term ones will be funded by next year's budget, said Mr Uttama. He said the ministry will adjust the 2020 fiscal budget to enable government spending to be injected faster into the economy, while salary hikes for first-time workers would be in line with labour skills.

EC hurries local poll rules Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
The Election Commission (EC) is stepping up efforts to draw up a set of regulations to prepare for elections of local administrative bodies which are expected to begin in September. EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said the regulations are in line with six laws related to local elections which were enacted on April 17. The regulations must be drawn up by August, said Mr Ittiporn, adding that the cabinet will set the dates for local elections and determine where local elections will be held first. He said the poll agency will then decide when candidates for local elections will be allowed to campaign. Previously, the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued orders to suspend elections of local bodies which had completed their tenures. The NCPO claimed the suspension was aimed at preventing political unrest.

Little wiggle room likely in budget Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
If the long-awaited 2020 budget expenditure framework of 3.2 trillion baht, scheduled to seek the cabinet's nod on Aug 6, is not changed, a mere 70-80 billion baht will be left over for the government to make good on election promises. The first reading of the draft bill on the 2020 budget is expected on Oct 17. The 3.2-trillion-baht budget framework, earlier approved by the previous administration, is expected to be endorsed by the cabinet, said Dechapiwat Na Songkhla, director of the Budget Bureau. The 2020 budget is expected to take effect in January if the process continues as scheduled, he said. Given the prolonged government formation, the 2020 budget is three months behind schedule, as the fiscal year begins on Oct 1.

Pheu Thai launches 'Pheu Thai Plus' group Bangkok Post 23rd Jul 2019
The opposition Pheu Thai Party has launched a new political group, "Pheu Thai Plus", which it says brings members of three generations together to work together for the public good. New Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat and party key figures publicly launched Pheu Thai Plus on Tuesday. Julaphan Amornwiwat is chairman of the new group and Trirat Sirichantharopas is secretary-general. Both were present at the news conference.  Mr Sompong said the Pheu Thai Party comprises three generations - heavyweight, middle and new members. These generations will work together within the Pheu Thai Plus group.  

Prayut submits govt policies to parliament Bangkok Post 21st Jul 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has submitted his government's policies to the parliament speaker for debate, promising to move the country out of the middle-income trap during his tenure. The 40-page policy document was sent to Speaker Chuan Leekpai on Friday and was released to the public on Sunday. The document will be distributed to all lawmakers for study before the policy debate starts on Thursday. Gen Prayut will declare the policies before Parliament to start the debate with the Opposition ready to grill him and his cabinet members. The prime minister outlined 12 urgent issues for the government ranging from the fight against poverty to global economic uncertainty.

Constitutional Court accepts Prayut and FFP cases Bangkok Post 19th Jul 2019
The Constitutional Court has accepted a petition to rule on the qualifications of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, along with a second case that could spell further trouble for the opposition Future Forward Party (FFP). The complaint against FFP was filed by lawyer Natthaporn Toprayoon, who accused party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, his party and executives of trying to end the constitutional monarchy. The court also said it would issue a ruling on Aug 27 on the qualifications of ministers, including Suvit Maesincee, who was named Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister in the new cabinet. The court said there was no need to suspend Gen Prayut from work, as the petition and supporting documents do not show enough evidence of damage caused by the accused. In nay case, the petition did not seek a suspension.

Cabinet ministers sworn in Bangkok Post 16th Jul 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet members have been sworn in before His Majesty the King on Tuesday. His Majesty granted them an audience at Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall, or Ambara Villa, in Dusit Palace in Bangkok at 6pm.  Gen Prayut, who was royally appointed prime minister for the second term on June 11, said the cabinet was deeply grateful for His Majesty’s encouragement. The monarch asked the cabinet to work for the country and people and all cabinet ministers would do their best, he said after the ceremony.

Sompong elected Pheu Thai leader Bangkok Post 13th Jul 2019
The Pheu Thai Party on Friday elected Sompong Amornwiwat as its new leader with the urgent mission of spearheading a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the current parliament session. In a special assembly, Mr Sompong was named the new leader, succeeding Pol Lt Gen Viroj Pao-in who resigned early this month in what was seen as a move to get the party ready for its opposition role. Anudit Nakhonthap was named the party's secretary-general, replacing Phumtham Wechayachai. Both Mr Sompong and Mr Anudit stood for office unchallenged. The party's new 27-member executive board includes 11 MPs.

Customs

Law on import duty clarified after backlash The Nation Thailand 16th Jul 2019
The Customs Department defended itself on Tuesday in the wake of a social media storm over travellers’ claims they had been unfairly charged import duty at Thai airports. Many people complained about being charged for items they were bringing into the country. There was another angry reaction after a news report suggested that scanners would be installed at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s luggage belts by the end of the year to screen for goods being brought in for commercial purposes.

Thailand 'violated customs law' Bangkok Post 15th Jul 2019
A World Trade Organisation (WTO) Panel has upheld the Philippines' claims that Thailand has been violating international customs law. The dispute initiated by the Philippines in 2008 affects that nation's exports of cigarettes to Thailand, according to a statement released on Friday at www.dti.gov.ph. Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said: "This WTO dispute has been going on for more than 10 years now, Thailand has lost all three panel and appellate rulings, and it is about time that Thailand accepts the rulings and implement the customs valuation reforms called for by those rulings."

Economics

Suvit to create startup fund, roll out key laws Bangkok Post 25th Jul 2019
Suvit Maesincee, the higher education, science, research and innovation minister, has vowed to establish a Young Startup fund and roll out three new regulations to strengthen startups to spur the innovation-driven economy. Thailand ranked 43 out of 129 countries in the Global Innovation Index this year, dropping one position from a year earlier, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation. "Thailand will continue the momentum of its startups being an engine to drive the value-based economy through innovation, with cooperation from the government, private and academic sectors," said Mr Suvit. He was speaking at the opening of Startup Nation 2019 tech conference in Bangkok, which runs until Saturday. More than 500 startups are attending the event.

IMF urges expansionary policy for Thailand Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
An IMF delegation has recommended Thai policymakers use an expansionary policy mix to boost domestic demand while the economy stutters, according to preliminary findings of the agency's team after an annual visit to Thailand. The expansionary policy mix includes a scaling up of public investment projects combined with fiscal reforms and monetary easing consistent with a data-dependent approach, accompanied by macroprudential policies to preserve financial stability, said the findings, which will be presented to the IMF's executive board. The IMF staff visited Bangkok from July 4-19 to hold talks on the 2019 Article IV Consultation with officials from the government, the Bank of Thailand, other public institutions and representatives from the private sector. The IMF's executive board is tentatively scheduled to discuss the staff report in September.

Economic boost of up to Bt100 bn tipped from stimulus  The Nation Thailand 24th Jul 2019
The new government is expected to inject between Bt60 billion and Bt100 billion into the economy by the end of the year with policies to boost consumer spending and reduce the cost of living. However, economists question the government’s budget capabilities to fund these projects and suggest that it should prioritise policies that directly boost consumer spending. The economy is this year projected to grow at a mere 3.1 per cent, the Bank of Thailand said earlier this month, compared to the 4.1 per cent growth witnessed in 2018, . The key factor dragging down growth has been declining exports, which makes up for more than 75 per cent of the Kingdom’s GDP. With the new government established, the ministers have announced their immediate economic policies to stimulate growth in the second half of 2019.

Shipment drop runs straight into 4th month Bangkok Post 23rd Jul 2019
Thailand's exports dropped for the fourth straight month in June, attributed to weak global demand because of the global economic slowdown, ongoing trade tensions between the US and China, and lower oil prices. The Commerce Ministry said yesterday customs-cleared outbound shipments remained in the red, down by 2.15% year-on-year in June to US$21.4 billion after contracting by 5.8% in May, 2.6% in April and 4.9% in March. Exports in baht terms fell by 2.93% from June last year to 677 billion baht. Exports to most markets continued to ebb, with shipments to China falling 14.9% in June from a year earlier, while those to the US were down 2.1%.

Agencies to lure SMEs to border SEZs Bangkok Post 22nd Jul 2019
With large-scale industries reluctant to invest in the border special economic zones (SEZs), Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has assigned government agencies to come up with more measures and incentives to draw investment from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Mr Somkid said the Board of Investment (BoI), the Industry Ministry and the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) have been told to study how to entice more investment from SMEs after large-scale ventures have been tepid about border SEZs. The military-led government announced the formation of 10 SEZs in 2015 in Tak, Sa Kaeo, Mukdahan, Trat, Songkhla, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom, Kanchanaburi, Narathiwat and Chiang Rai.

Somkid eyes ‘economic cabinet’ Bangkok Post 19th Jul 2019
An economic cabinet will be set up as a mechanism to drive economic policy management and improve efficiency amid the sluggish global economy. According to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, he has already consulted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on the proposal. The economic ministers’ meeting to be chaired by Gen Prayut does not need to meet every week, Mr Somkid said. The meeting should only be held when there is a special agenda, he said.

Commerce minister to focus on agriculture, exports and trade deals The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit revealed his top policy priorities upon arriving at the office on his first day of duties with his deputy, Weerasak Wangsuphakijkosol, on Thursday. “The Ministry of Commerce will focus mainly on four pressing issues,” he said. “First is the revenue guarantee campaign for crucial economic crops such as rice, corn for animal feed, tapioca, rubber, and oil palm. The farmers’ revenue guarantee programme has been one of the most successful campaigns of the previous government and is therefore expected to continue following the existing procedures and regulations which have proved to be working.”

Wage-hike disaster looms for many companies, FTI warns Bangkok Post 16th Jul 2019
Raising the daily minimum wage to 400 baht would have a detrimental impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) says. The 400-baht wage was a Palang Pracharath Party election campaign promise. "The economy is not good now and this wage hike would certainly take its toll on SMEs," FTI chairman Suphan Mongkolsuthee said. A wage rise must respond to economic conditions in each area, he said.

Uttama eyes tax adjustments Bangkok Post 14th Jul 2019
Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana on Saturday pledged to consider adjusting income tax and corporate tax to bring the two rates closer. The maximum bracket for income tax is 35% while that of the corporate tax is 20%, he said. The impact of any adjustments to these taxes, including those on state tax revenues, will be carefully examined before any changes are adopted, Mr Uttama said. The newly-appointed finance minister mentioned the possibility of adjusting the two taxes in a speech he gave during the event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Market for Alternative Investment. "When it comes to tax adjustments, we have to be very cautious and make sure any changes will be suitable and balanced," he said. When asked if any new economic stimulus measures is required at the moment, the minister said he would have to wait until he starts work at the ministry first. He said any new economic stimulus package will have to be designed to serve specific target groups. The government would also have to ensure it is provided in sufficient amounts. At this point, all he could say was that new stimulus measures would have to be consistent with the available budget and realistic and effective to deal with the extremely volatile economy. Multiple stimulus measures may be launched one after another so they can cater to the changing economic situations at various points in time, he said. The minister also mentioned the possibility of raising the minimum daily wage rate. The Palang Pracharath Party, which he leads, pledged during its election campaign to raise to the minimum daily wage to 400 baht, up from 308 baht at present. He reiterated that parties in the coalition government will discuss ways to begin progressive adjustment of the wage to that target. The minister, however, emphasised that the wage adjustment will be implemented along with a push to improve labour skills of workers. Mr Uttama, meanwhile, gave assurances that small- and medium-sized businesses will have better access to sources of funding for business development. The Finance Ministry with Mr Uttama at its helm is expected to have its hands full managing the country's economy. The ministry, which ranks third in terms of total budget allocation with 242.8 billion baht for the 2019 fiscal year, has only one deputy, Santi Promphat, who is a list-MP of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party.

Rebuilding confidence top priority, says Somkid Bangkok Post 11th Jul 2019
Rebuilding the confidence of investors and the overall public is the top priority for the new government, says Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. The global economy is in a downward trend and the government must build confidence among the public and investors through new stimulus measures and accelerate planned infrastructure projects to lure more investment, said Mr Somkid, newly reappointed to his post. “Thailand’s role this year is quite outstanding in the region in its capacity as the chair of Asean, so we should seize this opportunity and this economic momentum to attract investors to invest more in Thailand,” he said.

Energy

New gas outline close to complete Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
The Energy Ministry is proceeding with a new draft of the national gas plan 2018-37, expecting to get the green light from Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong next week. A source from the ministry requesting anonymity said all relevant agencies are working to complete the gas plan, which will be proposed to the minister for approval. The gas plan is part of the national power development plan (PDP) 2018-37, with the new PDP approved by the National Energy Policy Council in January. The gas plan will emphasise gas exploration and production activities in the Gulf of Thailand, which is nearing depletion. With few gas resources, the government will need to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), the source said.

Transparency a new goal for energy Bangkok Post 19th Jul 2019
The Energy Ministry will work towards being more transparent and improving its reputation after politicians jockeyed for control in recent weeks, says newly installed Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. "This ministry is perceived as having value for politicians, who can benefit from controlling energy policies," Mr Sontirat said. He said the Energy Ministry will be monitored and all work traced because energy is one of the core engines driving the economy. "People cannot just benefit from this ministry and each granted project and licence will not be a favour to anyone," Mr Sontirat said.

First task for Energy minister: Defuse electricity generation battle The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
The Energy Ministry will on Thursday (July 18) submit a list of works for new minister Sontirat Sontijirawong to consider on taking office. The ministry will first ask him to acknowledge a letter it will send to the Ombudsman’s Office clarifying the state’s contribution to the country’s electricity generation. Kulit Sombatsiri, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said last Friday the letter was in response to the Ombudsman’s suggestion that the ministry revise its Power Development Plan (PDP) for 2018-2037 by boosting the state’s contribution to at least 51 per cent. The letter explains that the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) owns the power lines across the country, indicating that the state has invested at least 50 per cent in the country’s electricity generation system.

New energy minister stresses sustainability The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
New Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong has vowed to ensure the country's sustainability in energy supply. Speaking on the first day of taking office today (July 18) on Thursday, he said the costs of electricity and oil must be affordable to the general public, especially low income earners and small business operators. He added that he would discuss with the ministry's senior officials on whether the Power Development Plan ( 2018-2037) should be revised. The ministry will also focus on the absorption of palm oil as part of the crude palm oil management policy. He also said further study is needed on the ministry's plan to extend government subsidy for B20 biodiesel.

Energy Minister directs PTT to cap LPG-NGV prices for two more months Pattaya Mail 24th Jul 2019
Energy Minister Sonthirat Sonthijirawong says he has coordinated with PTT to consider extending the period of fixing LPG prices for street vendors and NGV prices for public transport until September. Currently the measures are due to expire at the end of this month. The move is aimed at helping low income earners and PTT has allocated 30 million baht a month in subsidies to cap the LPG price.

Egat begins public hearings for Mae Moh coal plant units Bangkok Post 18th Jul 2019
The state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) will start public hearings with stakeholders and local communities on Saturday in a bid to repower two existing units of the Mae Moh coal-fired power plant in Lampang. Egat is budgeting 37 billion baht for development cost to repower Units 8 and 9 in Mae Moh district.

ERC readies renewed push for solar rooftop scheme Bangkok Post 18th Jul 2019
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is gearing up to promote the household solar rooftop scheme and encourage participation after the current enrollment fell short of expectations. This programme began in May after the launch of the national power development plan for 2018-37. The latest plan focuses on new solar power generation of 10,000 megawatts, all coming from the solar rooftop type installed by homeowners.

Egat moves coal plant along Bangkok Post 18th Jul 2019
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is speeding up the process for a long-delayed coal-fired power plant in Chachoengsao province as newly appointed Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong takes the ministry's helm.

Thailand sets its sights on larger LNG share Petroleum Economist 18th Jul 2019
Thailand's newly elected coalition government, heading by former junta leader General Prayut Cham-o-cha, will look to significantly lift the proportion of natural gas in the country's energy mix, following the cabinet's approval of the amended Power Development Plan (PDP) at the end of April. Under the new PDP, the government aims to derive 53pc of the country's power from gas by 2037, an increase of 13 percentage points over the previous plan, 35pc from non-fossil fuels and 12pc from coal — reduced from 25pc in the previous plan. Efforts from the Thai authorities to build coal-fired power plants in southern Thailand have faced constant delays and domestic opposition.

Financial Services

BoT starts siege on hot-money flows Bangkok Post 13th Jul 2019
The Bank of Thailand's moves to counter hot-money inflows that have pushed the baht to a six-year high and the central bank's vow to impose more measures if such speculative flows linger rattled the local currency and the stock market on Friday. The baht weakened to 30.91 per US dollar from 30.61 on Thursday after the central bank announced measures aimed at taming short-term speculative flows, before rebounding to 30.80 later. The benchmark SET index slipped to Friday's trough of 1,728.36 points on a knee-jerk reaction to the announcement. It bounced back slightly to close the day at 1,731.59, down 0.5%, in brisk turnover worth 70.7 billion baht.

Thai banks to secure bank services with palm and facial biometrics as national ID gateway opens Biometric Update 23rd Jul 2019
Banks in Thailand are planning to offer biometric security for financial services including payments, loans, and electronic know your customer (e-KYC) processes for new account opening, the Bangkok Post reports. Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) is launching contactless palm vein recognition for customer identification and payment authentication, according to the bank’s Executive Vice President for Payment Product Solutions and Management Functions Srihanath Lamsam. The bank is testing the technology in its own sandbox before an expected official roll-out, with installations to payment terminals, later this year. The central bank has not yet granted the required permission to operationalize the technology, but did approve the use of fingerprint and facial biometrics for account openings last month.

Thai Commerce Ministry, Lazada join for 'Smart Village Online' ThaiVisa News 23rd Jul 2019
The Commerce Ministry has joined forces with Lazada, a leading e-commerce platform, in launching "Smart Village Online," targeting five communities in the country. Lalida Jivanantapravat, deputy director-general/ Department of Business Development under the Commerce Ministry, said the online initiative was launched after the department's visit to Pei Neu Village of Lin'an district in Zhejiang, a prototype for the "Taobao Village Model", using e-commerce as the main tool to promote occupation and generate income. The Commerce Ministry has applied the Taobao Village Model with local entrepreneurs and manufacturers of Otop and community products, aimed at gathering local communities and create a prototype of 'local e-commerce communities' in Thailand.

New Thai finance minister says will not interfere in central bank policy ThaiVisa News 22nd Jul 2019
Thailand's new finance minister said he will not interfere in the central bank's monetary policy decisions and will let it handle the strengthening baht currency. THB=TH. The ministry plans to introduce economic stimulus measures after the government has announced its policies in parliament next week, Uttama Savanayana told reporters. The baht has appreciated about 5.9% against the dollar so far this year, threatening the export-dependent economy and its pivotal tourism.

Bank of Thailand Is Open to Discuss Libra, Concerned Over Security Cointelegraph 20th Jul 2019
Bank of Thailand governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said that the institution is open to discussing Facebook’s Libra stablecoin with the company, Chinese state-run press agency Xinhuanet reported on July 19. Per the report, Santiprabhob made his remarks at the Bangkok FinTech Fair on July 19, pointing out that Facebook had already contacted the central bank many times. He also noted that the institution had established a new team to study Libra’s whitepaper, but their analysis will take time. “We are not going to rush into a decision of Libra as yet,” Santiprabhob reportedly said, continuing to emphasize the importance of security: Santiprabhob reportedly said that Libra cannot simply replace the Thai baht, concluding that “Libra cannot just step in and replace all currencies and digital money.” As Cointelegraph reported earlier this month, Fiscal Policy Office legal officer Sumaporn Manason argued that Libra will likely run up against difficulties entering Thailand as the cryptocurrency does not fall under any local financial legislation currently existing.

Banks to ride on digital ID scheme with new services The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
Thailand’s top commercial banks will roll out new financial service plans as they embrace the National Digital ID (NDID) scheme, which is expected to be officially launched in the fourth quarter of this year. The NDID is a blockchain database which stores the information of its users. The database has been developed jointly between the state-run National ID company in cooperation with 10 commercial banks in the Kingdom. The use cases in the financial sector include allowing clients to open bank accounts and make financial transactions online through digital facial identification, known in the financial sector as electronic know-your-customer (e-KYC).

Thai c.bank agrees to prepare capital inflow measures as baht climbs Nasdaq 16th Jul 2019
Thailand's central bank is preparing measures to control short-term capital inflows, while continuing to relax restrictions on outflows to cope with the strong baht , according to minutes of a policy meeting last month. The monetary policy committee (MPC) felt rapid appreciation of the baht might not be consistent with economic fundamentals and could impact economic growth, according to the minutes of its June 26 meeting released on Wednesday. "Given moderating economic prospects, current economic data from various sectors reflected that the Thai economy would be more sensitive to currency appreciation," the minutes said.

New reporting rule for digital asset trading Bangkok Post 15th Jul 2019
Parties involved with digital asset transactions worth above 5 million baht will have to report their trades to the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo). Local digital asset exchanges will be required to report digital asset trades with a value exceeding 5 million baht to commercial banks, then the banks must report such transactions to Amlo, said acting secretary-general Preecha Jaroensahayanon. The Finance Ministry will issue an additional clause in the digital asset royal decree on the compulsory practice, expected to take effect in early August, Pol Maj Gen Preecha said.

Top Thai Bank’s Digital Platform to Drive Loan Growth Surge Bloomberg.com 14th Jul 2019
Siam Commercial Bank Pcl expects digital lending to retail customers to climb almost eight-fold this year as Thailand’s biggest lender accelerates its online drive to win business. Credit card and personal loans via the bank’s mobile phone application will rise to at least 18 billion baht ($582 million) this year from about 2.3 billion baht in 2018, said Co-President Apiphan Charoenanusorn. A $1 billion investment to support the technology, due to be completed this year, has helped the online retail banking expansion, she said.

Food & Agriculture

BAAC earmarks Bt55 bn for special loans to drought-hit farmers The Nation Thailand 25th Jul 2019
The Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) has earmarked Bt55 billion to help farmers who have suffered adverse impacts from the severe drought.  The first measure is to extend special loans for farmers at 0 per cent for the first year, the bank’s president Apirom Sukprasert said on Thursday. Of the total budget, Bt50 billion has been put aside for these emergency loans.  Farmers will be offered five-year loans of up to Bt50,000, with 0 per cent interest charged for the first year, and a minimum interest of 7 per cent for the remaining four years, he said.  He added that the remaining Bt5 billion of the budget will be used to offer loans for improving the quality of life for farmers. These loans will be given at 5 per cent interest rate and will cover 1 million farmers nationwide. 

Commerce ministry frets over rice output The Nation Thailand 23rd Jul 2019
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said on Tuesday he would urgently meet rice exporters and related parties to discuss ways to boost exports once the government has unveiled its policies in Parliament on Thursday. He expressed concern that the drought gripping the upper half of the country could hamper plans to export 10 million tonnes this year. In a related matter, Anan Suwannarat, permanent secretary of the Agricultural Cooperatives Ministry, said the Department of Agricultural Extension had set up “war rooms” in all provinces to closely monitor the drought situation. The drought that has extended from May into July could cost the economy at least Bt15 billion, representing 0.1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, the Kasikorn Research Centre estimates.

Agriculture minister to tackle drought and falling prices The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
The new Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on has wasted no time in identifying his highest priorities. On July 18, his first day in office, Chalermchai and his 3 deputies - Thammanat Phromphao, Mananya Thaiseth and Praphat Phothasuthon – announced they would be focusing on the drought and plummeting crop prices, especially rice and rubber. “Drought is the most pressing issue as the whole country is suffering from lower rainfall,” he said. “We are formulating plans to tackle both drought and flood problems, mainly by providing compensation and suggesting weather-suitable crops as a substitute for the usual main crops. 

Civic groups call for reviews into Mekong River dam projects Bangkok Post 23rd Jul 2019
Civic groups on Sunday lodged a petition calling for governments of countries along the Mekong River to review upcoming dam projects. The petition was on Sunday submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by the Mekong Conservation Network in the North during a forum held in Chiang Rai province on the effect of dams on the Mekong River. Mekong Conservation Network coordinator Somkiat Khuanchiangsa said China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia must find a solution to contain ecological damage already caused by 11 operational dams and another 11 to be built on the lower Mekong. Pianporn Deetes, a conservationist representing the International Rivers campaign group, said a drastic drop in water levels and the ensuing ecological impact such as drought and fish extinction in the Mekong River "will become normal" if a series of hydro-dams such as Xayaburi dam start operating in the next three decades.

Thailand publishes first draft proposal of new chemical law Chemical Watch 22nd Jul 2019
Introduces risk-based regulation and new classification system Thailand has published the first draft of a proposed chemical law that would see the country shift to a risk-based regulation and introduce a new system for registering and classifying chemicals. The initial draft says the intention is to form a national chemicals agency, adopt a "precautionary principle" approach and apply lifecycle management to substances. The proposed law, would replace the existing Hazardous Substance Act (HSA), the country’s overarching chemical regulation. The draft was released on 23 April in a low key announcement, in time for a seminar organised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) three days later. A large part concerns the proposed structures for overseeing chemical management in Thailand, including: The proposal would create a national chemicals agency to support the committees and set up a chemical information centre. This would compile and share information on substances and their safe handling and disposal. The draft also sets out three substance classifications: These would replace the current four classifications of type 1-4 hazardous substances, with type 1 the least controlled and type 4 substances prohibited.

Drought Devastating Rice Crops in North and Northeast of Thailand CTN News 22nd Jul 2019
The severe drought, which has forced many farmers in Northern and Northeastern Thailand have given up on growing rice and have now allowed cattle to graze on their failed rice crops. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha apparently expressed “grave concern” over the situation in the North and the Northeast, assistant defence spokesman Phatchasak Patirupanon said yesterday. On Friday, the Office of National Water Resources asked the Lao government, asking it to suspend its test run of Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River in Laos. In Chiang Rai, residents and rice farmers are complaining over a drop of water level in the Mekong. They are also worried about the dam operations upstream in Laos and China. Meanwhile, farmers in Nakhon Ratchasima province in northeastern Thailand are also suffering from severe drought. Rice crops in paddy fields covering almost 200,000 rai in Phimai district are wilting and dying as the severe drought takes a toll.

Chiang Mai tells farmers to delay planting rice, raising fish  The Nation Thailand 22nd Jul 2019
The Chiang Mai provincial administration is looking into the possibilities of digging well to cope with future water shortages and will also seek cooperation from farmers to delay planting rice and raising fish in rivers when the water level is low, the deputy governor said Monday. Komsan Suwanampha said the provincial administration was contemplating digging underground wells in the southern part of the province, which is outside existing irrigation projects, to prevent water shortages in the future. Farmers will be encouraged to form groups to dig underground wells so that they would have enough water for farming in the future. Komsan said the provincial administration is confident that the remaining water would be enough for consumption at rate of about 1 million cubic metres per month.

Thai chicken exports boosted by Chinese demand The Nation Thailand 15th Jul 2019
Thai exports of fresh and processed chicken totalled 390,000 tonnes in the first five months of 2019, up 15 per cent from the same period of last year, according to the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association on Monday. The association’s manager, Kukrit Arepagorn, attributed the rise to growth in demand from China, which imported 25,000 tonnes of Thai chicken products in the first five months, up 1,462 per cent from the same period last year. Demand from other countries had also increased by up to eight per cent in the first five months, to 138,000 tonnes. Exports to South Korea, Japan and Malaysia also rose, he said.

Health & Life Sciences

New minister hopes to have medical marijuana prescribed from August The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
Public Health Ministry officials welcomed the new minister on Thursday, saying they will support his policy to promote medical marijuana and work towards getting the formula prescribed at public hospitals from early August. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul started his first day at work from 8.30am, when he showed up at the ministry with his deputy, Sathit Pitutecha. He was received by the ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Sukhum Kanchanapimai, ministry executives and officials.

Experts slam storing of biometric data Bangkok Post 16th Jul 2019
Cybersecurity experts have condemned the government for storing citizens' biometric data like eye and facial images that are at high risk for data leaks and identity theft. The theft of biometric data is extremely harmful for individuals because one cannot change his or her bio identity, said the Thailand Information Security Association (Tisa). The group will bring its concerns to the prime minister, and a member of Tisa's committee will personally sue in the Administrative Court on the grounds that the government is violating citizens' rights under the constitution.

Govt defends new plan for health tourism Bangkok Post 15th Jul 2019
The Department of Health Service Support (DHSS) has come out to defend the government's medical tourism scheme, insisting it will not push up medical fees for Thai patients as claimed by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). TDRI researchers earlier claimed that the medical tourism policy would see hospitals giving priority to foreigners and ignoring Thais. They warned of a brain drain in state hospitals as well as a rise in medical and drug costs in private hospitals. Dr Nattawut Prasertsiripong, director-general of the DHSS, said on Friday the scheme would not affect prices because of measures to control medical service fees.

Anutin says no rush over weed plans Bangkok Post 13th Jul 2019
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also leader of the Bhumjaithai Party has said he will implement his party's flagship ganja seri,or cannabis liberalisation policy, by launching a pilot scheme using public health volunteers within next two years. "The policy will materialise in a gradual manner, and with the help of medical institutes. I'll not use the political apparatus to push this policy because it will only make us a target for accusations about vested interests. The plan will slowly take shape over one or two years," he said at a workshop on marijuana for medical treatment.

Resistant malaria spreading in South East Asia BBC News 23rd Jul 2019
Malaria parasites resistant to key drugs have spread rapidly in South East Asia, researchers from the UK and Thailand say. The parasites have moved from Cambodia to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, where half of patients are not being cured by first-choice drugs. Researchers say the findings raise the "terrifying prospect" drug-resistance could spread to Africa. However, experts said the implications may not be as severe as first thought. What is happening? Malaria is treated with a combination of two drugs - artemisinin and piperaquine. The drug combo was introduced in Cambodia in 2008. But by 2013, the first cases of the parasite mutating and developing resistance to both drugs were detected, in western parts of the country. The latest study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, analysed blood samples from patients across South East Asia.

Anutin to list pot as essential drug Bangkok Post 22nd Jul 2019
Anutin to list pot as essential drug Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has vowed to make cannabis-based medicine widely available by incorporating it into the national essential drugs list. However, dispensing the medicine from the list will require close consultation with doctors, said the newly-appointed minister on his first day of work on Thursday. Medicines placed on the list can be made available to large sections of the population who belong to the "gold card" universal health scheme, the Social Security Fund and the civil service's healthcare programme. While experts have expressed concerns about the excessive use of cannabis extracts for medical purposes, Mr Anutin said the cannabis-based medicines must be subjected to tight regulations, on par with other prescription drugs. "First, it must be clearly established to whom we can offer the medicine. It's not a cure-all after all," he said. Nonetheless, he insisted that cannabis -- which remains an illegal plant under the law -- should be looked at in a positive light as people can derive health benefits.

Healthcare promotion urged for Thailand’s ageing society The Nation Thailand 15th Jul 2019
As the number of elderly people in Thailand continues to rise, Department of Health director-general Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn predicted on Monday that the country would have more than 20.5 million senior citizens by 2040. She therefore instructed all public officials to urgently conduct healthcare promotion to tackle age-induced ailments. Panpimon made her comments while attending a health promotion seminar in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, on sustainable promotion of “elderly club” activities nationwide. The campaign has three target groups: those “pre-ageing” people (aged 54-59) who will become elderly in the near future, senior citizens aged over 60 and those who are elderly and housebound.

Thailand Developing Telemedicine Programs in Rural Areas Chiang Rai Times News 13th Jul 2019
Thailand has begun development of its telemedicine program at 32 hospitals located in rural areas in eight provinces since March this year. As Thailand’s population continues to age, healthcare costs are rising and it is not tenable in the long-run to keep building hospitals. One possible consideration for the country is the shift towards value-based healthcare (VBHC), which is about improving healthcare outcomes at lower cost. It focuses on what patients value and allocates resources according to the health outcomes delivered by the system, rather the traditional model of a volume or visit-based healthcare system. While VBHC sounds promising, the reality is that it is challenging to achieve as transforming a health system that is truly patient-centred and outcome based requires a lot of work.

ICT

Depa project gets backing from 14 firms Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
Fourteen companies will provide financial support for the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) to help support the country's technology and innovation development. These 14 partners include PTT Group, Advanced Info Service, Total Access Communication, True Corporation, Krung Thai Bank and Toyota Thailand, said Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president and chief executive of the Depa. They will be working with Depa under the "Digital Economy Go 2Gether" project, meant to serve as a strong network of partners who share a common goal of driving digital technology and innovation in the country. Each will provide Depa with 150,000 baht a year to help it mobilise the digital economy. They will also work with the Depa to boost digital development in the economy, society, culture and security, pushing forward digital infrastructure and enhancing manpower skills in this area.

Digital asset scope may grow Bangkok Post 23rd Jul 2019
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is conducting a public hearing to expand the scope of businesses under the digital asset royal decree. Digital asset advisers and digital asset fund managers are the additional businesses pending official approval, said the SEC statement. These businesses are categorised into two types: digital tokens and cryptocurrency. Existing operating licences under the digital asset royal decree cover digital asset exchanges, digital asset traders and digital asset dealers.

DE minister to establish anti-fake news centre The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punakanta has set out three policy fronts to pursue the Thailand 4.0 scheme. Buddhipongse said these fronts covered digital economy, digital society and digital security. The Digital Economy and Society Ministry will also set up a Fake News Center to combat fake news in the country. With the digital economy, the ministry will develop an online platform to encourage companies in the private sector to use digital technology to support their businesses. It will promote initiatives such as cryptocurrencies. It will allow users to access e-government services via a single platform.

NBTC, DE Ministry focus on critical trio Bangkok Post 16th Jul 2019
The telecom regulator plans to continue pushing ahead in cooperation with the new government's Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry on three critical projects: fifth-generation wireless broadband adoption, putting the overhead telecom and broadcasting cables underground, and infrastructure sharing between state telecom enterprises to ease 5G adoption. The auctions for 5G spectrum, use-case development and Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) projects are seen as core drivers of the overall economy in the years ahead.

NBTC readies ratings system for August launch Bangkok Post 18th Jul 2019
The broadcasting regulator plans to unveil a new system for TV viewership ratings in August that will combine traditional forms of viewership with the more modern digital and on-demand channels, partly as a way of boosting ad revenue in the struggling digital TV industry. The new system will combine TV viewing via all platforms, including terrestrial digital TV, satellite TV and over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as YouTube and Netflix, showing the results in real time.

Department has IP violators in sights Bangkok Post 18th Jul 2019
The Intellectual Property Department is teaming up with leading online platforms and related parties to tackle counterfeit goods sold online. Director-general Thosapone Dansuputra said the department will have a discussion on Friday with leading online platforms including Lazada, Shopee, Facebook and Google, as well as law firms and government agencies such as the Department of Special Investigation, Royal Thai Police and the Digital Economy and Society Ministry on how to build cooperation in networking to tackle intellectual property violations against trademarks and copyrights via online platforms.

Top Thai bank expects digital lending to surge The Malaysian Reserve 15th Jul 2019
Siam Commercial Bank pcl expects digital lending to retail customers to climb almost eightfold this year as Thailand’s biggest lender accelerates its online drive to win business. Credit card and personal loans via the bank’s mobile phone application will rise to at least 18 billion baht (RM2.39 billion) this year from about 2.3 billion baht in 2018, said co-president Apiphan Charoenanusorn.

NBTC to charge conduit fees Bangkok Post 15th Jul 2019
The telecom regulator insists it will charge telecom operators service fees for cable conduits as part of an ongoing project to ensure that rates are fair and serve the city government's objective of putting all existing overhead telecom and broadcasting cables underground throughout the capital. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), through its wholly owned subsidiary Krungthep Thanakom (KT), has said it cannot lease cable conduits for telecoms to rent if the rates are unreasonable and conflict with the concept of infrastructure sharing.

Infrastructure

Draft EEC town plan headed for approval Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
A full draft of the new town plan for the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is scheduled to go before the EEC Policy Committee for approval early next month. Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, said the committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, is due to meet on Aug 5 to approve the new town plan draft for the EEC proposed by the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning. The new town plan for the EEC has an academic basis and conforms with international principles and Thailand's Town Planning Act, he said. The planning covers transport and logistics, information technology, residences and landscape, an appropriate environment for manufacturing of target industries, water management, waste treatment, safety measures and accident prevention.

Bids in for SRT's B11.4bn double-track rail project Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
Four groups of investors and one company on Tuesday submitted bids to supply train signalling and communications equipment for the first phase of the double-track rail upgrade project, worth 11.4 billion baht, according to the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). The project consists of three separate contracts: the 148-kilometre, 2.7-billion-baht northern route between Lop Buri and Pak Nam Pho in Nakhon Sawan; the 132-km, 2.4-billion-baht northeastern section Map Kabao in Saraburi to Chira Railway Junction in Khon Kaen; and the 169-km, 6.2-billion-baht southern route from Nakhon Pathom to Chumphon. A joint venture between China Railway Signal and Communication (CRSC) and Japan's Hitachi, a joint venture between Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) and South Korea's LSIS and German industrial giant Siemens tendered their bids for all three separate contracts.

Calls for suspension of EEC city plan Bangkok Post 24th Jul 2019
A group of residents is urging Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to suspend a city plan being mulled for development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project, saying it lacks local input. About 50 members of the so-called Friends of the East Network lodged a petition, addressed to the prime minister, at the government complaints centre on Tuesday. The group wants the premier to put the brakes on the plan, which they say would be destructive to people's livelihoods and the environment if implemented. The plan was conceived without input from residents who stand to be most affected by the project, according to the group. The project aims to turn most of the land in the three provinces of Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong into industrial zones. The government is banking on the EEC project changing the face of the three provinces, especially Chachoengsao which is a major agricultural centre.

Transport minister moving ahead with B880bn infrastructure projects Bangkok Post 21st Jul 2019
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob is moving ahead with the mega-infrastructure investment projects started by the previous government, worth a combined 880 billion baht. The Bhumjaithai Party key figure has outlined urgent investment projects to be implemented, including increasing the capacity at major airports to accommodate growing air travel demands, which would ease overcrowding at airports and welcome more tourists. Arrivals at the country's major airports are predicted to surge to 170 million in total in 2021 and to 170 million in 2024, according to the newly-appointed minister. The capacity expansion will begin with the 42-billion-baht construction of Terminal 2 at the country's gateway Suvarnabhumi airport.

Third Bangkok airport proposed Bangkok Post 20th Jul 2019
The Airports Department has proposed building a new airport in Nakhon Pathom province west of Bangkok to relieve congestion at the capital’s two main gateways. The 20-billion-baht facility, to be located on 3,500 rai straddling Bang Len and Nakhon Chaisi districts, would take four years to build, said Jarun Meesomboon, the department’s deputy director-general. The proposal will be forwarded to the Transport Ministry for its consideration, he said on Saturday. “The investment could be in the form of a public-private joint venture or a state-owned project, pending further study,” he said.

Saraburi to Chachoengsao line to open soon Bangkok Post 16th Jul 2019
A new double-track railway connecting Saraburi and Chachoengsao will open this September to bolster transport between the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and the North and Northeast. "Its construction is now 94% completed," acting State Railway of Thailand (SRT) governor Worawut Mala said yesterday. The 106-kilometre route will facilitate travel between Saraburi's Kaeng Khoi district and Chachengsao, one of three provinces on the eastern coast that form the EEC, the state's much-touted modern industrial hub project covering 30,000 rai of land.

Makkasan land plans trigger rally Bangkok Post 16th Jul 2019
Civic networks are set to rally in front of Government House on Thursday to demand the administration spare the State Railway of Thailand's (SRT) 497 rai of land in the Makkasan area from being included in its high-speed rail project linking three major airports. They stressed that the area serves as the capital's "lung" and the rail maintenance depot there could be turned into a museum for tourists. About 150 rai of the land is planned to be included in the 220-billion-baht high-speed train project linking three gateway airports -- Suvarnabhumi in Samut Prakan, Don Mueang in Bangkok and U-Tapao in Rayong. The project is part of the government's much-touted Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.

Department of Highways urged to review motorway plan Bangkok Post 15th Jul 2019
About 100 residents who claim plans for a 109-kilometre Nakhon Pathom-Cha-am Motorway project will affect their farms are demanding the Department of Highways (DoH) conduct a new round of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project. Over the weekend, residents met state representatives including DoH officials, at a seminar titled "The Future of Petchaburi and the Motorway to the South", organised by the Environment Reporters Club and its partners at Phetchaburi Rajabhat University. Sumul Sutaviriyawat, the chairwoman of the Natural Resources and Environment Conservation Club in Phetchaburi, said she was concerned the project will harm the livelihoods of local residents living not only in Phetchaburi, but also Ratchaburi and Samut Songkhram.

Thai Government Urged to Fast Track New BKK Terminal www.AviationPros.com 18th Jul 2019
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand on Wednesday urged the new government to speed up construction of the second terminal at Suvarnabhumi airport, warning a delay will affect tourism. CAAT chief Chula Sukmanop made the call  after the 42-billion-baht construction plan was halted.

New Bt70-billion toll motorway from west of Bangkok to upper South planned for 2024 ThaiVisa News 15th Jul 2019
The Department of Highways has set a deadline of 2024 to open a new Bt70-billion toll motorway linking the Bangkok border province of Nakhon Pathom with Cha-am district in Phetchaburi province. The department has dismissed local calls for the new road to connect with an existing highway. Satitpong Apimethee, the Department of Highways director in Prachuap Khiri Khan, said the new route would create a shortcut to the South for tourists and goods.

Travel & Tourism

Tourism operators want handout sped up Bangkok Post 23rd Jul 2019
Tourism operators are urging the Finance Ministry to speed up plans to give cash handouts to people for domestic travel to prop up the sector during the low season. The duration of such handouts should run from September until the end of December, with the amount at least 2,000 baht, higher than the 1,500 baht proposed by the ministry officials, said Phuriwat Limthavornrat, president of the Association of Domestic Travel. The planned 1,500-baht cash handout for tourism spending in second tier provinces was raised again along with other stimulus schemes be tabled for newly installed Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana.

Free cash to spur tourism, economy Bangkok Post 19th Jul 2019
The Finance Ministry is set to dust off a planned cash handout for travel to 55 secondary provinces by including it in the economic stimulus package going before new Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana. The proposed cash handout for spending in secondary provinces will cost the government tens of billions of baht if the measure comes to life, a source at the Finance Ministry told the Bangkok Post. In April, the ministry proposed that the military-led government offer a 1,500-baht one-off cash handout for travel in secondary provinces, aiming to boost tourism to these provinces, but the plan was scrapped after being criticised as being politically motivated.

New tourism minister sees lure of marijuana Bangkok Post 19th Jul 2019
The new tourism and sports minister plans to promote medical marijuana tourism and legalise ride-hailing and accommodation-sharing apps and websites to attract foreign visitors. Speaking on his first day in office, Pipat Ratchakitprakan, a key Bhumjaithai Party leader, said he wants to include marijuana in medical tourism, especially Thai traditional medicine and massage. "We would like to provide medical tour packages, such as detox, Thai massage and other wellness courses that use marijuana substances," said Mr Pipat. The marijuana tourism packages would aim to attract tourists from Europe and the US who have a positive perception about medical marijuana.

Tourists’ safety my priority: new minister The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
Newly appointed Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakijprakan says ensuring the safety of tourists is his most urgent task. Pipat said on July 18: “Thailand needs to give tourists the confidence to visit the country.” He vowed the incoming administration would do its utmost to make all tourists feel welcome but stressed that all policies depended on the view of the Prime Minister. This included any special steps to encourage visitors from China, which provides the highest number of tourists. 

Phuket tourism slows even as hotels, condos booming The Nation Thailand 16th Jul 2019
Phuket looks set to weather a perfect storm as soaring hotel supply is forecast to be challenged by declining tourism demand. New research from consulting group C9 Hotelworks in its “Phuket Hotel Market Update Mid-Year Edition” has revealed a development pipeline of 15,348 rooms set to enter the market over the next five years, which represents an 18-per-cent push in total supply. During the first four months of 2019 – high season – year-on-year international passenger arrivals at Phuket Airport slipped by 3 per cent, while the domestic segment was down 6 per cent. 

Stronger baht not keeping tourists away The Nation Thailand 16th Jul 2019
Despite the appreciation of the baht, Thailand has attracted as many as 21.08 million tourists in the first half of this year, marking a 0.81 per cent growth year on year, outgoing Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said. He added that the number of arrivals was on a steady rise for the first four months, but dropped by 1.03 per cent in May before picking up again in June and July.  During the same period last year, Thailand had about 20.9 million travellers.