Thailand Update: September 24, 2019

Thailand Update| September 24, 2019
Authors: Riley Smith, Ella Duangkaew, Aree Tomes
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Cabinet Approves Package to Encourage Investors to Relocate Investments from China to Thailand Amid U.S.-China Trade Tensions

On September 11, the Cabinet of Thailand approved a relocation package to incentivize foreign investors to redirect their investments in either new supply chain nodes or sourcing locations from China to Thailand. According to Deputy-Secretary General for Political Affairs to the Prime Minister, Mr. Kobsak Pootrakool, the package includes the following seven elements:

  • Additional tax and investment privileges, such as a reduction of corporate income tax;
  • Establishment of an investment steering and cooperation committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, to address barriers to investment;
  • Incentives for operators that employ highly skilled personnel in advanced technology;
  • Foreign Business Act amendments to improve information linkages between the Board of Investment and other state agencies. These amendments are meant to more easily facilitate visa and work permit procedures for investors;
  • Special investment zones for specific countries’ expatriates, including those from South Korea, China and Taiwan;
  • Revival of Free Trade Agreement Talks, particularly regarding the Thai-EU FTA and joining the CPTPP;
  • Additional corporate tax deductions for businesses investing in automation systems;

More information on the investment relocation package perks can be found here.

According to the Bangkok Post, the Board of Investment (BoI) expects around 5,000 companies to seek the packages’ incentives, and that the impact could cover 40,000 workers in the advanced technology field. According to Secretary-General of BoI Duangjai Asawachintachit, the package is meant to be Thailand’s version of South Korea’s New Southern Policy, China’s Belt and Road Initiative and India’s Look East Policy. According to Mr. Kobsak, the goal of the package will be to enable Thailand to compete with other countries in Asia for foreign investment, particularly from advanced technology firms.

The Cabinet’s speedy approval of this investment package, which the Ministry of Industry was tasked with finalizing just two weeks ago demonstrates strong commitment from the Government to deliver on its key policy statement promises. For more information on the impetus for the investment package and the new Government’s policy statement, see our recent Thailand Update (here) and our past Analytical Update (here). It is uncommon to see such rapid development and approval of a massive incentive package in the region, especially within the first few months of the new Government, which only assumed official duties following the delivery of the July 25 policy statement.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
Thai business community urges more action against fake goods
Trade war bolsters Chinese interest in Thailand
RCEP talks to end in November

National Affairs
Prawit ready to welcome 14 rebel MPs
Opposition plans no-confidence motion against PM
Ex-senator to run for Bangkok governor
Prayut 'not state official': court
Chuan lays down budget law
MPs urge charter change
Debate to go ahead
Prayut’s wobbly coalition stronger than it looks

Defense & Security
What Does Thailand’s New Defense Budget Say About its Future Military Outlook?
China-Thailand Military Ties in the Headlines With New Shipbuilding Pact
First Stryker Delivery Puts US-Thailand Military Ties into Focus
China-Thailand Submarine Deal in the Headlines with Keel-Laying Ceremony
Thailand-US defense ties heal as China makes gains in Cambodia
Thailand to acquire amphibious ship from China

Economics
Trade Transparency
Fee ceiling curbs motor insurance
Prayut: Zones vital for growth
Uttama upbeat about stimulus package
Somkid: More stimulus this month
EU ambassador upbeat on Thai FTA talks
VAT gradually falling short of 2019 target
Government downplays fears on economy
Prayut urges Qatar to ramp up EEC investment
New perks for firms relocating amid trade war
Prayut urges Asean to back micro-sized businesses
Labour minister to propose increase in daily wage
Thailand Plus: New Stimulus Package for Foreign Investment

Energy
Community power plans get stakeholder feedback
Fuel subsidies agreed for three months
Renewed gas field talks eyed
Community power plan clears panel

Financial Services
Thai, Cambodian SEC sign pact on capital markets
Central bank pushes chip-based cash cards
OIC tries to help insurers offset poor bond yields
BoT requiring SFIs to apply new caps

Food & Agriculture
Tax on high salt content dusted off
Excise predicts B1.5bn from next phase of sugary drinks tax
Central Food Retail appoints new CEO to move company forwards in an era of borderless retail and digital technology
Coalition considers demoting deputy agriculture minister, Thammanat Prompow
Mananya pushes farm chemicals ban
65% of Laem Charoen sold to MK Group
Govt gets tough on plot squatters

Health & Life Sciences
Wasting away
New hospital app cuts waiting time

ICT
Focus on preventing fake news
NBTC orders cable conduit lease do-over
Nectec launches website with AI database
BoI offers benefits for advanced tech training
6G, quantum computing among conference highlights
NBTC asks PM for 5G panel
Thailand launches new tech innovation centre
Digital integration keys in Asean
Building a startup Silk Road

Infrastructure
Thai Belt and Road project bumps into finance and liability issues
Plan for additional landline digit strays

Manufacturing
August factory output falls 4.4% y-o-y, worse than forecast

Travel & Tourism
TAT ratchets up campaigns in bid to meet trips target
World Heritage help sought
Sustainability made priority
August foreign tourist arrivals up 5.6% y-o-y
Ministry postpones levy on foreign visitors
Ride-sharing firms 'to be legal by March'

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Thai business community urges more action against fake goods Bangkok Post 24th Sep 2019
Thai business community urges more action against fake goods A group from the Thai business community in Cambodia has urged the government to crack down on those selling counterfeits of products made in Thailand in the kingdom. The call on Thursday came during a workshop on Countering Counterfeit Products jointly organised by the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh and Thai Business Council in Cambodia (TBCC) in collaboration with the Interior Ministry’s Counter Counterfeit Committee (CCCC). The Thai business community in Cambodia has noticed that imitations of some of their products are being distributed in the market, the Khmer Times reported on Monday.

Trade war bolsters Chinese interest in Thailand Bangkok Post 20th Sep 2019
Trade war bolsters Chinese interest in Thailand More Chinese manufacturers are looking to Thailand as a production base to avoid US tariffs, based on trends in demand for industrial estates. WHA Corp, the top Thai provider of such estates, said it expects Chinese companies to account for as much as half of its land sale contracts both this year and next, up from about 12% in 2018. The firm also develops industrial parks in Vietnam.

RCEP talks to end in November Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2019
Commerce and trade ministers from Asean's 10 member states and six trade partners have affirmed their commitment to finalising the negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of this year. Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said ministers from 16 countries have agreed the talks should be wrapped up soon and the result of the negotiations announced at the Asean Summit to take place in November. The signing of the RCEP agreement is expected in 2020, Mr Jurin told a press conference on Monday after chairing the 7th RCEP Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok.

National Affairs

Prawit ready to welcome 14 rebel MPs Bangkok Post 24th Sep 2019
Prawit ready to welcome 14 rebel MPs Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has welcomed the idea of 14 MPs from the Pheu Thai Party agreeing to vote in support of the government in important motions and legislation in parliament. "Certainly. We'll take their support," said Gen Prawit who is also chief strategist of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP). However, he insisted he had no idea if Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit and Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin, both senior PPRP figures, had breakfast with the 14 MPs on the morning of the Sept 18 debate in parliament on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's oath-taking mistake. The supposed get-together is believed to have involved a discussion on the MPs' support for the government, which is sitting on a thin majority and, say critics, is in desperate need of help from "cobras" or rebel opposition members to pass important legislation.

Opposition plans no-confidence motion against PM Bangkok Post 24th Sep 2019
Opposition plans no-confidence motion against PM The opposition is looking to petition the court and bring a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for ethical violations stemming from his oath blunder, Wan Muhammad Nor Matha, leader of the Prachachat Party, said on Thursday. The announcement follows the general debate in parliament on Wednesday, in which Gen Prayut was grilled for not having recited the complete oath of office during the cabinet's swearing-in before His Majesty the King in July. Mr Wan Nor said the prime minister failed to explain the gaffe during the debate on Wednesday and there were grounds to take him to task for ethical violations.

Ex-senator to run for Bangkok governor Bangkok Post 24th Sep 2019
Ex-senator to run for Bangkok governor A former elected Bangkok senator has announced her intention to run for Bangkok governor. Rosana Tositrakul, 66, posted on her Facebook on Tuesday she “accepted the support of people for Bangkok governor”. She wrote a lot of people encouraged her to run for City Hall office after reports she might be interested. Friends in various circles asked to meet her so she could talk with friends in their groups, she wrote. “This gave me confidence I would get support and cooperation from various civic groups in Bangkok so we can come up with the right policies for problems in each area,” she wrote. She added each solution must come from cooperation of people in each area.

Prayut 'not state official': court Bangkok Post 19th Sep 2019
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was not a state official when he governed as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), a decision that cemented his position as prime minister. The ruling was made in response to a petition signed by 110 MPs from seven opposition parties, which was forwarded to the court by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai. The MPs wanted the court to determine Gen Prayut's status when he ran for the top job in the last election, as Section 170(4), Section 160 (6), and Section 98 (15) of the constitution prohibits state officials to compete in a race for the premiership.

Chuan lays down budget law Bangkok Post 17th Sep 2019
Parliament President Chuan Leekpai is to meet all members of House standing committees to remind them about spending rules after they denied dividing up unspent budget allocations among themselves. Mr Chuan said on Monday he was shocked to hear rumours that members of all 35 House committees allocated themselves 100,000 baht each from money left unspent from a 90-million-baht budget. Anything left unspent is supposed to be returned to state coffers before the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30. However, according to the rumours, the unspent budget ended up in the pockets of standing committee members.

MPs urge charter change Bangkok Post 14th Sep 2019
A group of Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MPs on Friday tabled an urgent motion to the House of Representatives to push for amendments to the constitution. PPRP MP Wichian Chavalit yesterday submitted the motion signed by 50 party MPs to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to ask the House to set up a committee and public hearings to study criteria for amending the 2017 charter. Mr Wichian said the motion was submitted on behalf of the PPRP and had nothing to do with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Debate to go ahead Bangkok Post 13th Sep 2019
House Speaker Chuan Leekpai confirmed on Thursday the general debate on the incomplete oath recital by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will proceed as planned, saying it is part of the checks-and-balances process. He said the Constitutional Court's dismissal of a petition involving the oath controversy had nothing to do with the House, which is obliged to scrutinise the performance of the government. "In the general debate, MPs can discuss, ask questions and give suggestions to the government, as a part of the constitutional checks-and-balances process," he said.

Prayut’s wobbly coalition stronger than it looks Asia Times 12th Sep 2019
Make no mistake about it, Thailand has now firmly returned to noisy, raucous and hotly contested democracy after five years of coup-installed and heavy-handed military rule. Politics are again being fought out in an elected parliament, not commanded as military decrees or battled in the streets. Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door or military-enforced “attitude adjustment” sessions. Yes, the military is still lingering in the political wings and, yes, its ex-members are still in top government positions, with coup-maker Prayut Chan-ocha retaining the premiership. And, yes, the “democratic” opposition is rightly carping of foul play at the March 24 elections, in the vote-counting and post-election coalition building. Significantly, though, the coup-ousted Peua Thai party agreed to play by the junta’s tilted election rules and has abided by the result, filling its role in the parliamentary opposition despite winning the most seats at the March polls. The surprise rise of Future Forward, an upstart anti-military party that has the kingdom’s conservative elite in conniptions, was proof positive that the election had a large measure of democratic legitimacy, an assessment shared by many Western embassies and international agencies. Even more significantly, Thailand’s newly crowned king is asserting his royal prerogatives in ways seldom seen under his father’s long reign, a re-centralization of monarchical power some feel is gravitating towards more overtly palace-guided or influenced politics. But while Thailand’s new elected government may look wobbly on the outside, with some predicting it won’t last a calendar year, it is actually undergirded by strong pillars of support – arguably the pillars that matter most, namely big business, a conservative elite which entrenched its power during five years of military rule, and the monarchy.

Defense & Security

What Does Thailand’s New Defense Budget Say About its Future Military Outlook? The Diplomat 24th Sep 2019
Last week, the Thai government announced new defense budget figures for 2020. The release of the figures spotlighted the broader issue of the extent of continuity and change in Thailand’s defense posture following the holding of the first election held earlier this year since a coup back in 2014.

China-Thailand Military Ties in the Headlines With New Shipbuilding Pact The Diplomat 24th Sep 2019
Last week, China and Thailand signed a new shipbuilding pact. The agreement put the focus on ongoing efforts by the two countries to further boost the defense aspect of their wider bilateral relationship despite the issues they continue to face in doing so.

First Stryker Delivery Puts US-Thailand Military Ties into Focus The Diplomat 24th Sep 2019
Last week, a formal announcement was disclosed about Thailand receiving the first batch of a delivery of new military vehicles from the United States. While the delivery represented just the latest step in the advancement of a previously concluded defense deal between the two treaty allies, it nonetheless spotlighted the development of security ties between them within their broader relationship.

China-Thailand Submarine Deal in the Headlines with Keel-Laying Ceremony The Diplomat 24th Sep 2019
Earlier this month, a keel-laying ceremony was held in China for the first submarine ordered by Thailand in a landmark deal that initially made the headlines back in mid-2015. Though this is just one development within the wider agreement, it nonetheless marks yet another incremental inroad in the China-Thailand submarine deal.

Thailand-US defense ties heal as China makes gains in Cambodia Nikkei Asian Review 18th Sep 2019
Gen. Apirat Kongsompong, Thailand's powerful army chief, is shifting the kingdom's security architecture, and U.S. military equipment is helping to lay the groundwork.

Thailand to acquire amphibious ship from China Defense News 12th Sep 2019
Thailand has signed an agreement with a Chinese shipbuilder that will see the southeast Asian nation’s Navy receive an amphibious transport vessel from China, giving a much-needed boost to its amphibious forces. In a signing ceremony held in China’s capital Beijing on Monday, the Royal Thai Navy signed a shipbuilding agreement with state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation for a Type 071E amphibious transport dock.

Economics

Trade Transparency Bangkok Post 24th Sep 2019
Blockchain makes it possible for businesses and consumers to see what's happening at every stage of the supply chain, increasing trust and saving costs. Another day, another technology to consider. In recent years, the buzz has been all about blockchain, which was created initially to support bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that operate independently from central banks. Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger technology (DLT), is valued for its ability to publicly validate, record and distribute transactions in unhackable encrypted ledgers. It provides a platform to record every transaction on thousands of computers linked to networks in different parts around the world. Users can build digital identities from recorded digital and physical assets, allowing the information to be transparent and accurate. The recorded information is decentralised and secure as it is tamper-proof. This is seen to be exceptionally useful when it comes to one of the most cumbersome and inefficient aspects of business -- the global supply chain.

Fee ceiling curbs motor insurance Bangkok Post 19th Sep 2019
The insurance regulator is being urged to reconsider the ceiling on brokerage commission fees for motor insurance in order to accommodate existing market conditions, as the motor insurance segment has posted losses for five straight years. Kheedhej Anansiriprapha, executive director of the Thai General Insurance Association (TGIA), said the net loss ratio for motor insurance has seen considerable increases in recent years -- to 66% for the voluntary base and 60.9% for the compulsory base in 2018, up from 62.8% and 41.2% respectively in 2014. The result is that for every 100 baht of motor insurance premiums a company receives, 66 baht is paid for claims expenses, Mr Kheedhej said.

Prayut: Zones vital for growth Bangkok Post 19th Sep 2019
The government has vowed to step up development of the local economy, tourism and special economic zones to drive Thailand's future economic growth. Speaking on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government has been pursuing a 20-year national strategy (2017-37) for local economy development and accelerating vital infrastructure projects and special economic zones such as the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor.

Uttama upbeat about stimulus package Bangkok Post 18th Sep 2019
The 1,000-baht cash giveaway, 15% cash rebate and low-rate loan scheme stimulus measures are expected to pump at least 200 billion baht into the economic system, says Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana. The stimulus package is aimed at cushioning against the impacts of global economic volatility, he said. In August, the government unveiled the 316-billion-baht stimulus package, hoping to increase the country's economic growth to at least 3% this year after posting only 2.3% growth year-on-year in the second quarter and 2.8% in the first.

Somkid: More stimulus this month Bangkok Post 10th Sep 2019
The government plans to launch new stimulus measures this month for the rural poor, hoping to beef up GDP growth to surpass 3% in 2019, says Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. "We will order the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives [BAAC], the Finance Ministry, the Housing Fund and the Industry Ministry to cooperate on developing new measures for farmers under the Pracha Rat scheme," he said. "The agencies will start discussions imminently."

EU ambassador upbeat on Thai FTA talks Bangkok Post 10th Sep 2019
The EU ambassador to Thailand said he was "optimistic" the long-delayed free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations will continue between Thailand and the EU, speaking at the 7th annual EU-Asean Business Summit in Bangkok. "Development in Asean must start first with the group's top countries, Singapore and Vietnam, and I hope we will be able to continue trade negotiations with Thailand," Pirkka Tapiola, EU ambassador to Thailand and head of the EU delegation to Asean, said yesterday at the summit.

VAT gradually falling short of 2019 target Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2019
The Revenue Department estimates that value-added tax (VAT) collection will fall short of the target for this fiscal year because of waning domestic consumption and the stronger baht, and the shortfall could extend to next year if the situation remains unchanged. VAT collection, an indicator of domestic consumption, was 0.5% lower than targeted for the nine months through June. The shortfall grows to 2.1% if the primary data for July is included, said Ekniti Nitithanprapas, director-general of the department.

Government downplays fears on economy Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2019
The government has moved to ally fears about the state of the economy, insisting the country is not in recession. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said some critics are relaying inaccurate descriptions of the state of the economy. Certain civic groups have said the country has slid into recession, which is incorrect. A recession is when the country experiences negative growth in two successive quarters, which is not the case, the spokeswoman said.

Prayut urges Qatar to ramp up EEC investment Bangkok Post 7th Sep 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged Qatar to ramp up investment in the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and buy more rice, rubber and palm products. Gen Prayut's comments came as he met the outgoing Qatari ambassador to Thailand, Jassim Bin Abdulrahman Bin Mohammed Al Thani, who made a farewell courtesy call on the prime minister at Government House on Friday. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said Gen Prayut thanked the Qatari ambassador for his vigorous role in fostering ties between the two countries during the past three years.

New perks for firms relocating amid trade war Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2019
'Thailand Plus' incentives include more tax breaks and possible tweaks to Foreign Business Act The economic cabinet on Friday approved the Thailand Plus incentive package to woo foreign firms looking to relocate production amid the snowballing Sino-US trade war. The package covers tax incentives, special investment zones for individual countries and plans to change the foreign business law to facilitate foreign investment.

Prayut urges Asean to back micro-sized businesses Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged Asean countries to support "micro-SMEs" by keeping their owners abreast of digital technological know-how and to ensure they have access to financial resources. Thailand, the current Asean chair, started helping struggling businesses from last year in a move to stimulate the local economy. Micro-SMEs, which are defined as businesses with no more than five workers -- even smaller than small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) -- will be given more aid as the SME Bank was told to adjust its loan criteria.

Labour minister to propose increase in daily wage Bangkok Post 24th Sep 2019
Labour Minister MR Chatu Mongol Sonakul plans to propose a daily minimum wage increase to the cabinet in February. The minimum wage rise is part of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party's campaign promise to lift the rate from a range of 308 to 330 baht per day to between 400 and 425 baht per day. 

Thailand Plus: New Stimulus Package for Foreign Investment ASEAN Business News 24th Sep 2019
On September 6, 2019, Thailand introduced a stimulus package called “Thailand Plus” that contains a wide variety of measures to attract foreign investment. Thailand Plus covers seven key points, including the introduction of new tax incentives and deductions as well as reforms and initiatives designed to improve the ease of doing business. The package was reportedly designed for companies affected by the US-China Trade War that would like to relocate to another country in Asia. Authorities in Thailand hope the move will give it a competitive edge over other low-cost neighbors, like Vietnam, particularly as the Thai economy is growing at its weakest in five years, due to a downturn in exports, tourism, and farming. Investors looking to take advantage of the new stimulus package should seek to develop a base understanding of the new Thailand Plus scheme before assessing factors that may benefit their business. Meanwhile, several of the initiatives announced as part of the package still require implementation measures.

Energy

Community power plans get stakeholder feedback Bangkok Post 19th Sep 2019
The Energy Ministry will conclude plans for community-owned power projects under the Energy for All scheme within the next few months, says Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. Relevant agencies are working on the scheme, and two state-run utilities, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), are allowed to invest in community-owned power projects, Mr Sontirat said. "The ministry is gathering opinions from stakeholders in the scheme to draw up details and business models," he said.

Fuel subsidies agreed for three months Bangkok Post 18th Sep 2019
The Energy Policy Administration Committee (Epac) has agreed to reduce a levy collection from gasoline and diesel users by another one baht and 60 satang per litre respectively from Wednesday. The levy reduction is part of urgent measures to tackle a short-term price hike in global oil after two refineries in Saudi Arabia were attacked on Saturday. Epac expects local motorists to see no effects from the price increase.

Renewed gas field talks eyed Bangkok Post 13th Sep 2019
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to consider reopening talks on the development of the energy-rich, overlapping claims area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand claimed by both countries. The resolution was revealed by Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, following a meeting with the Cambodian Minister of Mines and Energy on the sidelines of the 37th Asean Ministers on Energy Meeting (Amem) in Bangkok. The meeting started on Monday and is scheduled to end on Friday. In the discussion, representatives from both countries agreed that the OCA should be developed in a way that benefits both Thailand and Cambodia, and that the talks should be held "as quickly as possible". "We are looking at the best way to resume discussion on the matter after several decades of delay," said Mr Sontirat. "While a definite time frame has not been agreed on, Cambodia will be informed once we manage to clear the hurdles on our side. Hopefully the discussion can resume then." Mr Sontirat also said that both countries have agreed in principle that the OCA should be developed for mutual interests. The minister also said that he hopes Thailand and Cambodia can strike a deal similar to the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area (JDA), which allows each country to claim 50% of the area's total gas output. Mr Sontirat also said that Thailand has asked Cambodia to come up with measures to attract Thai private energy firms, as well as Thailand's state-owned firms, to invest in Cambodia's energy sector. The minister also said that Thailand has offered to sell some of its electricity to Cambodia, which still cannot produce enough electricity to meet its domestic demand.

Community power plan clears panel Bangkok Post 13th Sep 2019
The National Energy Policy Council (NEPC) has approved community-owned power projects under the Energy for All scheme, enabling private companies to form joint ventures with local communities to operate renewable power projects in remote areas. The council, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, gave the nod on Wednesday in order to enhance the management efficiency of local power projects. Private companies can invest in the Energy for All scheme, and two state power enterprises -- the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and the Provincial Electricity Authority -- are also allowed to invest in community-owned power projects, said Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. "The government aims to strengthen local communities that have the potential to establish their own power plants," he said. "They can reduce power costs in the long run, consume the electricity output and increase value for other businesses such as storage for farm and processed crop products." Mr Sontirat said Egat will purchase surplus electricity from the power projects, while communities can generate income by selling raw materials to be used as fuel in the plants. The government aims to boost remote communities and impoverished areas with the power projects, which are expected to commence operation in 2022. Separately, the council also approved a plan to promote biodiesel production in order to stabilise the country's stock of crude palm oil. "The government will implement biodiesel B10 as the primary diesel in early 2020, replacing the current biodiesel B7," Mr Sontirat said. "B7 and B20 will be alternative diesels." The government will introduce B10 in October with a price two baht per litre lower than for B7. B20 will be three baht per litre lower than B7, down from five baht previously.

Financial Services

Thai, Cambodian SEC sign pact on capital markets Bangkok Post 18th Sep 2019
Cambodia and Thailand's Securities Exchange and Commission (SEC) yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on mutual cooperation for capital market development through cross-listing, dual listing and depositary receipt offerings. The move aims to push forward securities offerings, connecting the Cambodian and Thai capital markets. It also supports Thailand's 20-year national strategy to promote the country as a regional fundraising hub. The MoU expands the scope of cooperation from the framework signed by both organisations in 2014 and establishes guidelines for securities offering in Cambodia and Thailand.

Central bank pushes chip-based cash cards Bangkok Post 18th Sep 2019
The Bank of Thailand has urged holders of 20 million magnetic-stripe ATM and debit cards to change to chip-based cards by year-end to avoid being unable to use the cards after Jan 16, 2020. Of the 20 million total cards, 26% were issued in the Northeast, 19% in the central region, 14% in the North and 12% in the South, said assistant governor Siritida Panomwan Na Ayudhya. The central bank and the Thai Bankers' Association (TBA) have encouraged holders of magnetic-stripe ATM and debit cards to migrate to chip-based cards for two years, citing security, and 47 million cards have been replaced.

OIC tries to help insurers offset poor bond yields Bangkok Post 14th Sep 2019
The Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC) wants to ease the liability adequacy test (LAT) calculation for life insurance companies to alleviate the impact from falling bond yields on businesses. A final conclusion is expected in the third quarter, said Nusara Banyatpiyaphod, president of the Thai Life Assurance Association (TLAA). Life insurers will also explore other options, including revising the guaranteed return rate for policyholders and focusing more on unit-linked products to mitigate the impacts, she said.

BoT requiring SFIs to apply new caps Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2019
The Bank of Thailand is requiring four specialised financial institutions (SFIs) to apply a cap on the single lending limit (SLL) of 15% of capital funds, while two other SFIs have a cap of 25%, effective from Oct 1. Government Savings Bank (GSB), the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), GH Bank and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank (SME D Bank) are required to adopt the ceiling SLL of 15% of their capital funds, the central bank said in a release. The Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Thailand) and the Secondary Mortgage Corporation (SMC) must limit their lending to a single group of firms at 25%.

Food & Agriculture

Tax on high salt content dusted off Bangkok Post 10th Sep 2019
The Excise Department has unveiled an old plan to tax salty foods by setting a ceiling at 2,000 milligrammes per day of sodium as a benchmark to determine the levy rates, a senior official says. Imposing a tax on foods containing high sodium levels follows a similar practice for sugary beverages, said Nattakorn Utensut, deputy spokesman for the Excise Department. The potential benchmark is based on a health standard that advises people consume less than 2,000mg of sodium per day, he said.

Excise predicts B1.5bn from next phase of sugary drinks tax Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2019
The Excise Department estimates the second phase of the tax hike on sugar-sweetened beverages, effective from Oct 1, will contribute an additional 1.5 billion baht a year to state coffers. The sugary drink tax now generates 2 billion baht a year for the government, said deputy spokesman of the Excise Department Nattakorn Utensut. Thailand applied the excise tax on sugary drinks from Sept 16, 2017 with a goal of lowering sugar consumption. The rates rise on a gradual basis over four phases: Sept 16, 2017 to Sept 30, 2019; Oct 1, 2019 to Sept 30, 2021; Oct 1, 2021 to Sept 30, 2023; and from Oct 1, 2023.

Central Food Retail appoints new CEO to move company forwards in an era of borderless retail and digital technology Bangkok Post 11th Sep 2019
Central Food Retail Company Limited which runs food stores and premium supermarkets in Thailand, Central FamilyMart Company Limited which operates convenience stores, and Central & Matsumoto Kiyoshi Company Limited, the no. 1 health and beauty business from Japan. Central Group has recently announced the appointment of Stephane Coum as Chief Executive Officer of Central Food Retail Group, alongside his position as President of Central Food Retail Company Limited. Concurrently, Alistair Taylor has been appointed President of Central FamilyMart Company Limited effective from 1st August, 2019. These moves are designed to drive the company’s New Central, New Retail strategy forward in an era of borderless retail and digital technology.  

Coalition considers demoting deputy agriculture minister, Thammanat Prompow The Thaiger 11th Sep 2019
The Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow has had his accounts about his role in a 3.2 kilogram heroin-smuggling ring challenged by an Australian newspaper. The events back in 1993 landed Thammanat in a Sydney jail for four years. Thammanat Prompow is the Palang Pracharath MP for Phayao province in Thialand’s north. The article by the respected Sydney Morning Herald, “From sinister to minister: politician’s drug trafficking jail time revealed” is the result of an investigative report team going back over court documents at the time. “The Herald and The Age can reveal that a newly appointed senior member of Thailand’s ruling party spent four years in a Sydney jail in the 1990s for his role in trafficking 3.2 kilograms of heroin into Australia. He was deported on his release from Parklea prison.”

Mananya pushes farm chemicals ban Bangkok Post 11th Sep 2019
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Mananya Thaiset said her ministry and the Public Health Ministry have agreed to push for a ban on paraquat and two other hazardous farm chemicals. She was talking after Tuesday's meeting with 686 organisations which have been campaigning for the three farm chemicals -- paraquat, glyphosate and chloropyrifos -- to be banned by the end of this year. She said reports and proposals for alternatives to be submitted to the Industry Ministry will be made carefully so the ban proposals are not rejected as in the past. "When the Agriculture Ministry's committee [studying the negative impacts from the hazardous farming chemicals] has finished its report and proposals, I will sign my name and forward them to the Industry Ministry immediately," she said.

65% of Laem Charoen sold to MK Group Bangkok Post 10th Sep 2019
Laem Charoen Seafood, a 40-year-old Thai restaurant chain, expects stronger business results after selling a majority stake to SET-listed MK Restaurant Group last Friday. Chaitas Narakulsookpipat, the company's managing director, said the company decided to sell the stake to MK because it is confident the partnership will bring about synergy and improve business. Laem Charoen has been in the 400-billion-baht Thai restaurant industry for four decades and hopes for sustainable growth with the partnership. "MK Restaurant is a very successful chain in Thailand because it has expertise and knowledge from being in the business for a long time," said Mr Chaitas. "The group boasts a vast range of businesses, comprising suki, Japanese and takeaway restaurants, as well as food courts. MK also has high brand loyalty." MK Restaurant Group informed the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) last Friday the group, through Catapult, a 99.99% subsidiary of the group, acquired a 65% stake in Laem Charoen Seafood Co for 2.06 billion baht.

Govt gets tough on plot squatters Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2019
The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has toughened its stance towards encroachment of Sor Por Kor land, ordering the Agricultural Land Reform Office (Alro) to re-examine to examine the eligibility of the plots' occupants. Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow said he has instructed Alro's secretary-general, Winarot Sapsongsuk to seized back Sor Por Kor plots which have been improperly allocated to be redistributed to landless farmers. Capt Thamanat said about 800,000 landless farmers are still waiting to be allocated Sor Por Kor lands. Under the government's land reform programme, 40 million rai of land were set aside to be distributed to the poor. About 36 million rai have been allocated, while the remaining four million rai have yet to be parcelled out, pending further verification. He said Sor Por Kor plots that are not suitable for farming can be developed into a community-based enterprise, but the scheme must be approved.

Health & Life Sciences

Wasting away Bangkok Post 16th Sep 2019
A government ban on single-use plastics deals with a scourge in Thailand, but a pilot project in Rayong also shows promise Plastic is omnipresent in Thailand. It's found everywhere, from luxury shopping malls to 7-Eleven convenience stores, on almost every street corner and beneath the skin of some individuals. It's even inside the stomachs of much marine life. The unprecedented death rate of dugongs and microplastics found in mackerel have sparked alarm among happy-go-lucky Thais, with the government finally issuing an ultimatum to end single-use plastic by 2022.

New hospital app cuts waiting time Bangkok Post 11th Sep 2019
CHON BURI: Chon Buri Hospital has become the first hospital in the country to offer a mobile app that allows patients to check information on government medical welfare packages, a step that can reduce patient waiting times and ease hospital congestion. The government-run provincial hospital has worked with Kasikorn Bank to create a friendly user-mobile app, known as CBH Plus, which stands for Chon Buri Hospital Plus. The app has been downloadable since early this year for patients at the most crowded government hospital in the province. CBH Plus has been linked to the government database that provides information on all three government medical welfare schemes -- the 30-baht universal healthcare, social welfare and medical welfare given to government officials. The app can help patients check their welfare packages and their entitlements.

ICT

Focus on preventing fake news Bangkok Post 23rd Sep 2019
The Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry is gearing up for the government's anti-fake news mission through school courses, public workshops and dissemination of factual information on social media. Yesterday, DE Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta said he will talk with the Education Ministry about adding a course on digital literacy to the school curriculum. A clear resolution on the issue is expected by the end of this year, he said.

NBTC orders cable conduit lease do-over Bangkok Post 17th Sep 2019
The telecom regulator has ordered city hall’s business arm Krungthep Thanakom (KT) to repeat the process of seeking operators to lease underground cable conduits, saying the previous document asking for expressions of interest to join the scheme may have caused misunderstandings. The National Digital Economy and Society Committee earlier approved the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) decision, through wholly owned subsidiary KT, to move ahead with the underground cable conduit project in Bangkok.KT then wrote to more than 20 telecom operators, inviting them to lease the conduits, but only True Corporation expressed interest.

Nectec launches website with AI database Bangkok Post 10th Sep 2019
The National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec) has launched a website that allows programme developers, startups and businesses to access an artificial intelligence (AI) research database and services to develop products linked with the technology. The website -- www.aiforthai.in.th -- is part of Nectec's efforts to push Thailand to become an AI product creator rather than merely a user. AI development could also serve as one of the country's new S-curve industries, a government priority over the next three years.

BoI offers benefits for advanced tech training Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2019
Private companies trying to develop human resources for high-tech industries can take advantage of promotional privileges from the Board of Investment (BoI). Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said companies can enjoy the BoI's promotional packages if they establish their own human resource development academy or partner with universities to provide workers to supply high-tech industries. The tax measures will also be available to companies that organise training programmes for employees in technology, Mr Somkid said. This package focuses on vocational and other non-traditional degrees to address the labour shortage in the sector.

6G, quantum computing among conference highlights Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2019
5G and 6G cellular networks, quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and mobility service are among the key technologies that will have the most impact on the public in the next five years, says the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). "The advancement of science and technologies will improve people's lives and reduce social inequality, while making an economic impact," Narong Sirilertworakul, president of the NSTDA, said at the agency's annual technology conference yesterday.

NBTC asks PM for 5G panel Bangkok Post 23rd Sep 2019
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has written to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, asking him to establish a national 5G strategy committee to ensure adoption nationwide by next year as planned.

Thailand launches new tech innovation centre OpenGov Asia 19th Sep 2019
A Thai telecoms operator has announced the launch of what it claims is the first digital innovation centre in the country. In a statement, the firm’s Chairman stated that the True Digital Park is focused on strengthening cooperation, encouraging alliances and building a complete ecosystem for start-ups. The facility, which will also house its new 5G Arena and an innovation testing centre, is designed to enable teams from multinational technology companies, private organisations and educational institutions to exchange ideas, experiences as well as trends in the tech business.

Digital integration keys in Asean Bangkok Post 11th Sep 2019
Southeast Asia can be a poster child for digital integration but it needs both top-down and bottom-up momentum for that to happen. It also requires regional leadership. Can Thailand play that role? Southeast Asia's digital economy was worth US$31 billion in 2015, and is forecast to grow to $200 billion by 2025. But this figure could be a substantial underestimate if the region reaches an agreement on a common set of standards for data handling and digital commerce.

Building a startup Silk Road Bangkok Post 11th Sep 2019
Cultivating a startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia has become a priority in a world where innovation and creativity increasingly hold the keys to prosperity. According to CB Insights, US$208 billion has been invested in technology-based startups across Asia Pacific since 2012. Southeast Asia, in particular, has become increasingly attractive for investors. Forbes magazine noted last year that the potential of the region's tech sector is "no longer a secret". The FTI has been holding classes to "teach innovative skills to tycoons in our industries". It has also hosted hackathon projects in universities to inspire students who may want to form startups.

Infrastructure

Thai Belt and Road project bumps into finance and liability issues Nikkei Asian Review 12th Sep 2019
Thailand's government is delaying China's ambitious high-speed railway project in the country as questions over financing and liabilities of the $9.9 billion infrastructure initiative remain unresolved. Sources within Thailand's transport sector confirmed to the Nikkei Asian Review that behind-the-scenes negotiations between Bangkok and Beijing over the showpiece venture under China's Belt and Road Initiative are still ongoing.

Plan for additional landline digit strays Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2019
The government's plan to add one digit to all nine-digit fixed-line telephone numbers nationwide by 2021 is at risk of faltering as state telecom enterprise TOT struggles to acquire a budget of 1 billion baht to develop a transmission system to facilitate the change. The change was earlier pushed by the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry and the telecom regulator, which indicated that adding one digit would increase the supply of mobile phone numbers substantially.

Manufacturing

August factory output falls 4.4% y-o-y, worse than forecast Bangkok Post 24th Sep 2019
August factory output falls 4.4% y-o-y, worse than forecast Thailand's manufacturing production index (MPI) in August dropped 4.4% from a year earlier, dragged down by lower production of cars, electronics and rubber products, the industry ministry said on Tuesday. That compares with a forecast of a 3.6% decline in a Reuters poll, and July's revised 3.32% contraction. Capacity utilisation was 65.75% in August, compared with July's revised 65.26%. The ministry cut its 2019 MPI growth forecast to 0.5% from 2% seen earlier. Last year, the MPI rose a revised 3.6%. 

Travel & Tourism

TAT ratchets up campaigns in bid to meet trips target Bangkok Post 18th Sep 2019
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has stepped up marketing plans for the final quarter this year with the aim of boosting domestic tourism and reaching 170 million trips as targeted this year. Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said two new campaigns will be implemented after receiving cabinet endorsement next week: "Visit Thailand With 100 Baht" and "Shocking Weekday Travel". He said tourists will enjoy heavy discounts and deals on tourism services under the campaigns, which will extend through the fourth quarter.

World Heritage help sought Bangkok Post 16th Sep 2019
Phuket Old Town needs more support from the government to be prepared for evaluation as a World Heritage Site, as the Fine Arts Department plans to submit the city to Unesco for the 2020 list. Don Limnunthaphisit, president of the Phuket Old Town tourism community, said the city would like to receive a rolling budget each year to support renovations, as do Penang and Malacca, cities in Malaysia on the World Heritage List. The town does get some funding from the government, but the community is still responsible for most aspects of the renovation process and volunteer efforts may not be enough to achieve World Heritage Site status.

Sustainability made priority Bangkok Post 10th Sep 2019
The Tourism and Sports Ministry is set to build awareness among Thais about sustainable tourism after the country's environmental management for natural resources was ranked poorly by a global agency. The World Economic Forum's recent Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 ranked Thailand 31st out of 140 countries globally, up from 34th in 2017. But in the environmental sustainability category, Thailand dropped to 130th from 122nd. For this category, Thailand received 3.6 out of seven points this year, an incremental rise from 3.57 two years ago.

August foreign tourist arrivals up 5.6% y-o-y Bangkok Post 10th Sep 2019
The number of foreign tourists arriving in Thailand rose 5.59% in August from a year earlier, with Chinese visitor numbers rebounding strongly, the tourism ministry said on Tuesday. The 3.41 million foreign arrivals in August spent 170 billion baht up 7.12% year-on-year, the ministry said in a statement after a cabinet meeting. The number of Chinese tourists, the kingdom’s biggest source of visitors, jumped 15.6% in August from a year earlier to 1 million, after increasing 5.81% in July following five months of declines.

Ministry postpones levy on foreign visitors Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2019
The Tourism and Sports Ministry has decided to delay plans to collect a tourism levy from foreign visitors. Last Wednesday, permanent tourism secretary Chote Trachu said the levy could result in psychological deterrence among foreign visitors and further harm the stagnant sector. In May, Mr Chote announced that the ministry had studied the feasibility of collecting a tourism levy from foreign visitors and using the income to rehabilitate natural destinations. He hinted that the tax amount would be minimal and not affect visitors.

Ride-sharing firms 'to be legal by March' Bangkok Post 6th Sep 2019
Transport Ministry drafting rules to bring Grab and peers into line with local regulations The Transport Ministry has drafted guidelines to regulate ride-hailing companies and aims to legalise the services by March next year, according to Jirut Wisarnjit, the ministry’s deputy permanent secretary. Ride-sharing services for years have existed in a legal grey area locally, with police routinely stopping and fining drivers because they are not properly registered.