Thailand Update: May 14, 2020

Thailand Update | May 14, 2020
Authors: Marc Mealy, Hai Pham, Natalie Tantisirirat, Minh Vu, Ingyin
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
May 26/27, 2020: Follow-Up Video Conference Call with the Honourable Michael G. DeSombre, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Thailand Government Likely to Postpone Enforcement of the Personal Data Protection Program

A royal decree has been drafted to postpone the implementation of some sections in the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which is scheduled to take effect on May 27, 2020.  Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta of the Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DES) stated that experts from the National Cyber Security Committee would convene with DES to discuss a feasible timeline of the postponement before submitting the motion to the Cabinet. The Ministry has selected members for the PDPA Committee but is still awaiting cabinet approval. The PDPA Committee will oversee regulations such as criteria to qualify as data protection officers, minimum data protection security requirements and complaint procedures.

The Personal Data Protection Act B.E. 2562 (2019) ("PDPA") was first published in the Government Gazette on May 27, 2019 following approval by the Thai National Legislative Assembly. The PDPA draws inspiration from the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); as such, when in effect, it will apply to both the private and public sector to protect individuals in Thailand from unlawful and unauthorized collection of their personal data. Additionally, the PDPA will also apply to foreign companies who serve the Thai market, regardless of whether a payment is required. Financial institutions and e-commerce platforms especially are cautioned to familiarize themselves with the Act to be in compliance. The enforcement of the PDPA would mandate strict requirements for the collection of sensitive personal data such as criminal records, political opinions, biometrics, and health data among others. Under the PDPA, data owners are legally permitted to request access to their personal data as well as submitting requests to delete, or anonymize their data.

Thailand Reallocated Budget 2020 to COVID-19 Response Fund

Following a third economic stimulus package worth 1.9 trillion baht (US$ 58 billion) approved by the Government of Thailand on April 6 to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government on April 21 approved an additional 98.7 billion baht (US$3 billion) in relief measures. This amount would add 75 billion baht (US$2.3 billion) to the existing 600 billion baht (US$18.5 billion) fund that provided monthly cash handouts to an estimated 9 million self-employed and laid-off people while the remaining 23.7 billion baht (US$731 million) would cut or waive electricity bills for 22 million households. On the same day, the Government approved a proposal to reallocate 10 percent of the fiscal 2020 budgets of each ministry to a central fund to fight the pandemic and rehabilitate the economy. The amount reallocated would be worth a total of 100.4 billion baht (US$3.1 billion) and would be managed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha empowered by the emergency decree. This proposal was part of the third economic stimulus package approved on April 6.

After the Cabinet approved the redistribution plan, on April 23, a health advocacy group, the People’s Health Systems Movement, sent an open letter to the Prime Minister objecting the plan which would divert 2.4 billion baht (US$74 million) from the universal health coverage scheme’s budget and 938.4 million baht (US$28.9 million) from the Ministry of Public Health’s budget to fund the employment upgrade plan. On April 25, Ministry of Public Health Permanent Secretary Sukhum Karnchanapimai and Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat assured that the universal health coverage scheme’s budget was not cut and the 48 million people covered by the scheme would not be affected. Permanent Secretary Sukhum added that the Government had given three billion baht (US$92.5 million) to the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which oversees the universal health coverage scheme. Earlier on March 2, the Ministry of Public Health added COVID-19 under the universal health coverage scheme and proposed a 3.5 billion baht (US$107.9 million) budget to finance the inclusion of COVID-19 in the scheme.

Thailand Withdrew Proposal to Join CPTPP Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 28, Thailand Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit withdrew a proposal to the cabinet to consider Thailand joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The Minister cited the concerns about the trade pact’s impact on health security from civil groups, business interests, and the Ministry of Public Health as the reason to withdraw the proposal. The civil society groups opposed to the trade pact, including the Pharmacy Council of Thailand, argued that joining the CPTPP would restrict the rights to access medicine and state procurement activities, threatening public health especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 24, former Public Health Minister Dr Mongkol Na Songkhla warned in a Facebook Live address that Thailand would lose the right to compulsory licensing for patented medicines, especially for HIV and cancer, if Thailand joined the CPTPP.

The proposal is prepared by the Department of Trade Negotiation, Thai Ministry of Commerce, based on a study of the pros and cons of joining the trade pact done by Bolliger & Company, a strategic consultancy. According to this study, joining the CPTPP will boost Thailand’s annual GDP by 0.12% or by 13.3 billion baht (US$409 million) with investment up 5.14%, and exports up 3.47%. On the other hand, not participating will result in 26.6 billion baht (US$818 million) loss of revenue and a contraction of GDP by 0.25% per annum, with investment down 0.49% and exports down 0.19%. The CPTPP entered into force in December 2018 when seven, including Vietnam and Singapore, out of eleven signatories ratified the agreement. Malaysia and Brunei are the other two Southeast Asian countries of the trade pact but have not yet ratified. Trade Negotiations Department chief Auramon Supthaweethum said ahead of the withdrawal that Thailand will lose an opportunity to compete and will be overtaken by neighboring countries if Thailand does not join the pact. Proponents of the trade have argued that free trade agreement could help the economy revitalize after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It should also be noted that following the April 14 Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) highlighted a number of key areas that require immediate attention including urging all ASEAN member states to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement in 2020.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
Relief funds to monks approved
Govt to test re-opening of 8 businesses next week
Shops told to obey rules
City Hall lists places for reopening
Coronavirus: Thailand extends state of emergency until May 31

Defense & Security
Boeing scores deals to deliver missiles to Saudi, Thailand
Covid-19 induces Thai defence budget cuts
Thai army puts Stryker armoured vehicle deal on hold while Covid-19 battle rages

Economics
Economic rehab plan en route
Thailand's GDP to contract up to 5% for 2020 - business thinktank
Shippers maintain full-year view of 8% export decline
Central bank paints grim economic picture

Energy
PTTEP unveils new oil find off Mexico
EA undeterred by low fossil fuel prices
Thailand's PTTEP says two new oil discoveries offshore Mexico
Ministry keen to build LNG stockpile while prices low
New power discounts effective immediately

Food & Agriculture
Thai farmers to get COVID-19 financial aid mid of May
Thailand Gives a Green Light to Imports of Kiwis from Greece
Farming households get B15,000 aid
Thailand extends alcohol ban, health ministry says some measures could be eased

Health & Life Sciences
Medical tourism drop hits Bumrungrad Hospital
Thai Government confirms that a Covid19 contact tracing phone application is coming very soon
MOPH develops reusable PPE
Outbreak spurs rush of medical patent requests
Health new priority for the airlines
Thailand Races Ahead as Global Healthcare Hub
Cabinet approves extension of financial aid to GFATM
GPO gearing up to produce Favipiravir
Govt denies 'gold card' budget cut
Pharmacy Council urges caution over Thailand joining the CPTPP
Government defends universal healthcare budget cut
HealthMin to Spend 45 Bil. Baht on COVID-19 Vaccine Research
Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study
Recovery in local patient visits in sight for Thai hospitals

ICT
New anti-Covid phone app for use when entering shops
NBTC head says technical expertise is secondary for position
5G adoption outlook mixed
TOT told to map conduits
AIS Business launches Cyber Security Operation Center

Infrastructure
Parliament complex contractor sues for B1.59bn over delays
Pattaya resumes numerous major construction projects including Walking Street and repair beach after weekend storms
Pink Line train route steaming towards completion
BBS consortium wins U-tapao airport bid
THAI to press ahead with B11bn maintenance facility
State Railway kicks off bidding for Bt1.67 billion repair contract
Airbus pulls out of U-Tapao airport project

Travel & Tourism
PM says THAI plan not yet on cabinet agenda
Strict screening awaits Chinese, Korean visitors
Union opposes privatising THAI, spinning off units
PM pins hopes on factories, tourism restarting
THAI will borrow to survive, remain state enterprise
6 million unemployed in tourism alone - a stark outlook for Thailand's tourist industry
Scheduled passenger flight ban extended until end of May
Thailand turns to China to revive post-Covid tourist economy
TAT expects 16m international tourists
Eight airlines to meet Minister Uttama on loans
Business News: China to lead Thailand tourism revival, say experts
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Relief funds to monks approved Bangkok Post 14th May 2020
A relief fund will be allocated to monks troubled by dwindling public donations and alms because of Covid-19, according to Prime Minister's Office Minister Tewan Liptapallop. It is estimated each monk may be provided 100 baht a day or less of relief money.

Govt to test re-opening of 8 businesses next week Thailand Today 10th May 2020
Doctor Taweesin Visanuyothin, the spokesperson of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said the government will gather opinions for the second phase of business re-opening on 13 May and use “sandbox” method to test the effectiveness of social distancing and other measures to prevent the further spread of infections. Trial openings of department stores and other businesses are due on 14-15 May. If the results on Covid-19 preventive measures are satisfactory on 16 May, the following 8 businesses will be allowed to reopen on 17 May: food shops/restaurants, department stores, health and body relaxation such as body massage and spa, beauty institutes, fitness centers, conventional rooms/hotes/organisations, movie studios, amusement parks and playgrounds.

Shops told to obey rules Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has warned it will order shops and wholesale stores to close if they allow customers to scramble for goods in defiance of the social-distancing rules.nThe lockdown in Bangkok has been eased for some businesses including wet markets, floating markets and community markets. The markets have returned to trading with strict health-screening measures in place. Shoppers must have their temperature checked before they enter and have to wash their hands regularly while on the premises. Moreover, vendors and customers must wear masks at all times and practise social-distancing.

City Hall lists places for reopening Bangkok Post 29th Apr 2020
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration plans to reopen restaurants, markets, exercise venues, parks, hairdressers, clinics, animal hospitals and grooming parlours, golf courses and driving ranges. The Bangkok governor did not specify a reopening date, but officials expected it would be Friday.

Coronavirus: Thailand extends state of emergency until May 31 The Straits Times 28th Apr 2020
Thailand is extending the state of emergency for a month until May 31, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Tuesday (April 28), even as new coronavirus cases in the country have been on a decline for the past few weeks. The Prime Minister said the ease of the lockdown will be made in four phases, with each implemented at least 14 days apart. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand on Monday announced an extension to the ban on all inbound commercial flights except for repatriation, cargo and emergency landings to May 31. Thailand has reported a continual decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases since early April, following a spike in mid-March. There were seven new cases on Tuesday, and nine new cases on Monday. There have been a total of 2,938 infections and 54 deaths as of Tuesday

Defense & Security

Boeing scores deals to deliver missiles to Saudi, Thailand Bangkok Post 14th May 2020
Boeing has been awarded two contracts worth more than $2 billion for the delivery of more than 1,000 air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said Wednesday. The Pentagon also announced a more than $650 million contract for delivery of 467 new Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles, including more than 400 to Saudi Arabia. The others will be delivered to Brazil, Qatar and Thailand. Support equipment will be supplied to India, Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea, the statement said.

Covid-19 induces Thai defence budget cuts Army Technology 1st May 2020
Thailand has announced budget cuts for the current 2020 Financial Year (FY) package and the suspension of selected defense projects until FY 2021. The budget has been cut by US$557 million in 2020 to support a THB1.9 trillion stimulus package that will address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among suspended programs figure the procurement of two T-50 Golden Eagle aircrafts and the planned order of two Type 041 diesel-electric attack submarines.

Thai army puts Stryker armoured vehicle deal on hold while Covid-19 battle rages The Star Online 22nd Apr 2020
A military source confirmed on Wednesday (April 22) that the Army will not procure Stryker armoured vehicles this fiscal year, after Ordnance Department documents leaked online appeared to show the deal was going ahead. The leaked documents said the Army planned to procure 50 armoured vehicles from the United States via its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

Economics

Economic rehab plan en route Bangkok Post 11th May 2020
A 400-billion-baht borrowing plan intended for economic and social rehabilitation after the pandemic to strengthen the domestic economy will be added to the cabinet's agenda next week, with the first batch expected to be doled out later this month. Rehabilitating the farming sector is crucial to build up the local economy as a buffer against the export and tourism sectors' fluctuations, especially as they have been adversely affected by the virus, said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

Thailand's GDP to contract up to 5% for 2020 - business thinktank The Thaiger 10th May 2020
Thailand’s GDP is expected to contract between 3-5% for 2020, and exports by up to 10%. The predictions came from Suphan Mongkolsuthee, president of the Federation of Thai Industries and chairman of the private sector joint committee. He also believes that the Thai economy has probably reached its ‘low point’ and will start recovering from now. Meanwhile other economic think tanks are estimating that Thailand will have a particularly tough time recovering due to its reliance on the tourism industry, wiped out due to travel bans and airline groundings.

Shippers maintain full-year view of 8% export decline Bangkok Post 6th May 2020
Despite the easing of lockdown measures and higher demand in several export categories, Thailand's shipments are still forecast to contract by 8% this year, says a key trade group. The Commerce Ministry reported on April 21 that exports unexpectedly rose 4.2% year-on-year in March to US$22.4 billion, marking the biggest expansion in eight months and the highest value in 19 months. According to the ministry, electronics such as computers and parts dominated the export rebound from the real sector and registered positive growth for a fourth straight month. Exports of agro-industrial continuously expanded in response to rising demand for food and other essential goods. But lower global oil prices have suppressed the export value of oil-related products, which accounted for 8.2% of March's total exports.

Central bank paints grim economic picture Bangkok Post 30th Apr 2020
The economy contracted at an accelerated pace in March due to Covid-19 measures, with sharp drops reported in almost all areas, according to the Bank of Thailand. Contraction was seen in all sectors, especially tourism (-76.4% year-on-year) and exports (-2.2%). The only bright spots were imports and public spending, which continued to expand. However, public spending increased because of a delay in the passage of the budget bill earlier. Overall, economic stability worsened in March, with headline inflation in a negative range for the first time since 2017 due to plummeting energy prices. Core inflation and fresh food inflation, however, remained positive, albeit lower than in February.

Energy

PTTEP unveils new oil find off Mexico Bangkok Post 6th May 2020
PTT Exploration and Production Plc (PTTEP), the oil and gas drilling arm of national oil and gas conglomerate PTT Plc, has announced a new oil discovery off the shore of Mexico. PTTEP and its joint venture partners made two successful deep-water oil discoveries in Block 29 in offshore Mexico, with good quality reservoirs. The commercial potential of the new discoveries will be assessed in the next phase. Phongsthorn Thavisin, president and chief executive of PTTEP, said the firm operates in Mexico through its wholly owned PTTEP Mexico E&P Co. Its consortium made the discoveries in the Salina Basin.

EA undeterred by low fossil fuel prices Bangkok Post 5th May 2020
SET-listed Energy Absolute is adamant it will not delay the kick-off of the first phase of its 100-billion-baht lithium-ion battery production plant at the end of this year, despite tumbling oil prices putting the viability of electric vehicles (EV) at risk. "Yes, there is a theory that low oil prices are not good for EV demand, but I believe the massive shift to EVs in the short term won't be stopped," said electricity billionaire Somphote Ahunai, founder and chief executive of Energy Absolute. He ranks 18th on Thailand's 50 Richest list on Forbes, with an estimated net worth of US$2 billion.

Thailand's PTTEP says two new oil discoveries offshore Mexico AF 4th May 2020
Thai energy company PTT Exploration and Production Pcl said on Monday its joint venture had made two deep-water oil discoveries in the Salina Basin, offshore Mexico. The Mexican subsidiary of PTTEP, Thailand’s largest oil and gas producer, and three partners including the Mexican subsidiary of Spain’s Repsol SA, will be assessing commercial potential of the new discovery in two exploration wells (with approximately 200meters and 150meters in net oil pay) in Block 29, PTTEP said in a statement. The joint venture partners also include the Mexican subsidiary of Malaysia’s Petronas and German oil and gas company Wintershall Dea.

Ministry keen to build LNG stockpile while prices low Bangkok Post 28th Apr 2020
The Energy Ministry has thrown full support behind a plan by state-owned energy firms to import additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) from spot markets, where LNG has hit record low prices, in order to lower energy costs. The move aims to help businesses and homeowners struggling from the lockdown, and save the government money as it is expected to spend some 70 billion baht on electricity bill relief measures. National oil and gas conglomerate PTT and state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) reported they are purchasing LNG from spot markets, with six shipments at a total volume of 370,000 tonnes, arriving sometime this year.

New power discounts effective immediately Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
Energy authorities are rushing to assuage public concern about electric bills, saying the new discounts should go into effect next week for Bangkok and start today for other provinces, after an outpouring of complaints regarding April's power bill. The cabinet previously approved additional relief measures for electricity users, promising discounts of 30-100% depending on power usage, after many households complained about steep power bills as a result of people staying home during the lockdown.

Food & Agriculture

Thai farmers to get COVID-19 financial aid mid of May Pattaya Mail 5th May 2020
The agriculture minister expects financial aid to reach farmers affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 from mid this month onwards and farmers are advised to quickly register for the assistance. Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on said the aid was approved by the cabinet on April 28 and up to 10 million famers’ households would each receive 5,000 baht a month for three months from May to July.

Thailand Gives a Green Light to Imports of Kiwis from Greece The National Herald 29th Apr 2020
Thailand has given a green light to the import of Greek kiwis to the country, in a decision published in the country's Royal Gazette and effective from Wednesday. The decision gives Greek suppliers the opportunity to export their kiwis to the Asian country. Greece submitted a request to Thailand to approve the import of kiwis and cherries in March 2016. In November 2019 a group of experts from the Thai agriculture ministry visited Greece to examine the condition of Greek orchards and the adequacy of the state controls.

Farming households get B15,000 aid Bangkok Post 29th Apr 2020
The cabinet has approved financial aid of 5,000 baht a month for three months each for 10 million farming households and increased the number of eligible self-employed people affected by coronavirus measures to 16 million from 14 million. For the farmer group, eligible recipients are some 8.4 million farming families already registered in the government’s database. Their IDs will be used in checking the eligibility. An estimated 1.6 million more households which haven’t registered can do so at the website of the Agricultural Extension Department by May 15.

Thailand extends alcohol ban, health ministry says some measures could be eased Reuters 20th Apr 2020
Thailand extended a nationwide ban on alcohol sales until April 30 as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 2,792 on Monday, but the health ministry suggested some measures could soon be eased. The extension of the alcohol ban will help control the spread of the coronavirus by discouraging social gatherings, said Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. All other provinces have also extended the ban to the end of the month, an Interior Ministry official said.

Health & Life Sciences

Medical tourism drop hits Bumrungrad Hospital Bangkok Post 11th May 2020
Bumrungrad Hospital Plc said the plunge in medical tourists traveling to Thailand amid the coronavirus pandemic has squeezed its business, as the majority of the health-care operator’s revenue typically comes from international patients. “The Covid-19 crisis is a very tough test for all businesses,” Chief Executive Officer Artirat Charukitpipat said in a written interview on Monday. “More than 50% of our patients used to come from overseas. They’ve now disappeared. The most important question is how we will get over this crisis. At Bumrungrad, agility runs in our blood. We have great staff, and they are ready to adjust.”

Thai Government confirms that a Covid19 contact tracing phone application is coming very soon The Pattaya News 10th May 2020
The spokesman of the Center for Covid19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, confirmed this afternoon to the associated Thai press that a contact tracing application is indeed coming VERY soon and being developed by the Thai Government in association with the CCSA. The app, which will be designed to work for nearly all modern smart phones, is based on similar applications that is required in China, South Korea, Taiwan and other countries to enter “high risk” venues like entertainment. Dr. Taweesin stated that more in depth details will be released at tomorrow’s press briefing from the CCSA, but did take time to allay some fears.

MOPH develops reusable PPE National News Bureau of Thailand 10th May 2020
Medical workers who are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic face the highest risk of infection. Personal Protective Equipment or PPE is essential to protect themselves against the virus, however it can only be used once. Now, the Ministry of Public Health has joined forces with related agencies to developed reusable PPEs that are domestically manufactured. The newly developed PPE comes in the form of a long-sleeve protective gown that can be washed and reworn at least 20 times; it is intended to be used as a substitute for the conventional single-use gowns.

Outbreak spurs rush of medical patent requests Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
Fifty-one requests have been filed with the Commerce Ministry seeking to patent medical innovations created as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the ministry. Private individuals and organisations in Thailand have lodged the requests in four categories of creations, said Deputy Commerce Minister Weerasak Wangsuphakijkosol. They are 26 requests for equipment to stop transmission of the virus, such as face masks and face shields, 18 requests for disinfectant machines or apparatus including sterilisers and walk-in disinfectant chambers; four requests for sanitiser substances; and three for service robots which help minimise human-to-human contact between medical workers and patients.

Health new priority for the airlines Bangkok Post 7th May 2020
Health measures will be a key concern for the aviation industry going forward, says chief executive of Star Alliance, Jeffrey Goh. "After the 9/11 tragedy, we focused on security and enforced some restrictions on sharp instruments, liquids and gels," he said. "The coronavirus crisis will now bring health to the forefront." New regulations on protective and health equipment or accessories will be introduced on the ground and on-board. Passengers must embrace health screening technology in supporting new measures.

Thailand Races Ahead as Global Healthcare Hub Bangkok Post 7th May 2020
Investors bet on medical device market as health tourism surges.Long famed for world-class hospitals that attract patients from around the globe, Southeast Asia’s second largest economy is now also becoming a key player in the $2.3 trillion global medical device industry. In 2019, the value of the Thailand medical device market rose to 176 billion baht (US$6 billion) – a 70 percent increase in the past decade, according to official figures from Thailand’s Office of Industrial Economics. Thailand ranks ahead of Singapore as the most important importer and exporter of such products in the ten-member Associations of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to Krungsri Research, a unit of Japan’s largest financial services group, MUFG. Krungsri forecasts that the annual growth rate of Thailand’s medical device market will increase this year and in 2021 to between 8 and 10 percent.

Cabinet approves extension of financial aid to GFATM National News Bureau of Thailand 6th May 2020
A meeting of cabinet ministers approved the Ministry of Public Health’s proposal to extend financial support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). The Deputy Government Spokeswoman, Traisuree Taisaranakul, said the cabinet meeting agreed to extend the financial assistance of 1.5 million US dollars per year, or about 48 million baht annually, to the GFATM from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2024. This will improve the GFATM’s liquidity and ensure the continuity of its activities, while reiterating that Thailand recognizes the importance of working with other member states to combat these diseases. The global fund is also ready to support operations, worth about 30 million US dollars a year, in Thailand.

GPO gearing up to produce Favipiravir Bangkok Post 29th Apr 2020
The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) is working to make its own Favipiravir -- the antiviral medicine which has been touted as a treatment for Covid-19. Favipiravir is an antiviral medication used to treat influenza in Japan. It is known for stopping viruses from duplicating and has been used to treat Covid-19. Thailand has been importing Favipiravir, mostly from Japan, to treat Covid-19 patients with moderate to severe symptoms since January. The Ministry of Public Health has 200,000 Favipiravir tablets in stock, which is 80% below its target of one million.

Govt denies 'gold card' budget cut Bangkok Post 26th Apr 2020
The Public Health Ministry yesterday denied claims the cabinet has approved a 2.4 billion baht budget cut in the "gold card" scheme. Clarifying media reports, permanent secretary Sukhum Karnchanapimai said the government had in fact given three billion baht to the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which oversees the Universal Healthcare Coverage, known as the gold card scheme. The money had been allocated from the central budget for emergency purposes, following the cabinet's concern the NHSO may not have enough money to run its health welfare programme during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

Pharmacy Council urges caution over Thailand joining the CPTPP Pharmacy Council urges caution over Thailand joining the CPTPP 26th Apr 2020
The Pharmacy Council of Thailand (PCT) has urged the Government not to rush into joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, fearing that early entry, without taking into account inputs from all stakeholders, may hurt the domestic pharmaceutical industry and hinder access to affordable medicines. The PCT voiced its concern after it learned that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak will propose, at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, that Thailand should send a letter of intent to the trade bloc, expressing its intent to join the grouping. Since the submission of the letter is the first step in entering into the multi-lateral agreement, the PCT suggested that the Thai government should not offer to amend certain Thai regulations, to bring them in line with CPTPP, but should make use of the current Thai regulations as a bargaining chip to protect Thai national interests relating to the country’s health care system and patent linkage.

Government defends universal healthcare budget cut Bangkok Post 25th Apr 2020
The government says the medical benefits people receive under the universal healthcare programme remain intact even though a cabinet resolution showed 2.4 billion baht would be cut from the budget. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat gave the assurances on Saturday after news broke that the budget allocated to the National Health Security Office (NHSO) was among those to be trimmed so more funds can be mobilised to stem the coronavirus plague. She said the budget for the programme had not been cut. In fact, she said, the cabinet earlier approved 3 billion baht from the contingency fund to the NHSO to cover the extra costs incurred during the Covid-19 outbreak.

HealthMin to Spend 45 Bil. Baht on COVID-19 Vaccine Research Khaosod English 23rd Apr 2020
Thailand’s Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul on Wednesday told the media that he had told the National Vaccines Committee (NVC) and the private sectors to quickly develop the specifications for the production of a COVID-19 vaccine. The minister said an estimated 45 billion baht (1.39 billion U.S. dollars) for the vaccine research will be part of the 1.9 trillion baht (58.7 billion U.S. dollars) loan granted by the government. The NVC said that candidate vaccines will have to go through mandatory trials, on animals and humans, to prove their safety, efficacy and ability to generate antibodies.

Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study The Lancet Global Health 14th May 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic will increase mortality due to the virus, it is also likely to increase mortality indirectly. In this study, we estimate the additional maternal and under-5 child deaths resulting from the potential disruption of health systems and decreased access to food. Our least severe scenario (coverage reductions of 9·8–18·5% and wasting increase of 10%) over 6 months would result in 253 500 additional child deaths and 12 200 additional maternal deaths. Our most severe scenario (coverage reductions of 39·3–51·9% and wasting increase of 50%) over 6 months would result in 1 157 000 additional child deaths and 56 700 additional maternal deaths.

Recovery in local patient visits in sight for Thai hospitals Health Care Asia Magazine 30th Apr 2020
Thailand’s hospitals could see a gradual recovery in hospital visits by locals, as lockdown curbs over Q2 ease following an improvement in the country’s COVID-19 situation, according to a report from Nomura. Thai hospitals were noted to have been experiencing significant drops in local patient traffic since the latter half of March, due to intensifying lockdown measures and the public’s avoidance of hospital visits due to fears of infection. The situation is expected to start improving by late-Q2. On the other hand, the return of fly-in patients could take longer than was previously expected, as stringent international travel restrictions are tipped to remain during the quarter and possibly into the latter half of the year.

ICT

New anti-Covid phone app for use when entering shops Bangkok Post 14th May 2020
The government will launch a new mobile phone app to facilitate disease-control tracking of customers as shops reopen with the easing of the coronavirus lockdown. Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said on Thursday that shop owners would register online for a QR code that would be placed in front of their shop. Customers would use their mobile phone to scan the code as they enter and leave the premises. Inspector-general of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said the new app would be launched on Friday afternoon, along with details of how to register. All kinds of shops could use it, including street vendors. He said customers' privacy would be protected. Only the Disease Control Department would have access to customers' information, and only for the sake of disease control. 

NBTC head says technical expertise is secondary for position Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) secretary-general Takorn Tantasith says his successor does not have to be a technical expert in the industry, as he or she will be backed by knowledgeable and experienced officials to streamline policy. Mr Takorn is scheduled to leave his post on July 1. The 59-year-old submitted his resignation letter to NBTC chairman Sukit Khamasundara on Feb 18, requesting to step down on May 18. His term ends officially on Sept 10, when he turns 60. On April 24, Gen Sukit informed Mr Takorn that he could leave the post on July 1.

5G adoption outlook mixed Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
While the government remains highly enthusiastic about the adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications, a key hurdle will be the readiness of industries to adopt such technologies; use cases are still being explored and the level of infrastructure maturity, especially in fringe areas of the country, remains low. Limited consumer 5G networks were launched in the 2.6GHz band by both True and AIS in February this year, while DTAC is planning to launch on the 26GHz band later in the first half and on the 700MHz band in the latter half of the year. However, coverage is focused only on commercial areas in downtown Bangkok. We expect that network rollouts in other parts of the country will follow a gradual, progressive pace.

TOT told to map conduits Bangkok Post 3rd May 2020
State telecom enterprise TOT has been ordered to map out existing underground cable conduits spanning more than 2,000 kilometres in Bangkok by early May so that a new project does not overlap, says Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta. The new conduit project's plan will then be brought to the National Digital Economy and Society Committee (NDESC), chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, for discussion, he said. "If the proposed plan is clear and agreed upon by related parties, the construction of conduits will be done at a reduced cost," Mr Buddhipongse said.

AIS Business launches Cyber Security Operation Center Bangkok Post 29th Apr 2020
AIS Business has launched Cyber Security Operation Center with the aim of protecting Thai businesses and organisations from cyberattack while they Work From Home (WFH). The AIS Cyber Secure service group further offers multiple solutions customised to meet the needs of any entity, including: Enterprise Mobility Management to assist in managing mobile usage following company policy, Network Firewall that enhances business efficiency, IT Log Management, and Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing to search for vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the corporate network.

Infrastructure

Parliament complex contractor sues for B1.59bn over delays Bangkok Post 29th Apr 2020
Sino-Thai Engineering & Construction Plc (Stecon) is suing the House secretariat for 1.59 billion baht for the delayed handover of land for the new parliament complex it is building in Bangkok. Sorasak Pienvej, secretary of the secretariat, said on Wednesday that Stecon had exercised the right to sue it had earlier reserved over the delay. Stecon won the contract to build the complex. It is years behind schedule. The contractor partly attributes this to delays in handing over the land in Kiakkai area, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River.

Pattaya resumes numerous major construction projects including Walking Street and repair beach after weekend storms The Pattaya News 28th Apr 2020
Several major construction projects have been resumed and teams returned to work in the Pattaya area as the Covid19 Coronavirus crisis appears to be improving. Underground cable construction projects at Pattaya Walking Street is expected to start in June, officials told The Pattaya News today.

Pink Line train route steaming towards completion The Nation Thailand 28th Apr 2020
The construction of the Pink Line MRT train route (Kaerai-Min Buri) is now 54 per cent complete and should be ready to open for public use on schedule in October 2021 despite the Covid-19 crisis, Surachet Laophulsuk, Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) deputy governor of Engineering and Construction, said on Monday (April 27). After an inspection, he said the Min Buri station will serve as a feeder to the MRT Orange Line (Thailand Cultural Centre-Min Buri).

BBS consortium wins U-tapao airport bid Bangkok Post 28th Apr 2020
The subcommittee handling infrastructure development projects at the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) chaired by Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana on Monday chose the BBS consortium to win the bid to build the 290-billion-baht Eastern Airport City Project at U-tapao. Kanit Sangsubhan, the EEC Office's secretary-general, said the subcommittee will propose the winning bidder for the project to the EEC Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday and for cabinet approval at a later date.

THAI to press ahead with B11bn maintenance facility Bangkok Post 27th Apr 2020
Thai Airways International will press on with a project to build a 11-billion maintenance facility east of Bangkok after partner Airbus dropped out due to the coronavirus outbreak, a senior official said on Monday. Airbus has asked not to participate in the investment, citing the impact of the Covid-19 situation on air travel, Deputy secretary-general for infrastructure in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Chokchai Panyayong told a news briefing.

State Railway kicks off bidding for Bt1.67 billion repair contract The Nation Thailand 23rd Apr 2020
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has published terms of reference for contractors bidding for the contract to repair GEA (General Electric Airbrake) locomotives, acting SRT governor Worawut Mala revealed. The process will be conducted via electronic bidding, with the mid-price set at Bt1.67 billion, he explained. The public hearing for the deal began on Monday (April 20) and will be held until this July, with the bid winner announced by the end of this year.

Airbus pulls out of U-Tapao airport project The Nation Thailand 22nd Apr 2020
A planned 11-billion-baht joint venture between Airbus and Thai Airways to develop a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at Rayong’s U-Tapao Airport has fallen victim to the Covid-19 pandemic. Airbus failed to deliver its proposal by the deadline on Monday (April 20), Cherdphan Chotikhun, executive vice president of THAI's Technical Department, revealed. That left the national carrier seeking a new solution, or else it will have to return the land earmarked for the facility to the Navy.Airbus SAS was only private corporation which passed the THAI’s special bidding process for the MRO, which is one of five core projects in the government’s flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

Travel & Tourism

PM says THAI plan not yet on cabinet agenda Bangkok Post 12th May 2020
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says the rehabilitation plan of the loss-ridden Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) has yet to be completed and forwarded to the cabinet. The future of THAI is widely watched after reports the flagship carrier would need as much as 134 billion baht from the government to stay afloat. Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said THAI must submit a rehabilitation plan by the end of May if it wants the government to consider a rescue package. The Public Debt Management Office is poised to guarantee a 54-billion-baht short-term loan for THAI for use as working capital if the cabinet approves its rehab plan.

Strict screening awaits Chinese, Korean visitors Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
The health minister has proposed China and South Korea be removed from the government's list of dangerous disease zones, but visitors from there would still be subject to strict health controls. The government's Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) had approved in principle the removal of the two countries from the list, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Friday.

Union opposes privatising THAI, spinning off units Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
The Thai Airways International union has made clear its stance against privatisation and spinning off potentially profitable units as part of a rescue plan for the ailing national carrier. Union president Nares Peung-yaem said the union was determined to oppose any attempt to end the airline as a state enterprise. The move took place on the same day that Gen Prayut held talks with ministers on details of a plan to rescue the financially crippled flag carrier. Details of the meeting have not been disclosed. The government had said earlier that it did not intend to bring in new private investors or do anything else that would reduce the state shareholding below 51%, the level required to keep its state-enterprise status. It is not clear whether senior political figures still hold this view.

PM pins hopes on factories, tourism restarting Bangkok Post 8th May 2020
The economy would improve once businesses reopen and employ people, and tourism resumes, with measures in place to give visitors confidence in their safety, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday. Speaking about the employment situation, Gen Prayut said "if workplaces reopen, there will be employment and salaries. If factories reopen and employ people, rehabilitation will start." "Tourism, tourist destinations and hotels will be improved so that tourists will have confidence and return to Thailand. We will take special care of public health," the prime minister said.

THAI will borrow to survive, remain state enterprise Bangkok Post 29th Apr 2020
Thai Airways International (THAI) will borrow money to survive the coronavirus crisis, and will remain a state enterprise, the Finance Ministry announced on Wednesday. A source at Government House said the cabinet would lift its restriction on the Finance Ministry acting as loan guarantor, specifically to save Thai Airways. The ministry is barred from guaranteeing loans for any state enterprise that has posted losses for three years in a row.

6 million unemployed in tourism alone - a stark outlook for Thailand's tourist industry The Thaiger 29th Apr 2020
Up to 6 million people are expected to lose their jobs in the tourism sector alone as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Tourism is a critical industry for the Thai economy that accounts for between 15-18% of the country’s GDP in direct income, and up to 21% when you include all the other businesses that rely on the flow of tourists. Half-completed hotels and condos are likely to remain unfinished and the rest of the country’s accommodation offerings will be battling for slim pickings for at least the rest of this year and probably well into 2021. The country’s MICE industry (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions), already battling with the high Thai baht and uncompetitive meetings and convention landscape, will likely be almost non-existent well into next year. Tourism makes up 21.6% of Thailand’s GDP.

Scheduled passenger flight ban extended until end of May The Thaiger 27th Apr 2020
The inbound passenger flight restriction is now going to be extended another 31 days, until the end of May, whilst more repatriation flights for Thai citizens will continue this week. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand says they will extend the ongoing ban, currently scheduled to end on April 30. The first of the temporary closures was announced on April 4.

Thailand turns to China to revive post-Covid tourist economy The Thaiger 26th Apr 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has crushed Thailand’s tourism sector, long considered a lifeline for the nation’s already battered economy, as numbers of foreign visitors have dropped below even the worst predictions plunging 76.4% in March from last year after a 42.8% drop in February. But with infection rates flattening in Thailand since early April, hopes are high in segments of the tourism industry, that the easing of some rules under the national state of emergency in the coming weeks might bring some relief to the travel economy. When borders open and international travel bans are lifted, China will almost certainly resume its dominant role in Thailand’s inbound tourism sector. How this major feeder market for Thailand (and many destinations around the world), is expected to begin travelling again will offer strategies for those suffering through today’s crisis.

TAT expects 16m international tourists Bangkok Post 22nd Apr 2020
Thailand is likely to close this year with only 16 million international tourists and 60 million domestic trips, far below the pre-coronavirus targets of 40 million and 172 million respectively, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The estimates have the country losing almost 24 million tourists and 1.9 trillion baht in revenue compared with last year, which saw arrivals soar to 39.8 million and revenue climb to 1.93 trillion baht. Meanwhile, domestic tourism will likely plunge to 60 million trips from 167 million last year, with receipts down to 380 billion baht from 1.08 trillion baht in 2019. Combining domestic with international receipts -- projected at only 740 billion baht -- total revenue this year is set to drop by 62.8% to 1.12 trillion baht from 3.01 trillion baht last year.

Eight airlines to meet Minister Uttama on loans The Nation Thailand 20th Apr 2020
Eight domestic airlines prepared for discussions with the Finance Ministry on April 20 on seeking soft loans to keep their businesses afloat after complying with the government’s request not to lay off 30,000-50,000 employees in the airline industry amid the Covid-19 crisis. Official measures regarding future business operations will be announced Wednesday.

Business News: China to lead Thailand tourism revival, say experts The Phuket News Com 20th Apr 2020
The newly released China Thailand Travel Sentiment Survey 2020, conducted in mid-April by C9 Hotelworks and Delivering Asia Communications, focused on key demand factors in the country’s reopening of the tourism economy. A strong positive message from the research is that 71% of Chinese consumers said they would like to visit Thailand, the report says. Commenting on the road to tourism recovery C9 Hotelworks Managing Director Bill Barnett said, “We expect Thailand’s reopening trajectory to initially be dominated by the domestic storyline but move quickly into inter-regional travel punctuated by the outbound China sector who are ready and willing to visit the country as demonstrated by the survey results.”