Thailand Update: December 10, 2019

Thailand Update | December 10, 2019
Authors: Riley Smith and Aree Tomes
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

January 14-16: 2020 Business Mission to the 23rd Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers (M-ATM)

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Chemical Ban for Paraquat and Chlorpyrifos Postponed to June 2020; Ban of Glyphosate Scrapped, Though Restrictions Maintained

In response to domestic and international opposition to the prohibition of the herbicides paraquat and glyphosate and the insecticide chlorpyrifos, the National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) of Thailand decided to push back the ban’s start date for paraquat and chlorpyrifos and maintain narrow restrictions on glyphosate. The ban for paraquat and chlorpyrifos is now slated to begin on June 1, 2020, while for glyphosate the NHSC reverted to a May 23, 2018, decision that restricts its use to six crops – corn, cassava, sugarcane, rubber, oil palm and fruit. As part of the May 2018 decision, a maximum residue limit (MRL) will be adopted for glyphosate. Other restrictions stemming from the decision include a prohibition on the use of the chemical in watershed areas and the need for farmers to submit documentation proving on which crops they will use glyphosate. The decision to delay the ban came after a public hearing indicated that 75 percent of the population opposed the prohibition, mainly due to the limited amount of time provided to enact it. The NHSC echoed this concern in its decision to delay the ban. The new date for the ban’s implementation is intended to provide the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives enough time to study alternatives to paraquat and chlorpyrifos and present them to the NHSC.

The government experienced strong resistance to the ban from Thai farmers and agricultural industry stakeholders, including the Thai Crop Protection Association and the Thai Agro Business Association. Additional pressure from the U.S. government, a Thai animal-feed producer, and a group of herbicide producers contributed to the ban’s postponement. Opponents to the ban argued that outlawing the chemicals could cost Thailand’s industrial, agricultural, and food sectors up to 1.7 trillion THB (US$5.6 billion). With the agriculture sector accounting for more than 2 percent of the country’s GDP – Thailand is the world’s second-largest exporter of rice, trailing only India – any decision to ban chemicals would have to take into account the 12 million Thais employed in the sector.

Members of the Bhumjaithai Party, including Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Deputy Agriculture Minister Manaya Thaiseth, expressed disappointment with the decision to postpone the ban of paraquat and chlorpyrifos and indefinitely delay the ban on glyphosate. Following criticism of the how the NHSC meeting was run, Anutin said that legal specialist might need to be consulted on how the vote was taken. The incident has underscored how the priorities of parties in the expansive ruling coalition can run counter to each other at times. In this instance, the ban was a priority for the Bhumjaithai Party, the third-largest party in the coalition, while Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit of the Prime Minister's Palang Pracharath Party indicated in early November that he planned to review the ban once he became chairman of the NHSC. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he prioritizes citizens’ health but doesn’t have an issue with the NHSC’s decision.

Huawei Seeks to Cement Edge in Thailand By Building Tech Training Center in Bangkok

Thailand’s commitment to promoting digital economy development – along with its related need to develop human capacity in ICT, robotics, and advanced engineering – has made the country a key market in ASEAN for the Chinese company Huawei Technologies and its efforts to expand its 5G service across Southeast Asia. Huawei’ most recent bid to edge out its competitors in the Thai market is its offer to build a tech training center in Bangkok. The Government of Thailand and Huawei signed an MOU on the construction of the center on October 28. The training center will focus on developing the very skills that Thailand needs to develop its digital economy and would even be open to trainees from other Southeast Asian countries. Huawei is aiming to be the primary source of equipment and technology when telco services providers Thailand begin nationwide roll-out 5G. In addition to Huawei’s $5 million test bed in Thailand (5G base station, access network, use-case products and other 5G-related equipment), both the Finnish company Nokia and the Swedish company Ericsson, have also set up 5G test beds in the country. Besides Vietnam, other countries in Southeast Asia have not expressed an overriding concern to Huawei’s participation in the build-out of 5G networks in the regions, despite the company’s blacklisting by the United States. In Thailand alone, Huawei has been operating for more than a decade and currently employs around 3,200 people.

Airports of Thailand Greenlights Expansion of Suvarnabhumi Airport

The Board of Directors of Airports of Thailand (AoT) officially greenlit the controversial northern expansion of Suvarnabhumi Airport, which serves Bangkok, on November 20. Initial estimates put the project, which includes building a second terminal near the existing main terminal, at around 42 million THB (US$1.3 million) project. The proposed plan also incorporates the construction of a fourth runway, which would increase the airport’s handling capacity to 150 million passengers per year and 120 flights an hour. The new addition to the airport is expected to take three to four years and enable people to connect from the main terminal to the north expansion.

Critics who object AoT’s scheme claim the new proposed plan will delay Suvarnabhumi’s development and increase risk of cost overturns. AoT President Nitinai Sirismatthakarn has responded to the criticism by noting its flexibility – the plan can be revised on a 5-year cycle – and the fact that it was developed with input from international aviation organizations.

Before breaking ground on the expansion, AoT will have to submit its proposal to the Ministry of Transport, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, and the Cabinet for review. The finalized plan has yet to be set in stone, and discussions on whether an entirely new terminal should be built to alleviate overcapacity are ongoing. Aviation infrastructure development in Thailand is important to Thailand’s world class tourism sector, which accounts for approximately 10% of GDP. In 2018, Thailand had over 38 million visitors and Forbes Magazine listed Bangkok as the most visited city in the world.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Number of foreign companies investing in Thailand up over 100%
Thailand, Turkey finalizing free trade agreement: Envoy

Energy
Blockchain in the works for oil exports
Asian Development Bank to support construction of power plant in Thailand
Report: Thailand could benefit from ethanol imports
Thailand to push blockchain use
Successful Finnish smart energy, circular economy Thailand delegation
Mitsui invests in gas-fired power plant in Thailand
ADB, Gulf PD Sign Deal to Build 2,500 MW Power Plant in Thailand
Thailand state utility EGAT announces zero-emissions excellence centre

Financial Services
Blockchain VAT refunds this month
BoT: E-KYC headed into real world
Thai digital bank launches biometric tech
Hong Kong, Thailand to roll out digital tokens for trade settlement
Thai, Laos financial institutions cooperate to expand Digital Payment system

Food & Agriculture
Chemicals ban derailed by '4 forces'
Thailand postpones Dec 1 ban on two toxic farming chemicals following protests
Demonstrators Call on Thai Government to Delay Pesticides Ban
Rally against ban on 3 farm chemicals
Thailand to use blockchain technology for production-to-export traceability of organic rice
Farmers to be given tractors at highly subsidised rate to compensate for chemical ban 
Thailand urged to delay ban over risks to agriculture
Suriya threatens countersuit on relaxed farm chemicals ban

Health & Life Sciences
Tourism proves hazardous to Thai hospitals' financial health
Thailand Will Soon Allow Its Citizens To Grow Cannabis At Home To Sell To The Government
Health Minister proposes Thai farmers to grow cannabis as preferred crop
Thailand ranks sixth for world's strongest health security

ICT
Airports to host 5G service by next May
Thailand: Cryptocurrency Law Will Change in 2020 to Stay ‘Competitive’
Huawei sweetens 5G offer in Thailand with tech training center
Govt unveils 'one-stop shop' app
NBTC raises 26GHz band's reserve price
NBTC shelves dismantling 2G services
NBTC may scrap 26GHz auction for 5G
Anti-fake news centre pins blame on elderly
DTAC seeks to postpone 5G auctions
Data dilemma
Somkid urges 5G roll-out by mid-2020
Executives advise digital emphasis as 5G arrives
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Thailand's EGATi builds $2.37-bln coal-fired power plant in Vietnam AF 25th Nov 2019
HANOI, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Thailand’s EGAT International Co started construction on Friday of a 55 trillion dong ($2.37 billion) coal-fired power plant in central Vietnam, Vietnamese state media reported. The 1,320-megawatt Quang Tri 1 plant is being built in Quang Tri province, reported Vietnam News Agency. EGAT International is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. Vietnam, one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, has become more reliant on coal for electricity production, even as it promotes renewables. Vietnam’s coal imports in the first 10 months of this year more than doubled from a year earlier to 36.8 million tonnes, government data showed. The coal, sourced mainly from Australia and Indonesia, is used mostly for an expanding fleet of coal-fired power plants. ($1 = 23,195 dong) (Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Edmund Blair)

National Affairs

Pope Arrives in Thailand VOA 20th Nov 2019
Pope Francis is visiting Thailand to support the country’s small Roman Catholic community. His three-day stay will be followed by a similar visit to Japan. The pope plans to discuss human trafficking, peacemaking and other subjects. Francis is expected to express love and respect for Thailand’s Catholics. Their ancestors brought the religion to the widely Buddhist nation. The pope was greeted when he arrived Wednesday morning by Thai official Surayud Chulanont. Surayud heads King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Privy Council and is a former prime minister. The pope also visited with a small group of children in traditional Thai clothing. And he received a military welcome.

Popular Thai opposition leader loses parliamentary seat Nikkei Asian Review 20th Nov 2019
The popular leader of Thailand's Future Forward Party lost his seat in parliament on Wednesday when the Constitutional Court retroactively disqualified him from an election held in March. The court voted 7-2 to strip 40-year-old Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of his lawmaker status for failing to sell his holdings in V-Luck Media before filing his candidacy. Thanathorn, who has assets of 5.6 billion baht ($185 million), said he sold off his shares in the company a month before running for office and had provided evidence.

Thai Court Rules Pro-Democracy Party Leader Violated Electoral Law WSJ 20th Nov 2019
A Thai court dealt a setback to a pro-democracy opposition leader, effectively stripping him of his status as a lawmaker in the first ruling to come out of a string of legal cases against him and his political party. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the 40-year-old leader of the Future Forward Party, was found guilty Wednesday by Thailand’s Constitutional Court of owning shares in a media company in violation of electoral law, rendering him ineligible to serve as an elected member of parliament. In an interview, Mr. Thanathorn said he was innocent and that he would continue to lead his party. Mr. Thanathorn, the heir to an auto-parts manufacturing fortune, emerged last year as an outspoken challenger to the country’s ruling pro-military establishment. He is openly critical of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army leader who led a coup in 2014 and oversaw nearly five years of military rule. Mr. Prayuth was chosen as prime minister by the parliament in June after a widely criticized general election. He relied on votes from the army’s handpicked 250-member Senate, whose appointed members vote alongside lawmakers from the elected lower house.

Thanathorn warns new protests possible as tension rises Bangkok Post 6th Dec 2019
Thailand could see street protests again if establishment forces continue to resist democratic change, according to the leader of Future Forward, the nation’s most high-profile opposition party. A flash-point could come if the party is dissolved by judges next month, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit signalled in a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok on Monday evening. Future Forward and some of its officials face more than two dozen cases, stemming from the police, the attorney general, the Constitutional Court and the Election Commission, he said. “The establishment are pushing people out,” he said. “They seem certain they could contain it and control it. But many think otherwise. I’m not convinced. I think this is a very dangerous gamble.” Mr Thanathorn, a critic of the establishment’s grip on power, opposes military influence in government in a country with a history of coups. He was barred from parliament in a court ruling last month for breaching media shareholding rules, accusations he said were politically motivated.

Customs

Thailand gets another reprieve on WTO ruling BusinessMirror 20th Nov 2019
THE World Trade Organization (WTO) has extended its review of Thailand’s appeal on the ruling invalidating its customs and fiscal measures on Philippine cigarettes, effectively prolonging as well the brewing trade tension between Manila and Bangkok. In a communication dated November 8, the Appellate Body said it failed to comply with the 60-day requirement under WTO rules to come up with a report on Thailand’s appeal. Further, it will not be able to complete the whole proceedings within the mandated 90 days due to the pile of cases awaiting the panel’s review. “Thailand notified the DSB [Dispute Settlement Body] on 9 September 2019 of its decision to appeal certain issues of law covered in the panel report and legal interpretations developed by the panel in this case,” the Appellate Body said.

Thailand to adopt DLT-based VAT refund service for tourists OpenGov Asia 18th Nov 2019
The Finance Ministry plans to adopt blockchain-based value-added tax (VAT) refund service for foreign tourists, starting from the end of this month. The blockchain technology for VAT refunds should speed up the process for tourists as details of their purchases will be immediately shared with the Revenue Department and the Customs Department once shops key in the information in the system, according to Thailand’s Finance Minister. This announcement was made after he signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) along with Krungthai Bank, a state-owned bank under a license issued by the Ministry of Finance, to apply the technology in three pilot projects. Foreign tourists will be able to claim VAT refunds via an application from 28 November 2019. They are required to identify the channel from which they want to receive the money-back, he said.

Defense & Security

Govt nails down 'vision' with US Bangkok Post 25th Nov 2019
Ahead of the 6th Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Retreat and the 6th ADMM-Plus on Monday, Thailand on Sunday signed a joint vision statement on defence with the US and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on defence cooperation with Japan and China. Sources said issues discussed at the meetings included the South China Sea dispute and Rohingya crisis, although no details of their debates or decisions emerged. Signed by Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, the Thai-US Joint Vision Statement 2020 recognised the importance of sustained security cooperation, including education and training, capacity-building, interoperability and modernisation of defence and security institutions to strengthen the Thai-US defence alliance.

Thailand and the US sign new defence treaty The Thaiger 18th Nov 2019
Leading academics say the Thai government is simply not equipped to prevent the air pollution crisis “spinning out of control”. Despite ambitious proclamations, like the publicly announced goal to solve the problem by 2022, lawmakers continue to downplay threats to human health and allow conflicts of interest to prevent real advances toward solutions. During a smog crisis in Bangkok earlier this year the government was content with publicity stunts like firing water cannons into the air in a show of photo opportunities for the compliant Thai media. They also made much fanfare about ‘water drones’ which were dropping a few litres of water from the sky. In both cases the affect on Bangkok’s air pollution was precisely zero. Thanawat Jarupongsakul, chairman of the National Strategic Drafting Committee on Green Growth and chairman of the Thai Global Warming Academy, says conditions like those in Bangkok earlier this year… “are likely to become more intense because the pollution sources themselves help build up inversion layers that trap the dust underneath”.

New Military Vehicles Puts China-Thailand Defense Relations Into Focus The Diplomat 6th Dec 2019
This week, Thailand, a U.S. treaty ally, received more battle tanks and armored personnel carriers from China. While this was part of an existing agreement, it nonetheless put the focus on ongoing efforts by the two countries to advance the defense aspect of their wider bilateral relationship despite the issues they continue to face in doing so. While China-Thailand military cooperation is not new, it noticeably deepened following the coup in Thailand in May 2014, which bought a military junta to power and caused an initial downturn in U.S.-Thai relations that has since improved. While much of the focus has been on individual deals such as Thailand’s purchase of Chinese submarines, there have been other developments in defense ties that deserve mention as well that have either taken place or are in the works, be it new joint air force exercises or discussions about a joint military production facility. That has continued on into 2019 as well. Even as U.S.-Thailand defense relations have been on the uptick and concerns have been raised about engaging with Beijing on the security side in the wider region on some fronts, Thailand has still continued to advance aspects of its defense ties with China as part of their wider comprehensive strategic partnership. Indeed, just last month, when Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha met with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Bangkok, he had expressed hope both sides would strengthen military cooperation in areas such as equipment and technology, exercises, and joint training, particularly with both sides commemorating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties next year.

Economics

Govt preps B50bn for stimulus Bangkok Post 25th Nov 2019
The Finance Ministry will on Tuesday put forward for cabinet consideration a fresh economic stimulus package to inject at least 50 billion baht into the economy in the final quarter of the year to boost full-year economic growth after a poor third quarter. Charnkrit Dejvitak, the vice-minister attached to the prime minister, said the package will be a "huge New Year present" to the public. A source at the Finance Ministry said the measures target farmers and grassroots people who are in dire straits and will include financial assistance to subsidise harvesting costs and improve the quality of rice for the 2019/2020 rice crop, with some 4.31 million rice-farming households covering 3.4 million rai expected to benefit. This measure will reduce rice farmers' production costs as their in-season crops are due for harvest this month and next, the source said.

Thailand is becoming an attractive investment option as Chinese production falters World Finance 25th Nov 2019
By the end of 2019, growth in the Thai economy is forecast to reach 3.8 percent, down from the 4.2 percent recorded in 2018 (see Fig 1). Fortunately, this looks more like a blip than a long-term downward trend. Ironically, the very trade tensions that have contributed to the global economic slowdown that is harming Thailand’s economy could result in an upturn in 2020. US tariffs, for example, have seen South-East Asian countries looking to lure investment away from China. According to the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, as many as 10 firms are already looking to relocate production from China to Thailand. This, alongside an influx of foreign direct investment, could see Thailand return to higher levels of growth next year. For investors looking to contribute to this growth, UOB Asset Management (Thailand) (UOBAM (Thailand)) can provide the expertise and knowledge needed to ensure positive returns. World Finance spoke with Vana Bulbon, the firm’s CEO, about Thailand’s investment climate and how it has developed over the past few years.

Finance Ministry mulls tax incentives for longer-term investment: source The Nation Thailand 25th Nov 2019
The Finance Ministry will decide on Monday (November 25) on tax incentives for long-term equity investment. Ministry officials will meet with representatives of the Revenue Department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to resolve whether to renew incentives for investors in long-term equity funds (LTFs), given than tax deductions under the scheme will cease at the end of the year. “The Revenue Department and SEC have different ideas about how to promote long-term investment,” an informed source said on condition of anonymity. The SEC wants to promote more investment in the Stock Exchange of Thailand, while the Revenue Department wants to promote investments extending least 10 years, the source said.

Bank of Thailand may cut rate again in 2020: economists Bangkok Post 25th Nov 2019
Bank of Thailand may cut rate again in 2020: economists Economists foresee further cuts in Thailand's policy interest rate next year -- but not next month -- after the central bank governor said policy makers are prepared to act if economic growth worsens, though will avoid taking interest rates below zero. “In the short term, we are ready to use monetary policy if needed,” Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob told reporters Saturday during a visit to Laos. “We are ready to act if growth fails to meet our expectations.” He cautioned against taking the benchmark interest rate below zero, saying that “the key rate shouldn’t be negative, as it will create lots of structural problems.” The Bank of Thailand (BoT) cut borrowing costs earlier this month to 1.25% -- the second reduction in three months -- and eased rules on capital outflows to blunt the local currency’s appreciation. The baht is Asia’s best-performing currency after gaining more than 9% against the dollar over the past year.

Thailand GDP growth recovers but outlook is weak on baht, trade The Business Times 18th Nov 2019
Thailand's economic growth rebounded in the third quarter, but the full-year outlook remains weak because of the impact of the US-China trade war and a strong currency. Gross domestic product rose 2.4 per cent from a year ago, the National Economic and Social Development Council said on Monday. The expansion was below the median estimate of 2.7 per cent in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Thailand's trade-reliant economy has been hit by slumping exports, a surging currency and mixed performance in the tourism sector. The central bank earlier this month cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low and announced measures to slow gains in the baht, which has been the strongest performer in emerging markets, rising more than 9 per cent over the past year.

Number of foreign companies investing in Thailand up over 100% The Thaiger 6th Dec 2019
Foreign investment in Thailand has grown by 106% according to the National News Bureau of Thailand, with officials rolling out a number of measures to make foreign investment less complicated. The latest increase is despite a fall in the number of foreign companies approved to carry out business in the Kingdom – down 23% from last year. Poonpong Naiyanapakorn, deputy director general of the Department of Business Development, cites various ongoing projects for the increase, including services to assist in the exploration of natural resources, mining for petroleum, and various metro projects. During the first nine months of 2019, the Board of Investment (BOI) processed 1,165 foreign investment projects worth over 314 billion baht, reflecting an 11% increase compared to the previous 12 months. The Department of Business Development is reported to be improving the application process, simplifying regulations and assisting investors who’ve requested investment promotion from the BOI. While foreign investors who’ve received business promotion still need to apply for foreign business certification within 30 days, they are exempt from having to process a business operations permit. An information sharing scheme is now in the works that will enable foreign organisations to pay fees online, meaning they should be able to get their foreign business certification in just one day.

Thailand, Turkey finalizing free trade agreement: Envoy Anadolu Agency 6th Dec 2019
Thailand and Turkey have enjoyed bilateral relations for 61 years but are now focusing on a free trade agreement (FTA), the Thai ambassador said Thursday. Addressing a ceremony in the Turkish capital Ankara, Phantipha Iamsudha Ekarohit said the two countries hope to conclude the FTA by 2020. “The two countries are collaborating to further strengthen and enhance these [bilateral] ties in all potential areas,” she said. On Dec. 5, Thailand celebrated the birthday of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, National Day and Father’s Day. Speaking on the occasion, Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal said that Turkey and Thailand are the “hubs of tourism”. “There is a lot of potential in the tourism sector where the two countries can cooperate,” Onal said, adding direct Turkish Airlines flights to Thailand will help realize this potential. Referring to the “rise of Thailand” in Asia, Onal said that Thailand is an important partner for Turkey in the region. “We have a productive mechanism with Thailand at multi-lateral forums like Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) too,” he added. He said the FTA will boost the existing trade volume of $1.5 billion.

Energy

Blockchain in the works for oil exports Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2019
The Excise Department will devise a method to refund overpaid taxes to oil exporters in a manner that stems leakages, its chief says. The change in the tax refund practice will use blockchain, which the department plans to adopt by the middle of next year, said director-general Patchara Anuntasilpa. The blockchain-based tax payback system requires oil exporters to pay excise tax to the department and claim overpaid taxes after they ship the fuel, he said. The new technology will let the department inspect the tax payments thoroughly.

Asian Development Bank to support construction of power plant in Thailand Power Technology 19th Nov 2019
SHARE The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a $180m agreement with Gulf PD to develop and operate a 2,500MW power plant in Thailand. The combined cycle gas turbine power plant will be located nearly 150km south-east of Bangkok in the Rojana Rayong 2 Industrial Park. Owned by Independent Power Development, Gulf PD was established in 2012 to construct and operate the plant. Independent Power Development is a joint venture (JV) company of Gulf Energy Development (GED) and Japanese trading company Mitsui. ADB Deputy Private Sector Operations director general Christopher Thieme and the GED CEO Sarath Ratanavadi signed the Eastern Economic Corridor Independent Power Project agreement in Bangkok.

Report: Thailand could benefit from ethanol imports Ethanol Producer Magazine 3rd Dec 2019
A recently released report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service says that while Thailand has relied on domestic ethanol production, the country could benefit from importing ethanol and other biofuels.

Thailand to push blockchain use OpenGov Asia 3rd Dec 2019
In Thailand, blockchain is being tested as a way to trade solar energy by the state-owned renewable energy firm BCPG.

Successful Finnish smart energy, circular economy Thailand delegation ScandAsia 3rd Dec 2019
A Team Finland business delegation, led by Ms. Nina Vaskunlahti, Deputy Minister, Under-Secretary of State for External Economic Relations,visited Thailand on 30 September to 1 October (followed by Myanmar). Following on the Team Finland export promotion trip to Thailand in 2018, the main purpose this time was to promote cooperation in the fields of smart energy and circular economy. Many companies with strong connections to Thailand or with vast Asian experience were included.

Mitsui invests in gas-fired power plant in Thailand LNG Industry 19th Nov 2019
Mitsui & Co. has announced that it has given the go-ahead for a major new US$1.6 billion project to build a gas-fired combined cycle power plant in Rayong Province, Thailand.

ADB, Gulf PD Sign Deal to Build 2,500 MW Power Plant in Thailand Modern Diplomacy 18th Nov 2019
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Gulf PD Company Limited (Gulf PD) today signed a $180 million agreement to build and operate a 2,500-megawatt (MW) combined cycle gas turbine power plant in the Rojana Rayong 2 Industrial Park of Thailand’s Rayong Province, about 150 kilometers southeast of Bangkok.

Thailand state utility EGAT announces zero-emissions excellence centre Smart Energy International 18th Nov 2019
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has partnered with INNIO to implement a micogrid pilot project. The pilot will be conducted at the utility’s zero-emissions energy excellence centre in Bang Krul Nonthaburi in Thailand. The centre is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Financial Services

Blockchain VAT refunds this month Bangkok Post 15th Nov 2019
The Finance Ministry plans to adopt blockchain-based value-added tax (VAT) refund service for foreign tourists, starting from the end of this month. The blockchain technology for VAT refunds should speed up the process for tourists as details of their purchases will be immediately shared with the Revenue Department and the Customs Department once shops key in the information in the system, said Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana after signing a memorandum of understanding along with Krungthai Bank to apply the technology in three pilot projects.

BoT: E-KYC headed into real world Bangkok Post 15th Nov 2019
At least five banks testing out electronic know your customer (e-KYC) technology in the regulatory sandbox are expected to exit the process by the end of the year, says a senior official at the Bank of Thailand. These banks have found some glitches in the digital ID verification process, data collection and customer services that the central bank has asked them to address, said assistant governor Siritida Panomwon Na Ayudhya. Ten banks are experimenting with e-KYC in the sandbox in the first round. She said in the next stage the central bank wants to allow banks, insurers and securities brokers to test out information connections for e-KYC in the sandbox before the official launch to ensure the system's accuracy and security.

Thai digital bank launches biometric tech OpenGov Asia 5th Dec 2019
A mobile-only bank in Thailand recently announced that it has enabled fingerprint and facial biometrics to make it speedier and safer for customers to open their TMRW accounts. In doing so, TMRW claims that it is the first bank in Thailand to offer both forms of biometrics to enhance the account opening experience. TMRW customers are able to use the enhanced biometric capability at all 350 TMRW authentication kiosks, located in high foot-traffic areas across Greater Bangkok.

Hong Kong, Thailand to roll out digital tokens for trade settlement South China Morning Post 4th Dec 2019
The monetary authorities of Hong Kong and Thailand are poised to roll out a two-tier digital token, part of the process for creating a prototype for cross-border fund transfers between the two economies using financial technology, or fintech. The first tier of the prototype, known as Project LionRock-Inthanon, involves the issuance of a token to Hong Kong banks taking part in the pilot programme, according to a spokesman of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA). The second tier involves the banks distributing the tokens to their corporate customers for settling wholesale payments with other banks, or with other companies, the spokesman said in response to queries by South China Morning Post.

Thai, Laos financial institutions cooperate to expand Digital Payment system Pattaya Mail 27th Nov 2019
Mr. Bancha Manoonkulchai, senior director of the payment system policy division, Bank of Thailand (BOT), has disclosed that the development of digital payments and the linkage of Thai payment systems are growing with currently 49.5 million PromptPay registered users through various channels, with average daily transactions of 8.1 million. There are currently more than five million shops nationwide that allow customers to make a payment through the Thai QR Payment System. By linking the payment systems in ASEAN, people are able to make payments via Interoperable QR and use real-time international money transfers. As for payment system cooperation with the Lao PDR, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Bank of the Lao PDR and the BOT on the payment systems and financial innovation on April 4, 2019. Both parties to the memorandum will exchange knowledge and experience while jointly developing QR Code and international payment standards.

Food & Agriculture

Chemicals ban derailed by '4 forces' Bangkok Post 29th Nov 2019
BioThai, an anti-farm chemical pressure group, has alleged that "four major forces'' were behind the decision to scrap the ban on the herbicide glyphosate and delay the prohibitions against the herbicide paraquat and pesticide chlorpyrifos. BioThai (Biodiversity & Food Sovereignty Action Thailand), which campaigned to have the chemicals banned, published an article titled "Analysis: 36 Days to derail the ban on glyphosate'' on its website on Thursday. The group claimed the decision to derail the ban was the result of a joint effort by a Thai animal-feed producer, a group of herbicide producers, and two political parties in collusion with US entities.

Thailand postpones Dec 1 ban on two toxic farming chemicals following protests The Straits Times 27th Nov 2019
Thailand on Wednesday (Nov 27) postponed a controversial plan to ban two toxic farming chemicals, paraquat and chlorpyrifos, while reversing a planned ban on a third chemical glyphosate and permitting its restricted use. This comes after protests and warnings both at home and abroad of the plan's disastrous effects on the livelihood of farmers and exports to Thailand. Proposed by the Agriculture Ministry over health concerns, the ban on the three chemicals - often found in pesticides and insecticides - was originally to take effect from Dec 1. It was approved by the National Hazardous Substances Committee on Oct 22.

Demonstrators Call on Thai Government to Delay Pesticides Ban Bloomberg 26th Nov 2019
About 2,000 demonstrators marched to Thailand’s Government House on Tuesday to demand a delay in a ban due from Dec. 1 on three pesticides, as a dispute over the plan escalates. The protesters submitted a letter to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha asking for time to assess scientific evidence, the economic impact and whether alternatives are available. Outlawing the chemicals will hurt Thai farmers’ competitiveness and imperil millions of jobs, according to the letter.

Rally against ban on 3 farm chemicals Bangkok Post 26th Nov 2019
Rally against ban on 3 farm chemicals About 1,000 black-clad farmers and chemical suppliers rallied outside Government House on Tuesday against a planned ban on three toxic farm chemicals, demanding a thorough study of the impact on farmers and businesses. The demonstrators were led by representatives of the Thai Agricultural Innovation Trade Association, the Thai Agro Business Association and the Thai Crop Protection Association.

Thailand to use blockchain technology for production-to-export traceability of organic rice TokenPost 25th Nov 2019
Thailand’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office (TPSO) has revealed that it is initiating a project to use blockchain technology to monitor agricultural products, starting with organic rice. The country is well-known as a producer of organic rice. In its announcement, the TPSO said that Thailand exported 16,500 tons of organic rice by 2018 and is expected to be able to produce 247,000 tons by 2021. However, trade of organic rice faces a number of problems including quality and product reliability, which are key factors affecting the product’s demand. The TPSO aims to use blockchain technology for production-to-export traceability in an attempt to boost confidence among buyers, The Nation Thailand reported.

Farmers to be given tractors at highly subsidised rate to compensate for chemical ban  The Nation Thailand 25th Nov 2019
The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry aims to provide tractors and lawnmowers to farmers and cooperative members to minimise the effects of the planned ban on three hazardous chemicals – Paraquat, Chlorpyrifos and Glyphosate, Deputy Minister Mananya Thaiset said. Farmers and cooperative members who want the machines can appeal for 90 per cent of subsidy from the government and 10 per cent from cooperatives to buy the machines and equipment.

Thailand urged to delay ban over risks to agriculture Bloomberg 20th Nov 2019
A trade group representing pesticide firms urged Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha to delay a ban due Dec. 1 on three chemicals because of the potential disruption to the agriculture sector. The move will be a shock for farmers growing crops such as rubber, rice, sugarcane and fruit because of a lack of alternatives, and the government should at least allow for a transition period, said Tan Siang Hee, executive director of Singapore-based CropLife Asia. Thailand plans to ban three pesticides next month over risks to health -- paraquat, chlorpyrifos and glyphosate. The move against glyphosate, commonly sold as weedkiller Roundup, sparked resistance from the U.S., which in a letter asked Prayuth to delay to consider scientific evidence. Millions of farmers in the U.S. and elsewhere use Roundup, a chemical developed by American firm Monsanto and now produced by a number of companies. Germany’s Bayer AG took over Monsanto in a $63 billion deal last year.

Suriya threatens countersuit on relaxed farm chemicals ban Bangkok Post 6th Dec 2019
Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said on Tuesday he would counter-sue any organisations that bring a threatened lawsuit against him over the countermanded farm chemicals ban. Mr Suriya also declared no vote was needed on the resolution to override the previous panel's decision, because the members agreed on the wording. Speaking at Government House, he said would have his lawyers prepare a legal response after a network of organisations supporting the ban on three toxic farm chemicals announced their plan to take legal action against him. Mr Suriya was insistent that the meeting of the new National Hazardous Substances Committee that he chaired last Wednesday actually agreed on a new resolution on the farm chemical ban. The minister announced after the meeting that the committee decided to lift the scheduled ban on the herbicide glyphosate and delay the ban on the herbicide paraquat and pesticide chlorpyrifos for six months. It countermanded the previous committee's resolution on Oct 22 to ban the three chemicals from Dec 1 this year. Senior Health officials who sit on the committee later challenged Mr Suriya's announcement. They said the committee did not have a vote on the issue, and therefore the Oct 22 resolution and ban remained in effect. On Tuesday, Mr Suriya said that the committee's meeting last Wednesday was recorded and the audio  would prove it agreed on a new resolution that day.

Health & Life Sciences

Tourism proves hazardous to Thai hospitals' financial health Nikkei Asian Review 19th Nov 2019
The tourism high season has begun on southern Thailand's resort island of Phuket. For the head of the island's biggest hospital, the coming months will be anything but a vacation. Every year, Vachira Phuket Hospital accepts thousands of foreign patients -- many of them during the dry months from November to March, when millions of holidaymakers come for the blissful beaches, historic old town and wild nightlife. Some fall ill. Some come in with injuries sustained during water sports or while scooting around on rented motorbikes. Others arrive with dog, monkey or snake bites. Quite a few leave without paying their bills. "The situation is getting worse," Chalermpong Sukontapol, the hospital's director, said with a sigh. "There is no hope for me."

Thailand Will Soon Allow Its Citizens To Grow Cannabis At Home To Sell To The Government Forbes 17th Nov 2019
Thailand is ramping up medical marijuana legalization efforts that will soon allow all Thais to cultivate six cannabis plants in their homes and sell their home-grown harvest to the government, to turn into medical marijuana. “We are in the process of changing laws to allow the medical use of marijuana freely,” said recently-appointed Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, in Bangkok on Wednesday. “We have high confidence that marijuana will be among the major agricultural products for Thai households. We are speeding up the law changes. But there is a process to it.” Back in September, Anutin alluded, “In the near future, families will be able to plant cannabis trees in their back gardens like any other herb.” In addition to the historic push for “home grow” regulations, Thailand has built what the government describes as the largest, industrial-scale medical marijuana facility in Southeast Asia. 

Health Minister proposes Thai farmers to grow cannabis as preferred crop The Thaiger 2nd Dec 2019
Thailand’s Public Health Minister is proposing farmers be allowed to grow cannabis under government supervision. Anutin Charnvirakul, also a deputy PM, says he’s signed a draft regulation allowing farmers to grow cannabis. It will be examined by the Council of State and passed to the cabinet for discussion and approval.The proposed law would allow individual farmers to grow cannabis for medicinal use. A previous draft allowed growing cannabis only as a community enterprise, and prohibited individual farmers. He says his Bhumjaithai Party’s campaign to let people grow cannabis at home hasn’t been examined by Government House yet, and the party is seeking amendments to the Narcotics Act to allow farmers to grow up to six plants.

Thailand ranks sixth for world's strongest health security Thailand Business News 1st Dec 2019
The world is unprepared for outbreaks of major infectious diseases, with Asian countries facing significant risks, according to the Global Health Security (GHS) Index 2019, released on Friday. According to the report, Thailand and South Korea were among the best-performing countries in Asia Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have ranked Thailand sixth among a total of 195 countries for the world’s strongest health security. Thailand is also Asia’s No. 1 and the only developing country on the world’s Top 10 list. South Korea is the only other Asian country to reach the top 10 with Thailand. Thailand scored 73.2 out of 100 points, despite being the only top 10 country to be in the upper middle income range. Thailand has been recognized as having the highest level of preparedness to cope with epidemics among 13 countries.

ICT

Airports to host 5G service by next May Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2019
Commercial 5G wireless broadband service is to be launched at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports by May 2020 as the first sites for ultra-fast wireless internet adoption in the country, says the telecom regulator. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with Airports of Thailand on Nov 27 for collaboration to facilitate infrastructure preparation for mobile operators to deploy 5G networks at the airports. The NBTC has announced that the 5G spectrum licence auctions will be held on Feb 16, 2020. NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the 5G spectrum bidders will be pushed to consider the two airports as a first priority for 5G adoption, rather than the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which is not ready for 5G service among vertical industries.

Thailand: Cryptocurrency Law Will Change in 2020 to Stay ‘Competitive’ Cointelegraph 25th Nov 2019
Lawmakers in Thailand plan to reform cryptocurrency laws after voicing concerns that they have made the country uncompetitive. As local English-language news outlet Bangkok Post reported on Nov. 25, Thailand’s regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) wants to reconsider its crypto policy in 2020.  SEC must be “flexible” on crypto The reason, it says, lies in poor uptake of its certification and licensing scheme by cryptocurrency businesses.  Since it came into power last year, only five companies have completed certification, and of those, just two have launched.

Huawei sweetens 5G offer in Thailand with tech training center Nikkei Asian Review 18th Nov 2019
BANGKOK -- Huawei Technologies is lobbying hard to build Thailand's 5G network as the Chinese telecom maker looks to strengthen its foothold in Southeast Asia following the company's blacklisting by the U.S. government. The world's largest telecom equipment maker sees Southeast Asia's No. 2 economy as an important market, and its most recent sweetener for the Thai government includes a promise to build a tech training center in the capital. "Even under such strong U.S. pressure as we are experiencing, we are still able to get good business results, and we are here to support the development of 5G," said Huawei Vice President Edward Zhou at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Bangkok earlier this month.

Govt unveils 'one-stop shop' app Bangkok Post 15th Nov 2019
A new mobile phone application that was designed to be a one-stop shop for tourists planning to visit Thailand was unveiled on Wednesday. Dubbed "TAGTHAi" by its developers at Kasikorn Business Technology Group, the app will be operated by Thai Digital Platform Social Enterprise Co. The app offers access to services provided by 20 state agencies and 28 private companies -- including the Tourism and Sports Ministry, Airports of Thailand, Thai Hotels Association (THA), Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia -- thus allowing tourists to plan their trip in advance, book flights and reserve their accommodation in the country.

NBTC raises 26GHz band's reserve price Bangkok Post 15th Nov 2019
The telecom regulator has adjusted the reserve price for the 26-gigahertz spectrum meant for February's 5G auction, increasing it by 123 million baht to 423 million based on a Swedish university's study. Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), indicated last month the reserve price of the 26GHz range would be 300 million baht per licence. Yesterday, the NBTC board approved the reserve price of 423 million baht per licence.

NBTC shelves dismantling 2G services Bangkok Post 15th Nov 2019
The telecom regulator has backed away from the 2G mobile system shutdown planned for October 2019, saying the three major mobile operators are still willing to provide services to customers. Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said the NBTC board in January came up with a resolution to end the 2G mobile system nationwide by October, but has decided to scrap it. "Operators have agreed to continue providing 2G service for remaining users, even though they earlier urged the NBTC to enact the resolution," said Mr Takorn.

NBTC may scrap 26GHz auction for 5G Bangkok Post 15th Nov 2019
The telecom regulator is considering shelving February's planned auction of 26GHz spectrum meant for the 5G network on concerns about use case development and support of related equipment. The news came after the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) met officials of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) in Stockholm on Tuesday. PTS's management opined that the 26GHz spectrum meant for the 5G network still has undeveloped use cases and unclear support of related terminal equipment.

Anti-fake news centre pins blame on elderly Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2019
About 500,000 items of suspected fake news were spread on social media over the past month, with the elderly found to be the biggest culprits, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta said on Monday. He said the ministry's anti-fake news centre has detected some half a million items of possible fake news and sent them to relevant agencies for fact-checking, which should take two hours. Mr Buddhipongse said the anti-fake news centre, which was formally launched on Nov 1, intends to speed up detection and is also looking into misuse of social media platforms to deceive people.  According to the minister, people aged 60 and over were found to be the greatest source of inaccurate information online, which they mainly spread out of concern for those close to them.

DTAC seeks to postpone 5G auctions Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2019
Total Access Communication (DTAC), the third largest mobile operator, on Monday urged the telecom regulator to postpone the 5G spectrum auctions scheduled for February to include 3500-megahertz spectrum in the auctions. The request was made one day ahead of the public hearing for the four spectrum licence auctions. The four bands cover 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2600MHz and 26-28 gigahertz ranges. The demand was swiftly shot down by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which indicated the deferral would hinder the country’s competitiveness in innovation development.

Data dilemma Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2019
The more we have, the harder it is to store and protect. Whether data is in the cloud or on the edge, security comes first. In the digital world, data is king. Businesses now understand that in order to stay relevant and ahead of competitors, they need data to know more about their customers. The more you know, the more products and services you can sell in a more personalised way, which is what buyers want. But with data accumulating at unimaginable rates in the world of connected devices, artificial intelligence and 5G, how do you store and protect all of it? Many companies are moving their data into the cloud and others are talking about going to the edge, a less familiar concept that has started to gain traction. Both strategies present challenges.

Somkid urges 5G roll-out by mid-2020 Bangkok Post 21st Nov 2019
Somkid urges 5G roll-out by mid-2020 Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak says the 5G network must be rolled out by mid-2020 to ensure the country's competitiveness in the region as peers aim to deploy their ultra-fast internet networks next year. He said the planned 5G licence auctions must not focus on exorbitant winning prices, as the network roll-out is crucial to support the economy and society. "Thailand is battling to become the digital innovation hub of Asean, competing with Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, which all plan to launch commercial 5G services in 2020," Mr Somkid said. He was speaking on Wednesday during a visit to the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry, where he was updated on the ministry's projects and delivered his policies.

Executives advise digital emphasis as 5G arrives Bangkok Post 15th Nov 2019
As Asean expects to enter the first wave of 5G adoption next year, businesses need to embrace more technology to stay competitive and survive, say leading business executives. James Wu, president of Huawei Southeast Asia, said 2020 will be a very important year for Asean, with the first wave of 5G arriving for commercial use. "Digital transformation is critical for survival in the new era," said Mr Wu. The pace of industrial change is becoming more rapid, he said. Previously the industrial cycle was projected to change every 40 years, but that has been whittled down to 10 years and in the 5G era, the cycle would be around 5-10 years, said Mr Wu.

Thailand Mobile Infrastructure, Broadband, Operators Statistics and Analyses Report 2019 Business Wire 15th Nov 2019
Thailand's mobile market is highly developed and has experienced strong growth over the last seven years, however growth has become much slower over the past few years due to the heightened level of maturity. Very slow growth is predicted over the next five years to 2024 with annual growth rates further easing. The market will be constrained from higher growth due to a saturated mobile subscriber market and strong local competition.

Infrastructure

Suvarnabhumi plan 'can be revised' Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2019
Airports of Thailand (AoT) president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn on Friday insisted that the blueprint for a second terminal at Suvarnabhumi airport could be revised every five years. He was responding to criticism that the 42-billion-baht project deviated from the master plan, which stipulated extension of the current terminal. Critics fear the revamped project will delay the development of the rest of the airport and heighten risk of cost overruns. The original blueprint includes plans for two terminals -- the existing building and a second terminal to the south. In its revamped plan, however, the AoT decided to locate the second terminal nearer the main terminal, with a 500-metre monorail built to shuttle passengers between the two.

Thailand expects multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects to drive M&A Vantage Asia 25th Nov 2019
The Southeast Asian nation expects multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects to drive M&A, but care is needed with foreign ownership restrictions Thailand is continuing the trajectory of economic and regulatory development that has characterized it in recent years. In October, it jumped an impressive six places year-on-year in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, rising from 27th to 21st out of 190 economies. The index is judged on a number of factors ranging from taxation to licensing, and property rights to insolvency. In Thailand’s case, it is hard evidence of ongoing regulatory reforms, growing investor confidence and the government’s proactive response to shifting regional politics, maximizing opportunities for existing or would-be participants in the Thai economy. In line with both economic growth and an improved investment environment, there has been a steady rise in both inbound and outbound M&A activity. Foreign companies are increasingly likely to seek out opportunities in Thailand, while Thai business leaders feel confident enough to view M&A as a key tool of continued growth.

AoT gives airport expansion okay Bangkok Post 25th Nov 2019
Airports of Thailand's (AoT) board has officially given the green light to the controversial northern expansion plan of Suvarnabhumi airport and the 42-billion-baht project will be forwarded to the cabinet for approval, said AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn. Mr Nitinai announced on Wednesday that the board had decided to back the project and to submit it to the Transport Ministry, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, and the cabinet for consideration. He said AoT has conducted everything with transparency in proposing the expansion after taking into account input from all sides, including the stakeholders of Suvarnabhumi airport, passengers and international aviation organisations.

Nine firms build network Bangkok Post 25th Nov 2019
Nine producers and importers of construction materials and equipment have joined forces to build a marketing network and share a customer base exceeding 2,000 as they aim to achieve sales growth of 25-30% next year. Nantarat Tantiwatpanich, an assistant manager at tile maker Kenzai Ceramics Industry Co, said the company and eight other firms will share customer data with one another. "We can introduce and pass on our customers to each other through the network we create," she said. "Credibility is significant, as construction materials and equipment have a high value." Kenzai Ceramics and the other construction materials and home equipment firms on Wednesday launched a networking group called Connext.

Thailand's high speed rail future "not the right fit" The Thaiger 19th Nov 2019
After years of delays, negotiations and more negotiations, bullet trains (high-speed trans) are coming to Thailand. But with one project underway, another already approved and others being considered, many speculate if high speed rail is the right fit for the Kingdom. Critics say the existing contracts with the Chinese are more about a political jibe at the US over its criticism following the 2014 coup, than actually meeting any transport needs for such a rail service. But Thai shipping magnate Thanet Sorat says that the high speed train network will be a game changer for Thailand. Thanet is an adviser to Thailand’s Senate Committee on Transportation, and president of the Thai Authorised Customs Brokers Association. He wants to see the trains, with top speeds 250 kph “pin-balling” around the country within four years. He may be over-optimistic.

Thailand's iconic railway project set to deepen economic divisions Nikkei Asian Review 16th Nov 2019
At a recent international business conference, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha stressed the importance of the public and private sectors cooperating to upgrade Thailand's economy. Prayuth, who hosted the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on Nov. 2 in Bangkok, cited the Eastern Economic Corridor project as a model of private-public partnerships.  For decades now, Thailand's economic growth has been driven by the development and evolution of its manufacturing sector, sometimes referred to as the "factory of Asia." But that engine is now sputtering, with the nation apparently having fallen into the so-called middle-income trap, the loss of export competitiveness by a middle-income economy due to rising labor costs. Prayuth's policy response is his "Thailand 4.0" program, which offers investment incentives for 10 priority industries, including high-value-added areas like next-generation automobiles, digital technologies and robotics.

Bangkok Bank urges infrastructure investment Bangkok Post 19th Nov 2019
Despite Asean's fast-growing economy, the regional bloc faces challenges in digital development to maintain a competitive edge and requires infrastructure investment and labour skill upgrades to keep pace with business needs.

Thailand hopes to have bullet trains running by 2023 CNN Travel 17th Nov 2019
After years of delays and much debate, it's finally happening. Bullet trains are coming to Thailand. With one project under construction, another approved and others being considered, many in the country are questioning whether high-speed rail (HSR) will be the right fit for the country.

EEC water management plan in works Bangkok Post 6th Dec 2019
Water demand in the Eastern Economic Corridor will surge as development gathers pace, giving rise to the need for a comprehensive water resources management plan, officials say. A water resources development and management investment programme for the EEC will be submitted to the national water committee for consideration later this month. Somkiat Prajamwong, chief of the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR), said the proposal was approved by a megaproject steering committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Friday, and would be forwarded to the cabinet for approval. According to Mr Somkiat, areas earmarked for EEC development face the risk of water shortage, so the 20-year plan prepared by the ONWR and related action plans must be carried out to mitigate risks. Water demand in the EEC in 2037 is forecast to reach 3.09 billion cubic metres, an increase of 670 million cu m from 2017, he noted. The EEC is the government’s flagship investment area, spanning Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao provinces and targeting 12 industries.

Second passenger terminal opens at U-Tapao International Airport The Thaiger 5th Dec 2019
U-Tapao International Airport, serving the cities of Pattaya and Rayong in eastern Thailand, has officially opened a second passenger terminal, with ambitious plans for growth and an increase in passenger capacity from over 2 million a year to 5 million over the next five years. The Nation reports that airport officials are also waiting for the outcome of the bidding process on the U-Tapao Airport and Eastern Airport City Development Project, which would see the successful bidder win a contract to construct a third passenger terminal. Vice Admiral Kritchaphon Rianglekjamnong, director of U-Tapao International Airport, anticipates that the volume of passengers and flights will continue to grow, increasing from 177,000 people a year in 2015 to 1.99 million this year. “Fifteen airlines operate 15,767 flights on 33 routes both domestic and international. We expect that the number of passengers will increase to 2.5 million people from the previous 800,000 passengers. The airport is planning to renovate the first passenger terminal and manage the newly opened second terminal, so it is fully utilised.” Kritchaphon says he expects the increase in numbers to be facilitated by the opening of the second terminal while the airport waits for the third to be completed in around four years. “It will help maintain continued passenger growth while awaiting the third terminal, the first phase of which will be completed in 2024 and support 12 million people.” The Nation reports that the airport also plans to work with private investors to facilitate the provision of services such as warehouse management, small aircraft maintenance, and an import-export process for bonded goods.

Travel & Tourism

Minimum tour package prices set Bangkok Post 25th Nov 2019
Minimum prices for tour packages to discourage price wars and root out substandard travel operators are scheduled to take effect next year, according to the Tourism Department. The lowest prices for a 3-day, 2-night outbound tour package will range from 1,600 to 9,000 baht per person depending on the destination and nature of the tour, excluding air tickets, said Taweesak Wanichcharoen, director-general of the department. Issued under the Tourism Business and Guide Act of 2008, the minimum price initiative was approved by the Tourism Business and Guide Committee on Nov 14, he said.

Thailand set to welcome 39 million tourists TTR Weekly 25th Nov 2019
With just two months to the end of the year, Thailand is now set to score more than 39 million arrivals by the end of the year, based on the current performance for January to October. The most recent Ministry of Tourism and Sports data, based on a headcount of foreigners at immigration checkpoints recorded 32,508,014 arrivals for January to October this year up 4.29% year-on-year. Revenue for the 10 months of 2019 was estimated at THB1,577,048.72 million up 3.27% year-on-year. In October alone, the country recorded 3,042,282 visits an increase of 12.51% on the same month last year. 

Marriott to add three hotels in Thailand between 2020 and 2024 Business Traveller 18th Nov 2019
Thailand’s leading integrated lifestyle real-estate group, Asset World Corporation (AWC) has signed an agreement with Marriott International to open three properties in the southeast Asian country between 2020 and 2024. The hotels include Courtyard by Marriott, a 248-room property slated to open in late 2020 in Phuket; a 900-room Pattaya Marriott Marquis Hotel and a 398-room JW Marriott The Pattaya Beach Resort and Spa. Wallapa Traisorat, CEO and president of Asset World Corp Public Company (AWC) said, “We are greatly delighted to strengthen our relationship with Marriott International, the prominent global hospitality operator that ensures the highest standards of hospitality in line with our values.”