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  • PM, council of economic ministers to find ways of rebooting country

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has called a meeting with the council of economic ministers on July 10 to discuss the state of Thailand’s economy, the council’s secretary-general Kobsak Pootrakul said on Thursday (July 2).

    The meeting will also seek measures to assist small and medium-sized enterprises from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, he added.

    Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Thursday assigned the Revenue Department and the Fiscal Policy Office to come up with measures to encourage community-level tourism and woo big spenders. The measures should be ready by mid this month, he added.

    Somkid has also asked the central bank to widen the opportunity for businesses to take bank loans.

    Meanwhile, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said his ministry was thinking about asking the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation to develop a credit guarantee project to help small businesses. This measure is expected to be ready in two weeks.

    The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking revised its forecast for Thailand’s economic growth on Wednesday, bringing it down from between -3 and -5 per cent to between -5 and -8 per cent.

    The Bank of Thailand has also recently said that the country’s economy this year will contract 8.1 per cent, worst ever, because the Covid-19 crisis has had a greater impact on both the Kingdom’s and global economy.

    Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), expects Thai gross domestic product (GDP) to show a 10-15 per cent contraction in the second quarter of this year, the period of lockdown when the economy felt the full impact of Covid-19.

    He forecasts that the spending level of Thais will return to normal spending in a year's time.

    According to the university's Economic and Business Forecasting survey, the consumer confidence index rose to 49.2 from the previous month's score of 48.2. The rise coincided with phases 3 and 4 of lockdown easing.

    The survey was conducted on 2,241 participants.

    Positive factors affecting the results were the government's relaxation of lockdown restrictions and launch of measures to ease burdens on consumers and businesses, Thanavath added.

    Negative factors included public concern over the outbreak and weakened economy as well as the state of emergency extension.

    People were also worried over the renewed trade war between the US and China, which threatens Thai exports.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • Government survives key test with B3.3tn budget vote

      The coalition government survived a key challenge on Friday when Parliament passed the first reading of a 3.3 trillion baht budget bill for the 2021 fiscal year, aimed at reviving an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

      A defeat would have forced Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's 20-party government to either resign or dissolve Parliament.

      After a three-day debate, the bill's passed with 273 votes in favour, 200 against and three abstentions.

      The bill still has to pass second and third readings in early September. It will also need senate and royal approval.

      The proposed budget projects a 3.1% rise in spending to 3.3 trillion baht for the fiscal year starting on Oct 1. It projects a deficit of 623 billion baht, up 32.8% from the 2020 fiscal year.

      The budget planners have assumed Southeast Asia's second-largest economy will shrink 5%-6% this year before growing 4-5% in 2021. The Bank of Thailand has forecast a record economic contraction of 8.1% this year.:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • Pandemic gives Prayut leverage to extend stay in power

        It is a year since Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returned to power as a civilian leader, but his government already has its sights set on staying in power beyond the remaining three years of its term.

        The first 12 months have presented many challenges for the Prayut regime, including anti-government protests and the coronavirus pandemic, which has sent the Southeast Asian economy into a tailspin.

        The government claims it has launched numerous projects and packages to help people over the past year, while mega infrastructure schemes such as a high-speed rail link between the country's major airports are proceeding apace.

        Some opinion polls show Thais are fairly satisfied with the performance of Gen Prayut, though they question the government's track record on transparency as well as checks and balances within Parliament.

        Yutthaporn Issarachai, a political science lecturer at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, says the government scores six out of 10 for its performance, citing a lack of progress in its promise to heal rifts in domestic politics.

        Gen Prayut had made this pledge when the military, led by the then army chief, staged a coup and seized power from a civilian government in 2014, after years of fractious political infighting.

        In February, the Prayut government faced a near crisis after the Constitutional Court dissolved the country's second-largest opposition party, Future Forward, and banned its 16 executives from participating in politics for 10 years.

        Groups of students held rallies criticising Future Forward's dissolution as politically motivated, accusing the government of engaging in a conspiracy to crush the burgeoning opposition party.

        Then the country was hit by coronavirus. Despite a clumsy initial response, the government guided the country away from the precipice after imposing a state of emergency in late March.

        The decree was quickly followed by a nighttime curfew, along with the closure of schools and restaurants, to keep the spread of the virus in check.

        The country, which reported a one-day high of 188 confirmed cases on March 22, gradually saw a decline in infections and fatalities over the following weeks.

        Stimulus packages

        Meanwhile, the government moved to draw up stimulus packages to prop up the economy, while financial assistance poured into businesses and to help people affected by the lockdowns.

        Mr Yutthaporn acknowledged the government's handling of the pandemic means it has likely done enough to ride out its four-year term, but that it is too far ahead to predict if it can secure a second stint in 2023.

        Political and military sources agree with Mr Yutthaporn's assessment, saying the government is confident of surviving the first term due to keeping the virus under control, and because parliamentary opposition is weak.

        In a bid to ensure it retains power, the government has begun laying the ground for a second term, in particular last weekend's leadership change in the ruling Palang Pracharath Party.

        Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, a former army chief known in military circles as Gen Prayut's big brother, became party leader at the expense of finance minister Uttama Savanayana. The leadership change is seen to signpost a cabinet reshuffle, which is rumoured to be coming in August or September.

        Student-led anti-government protests are expected to continue but are unlikely to upend the political landscape, one of the sources said.

        Parit Chiwarak, one of the student leaders who organised flashmob-style protests over the dissolution of the opposition party this year, said students will hold further demonstrations.

        He accused the government of using "various mechanisms to cling onto power" while trampling on society's basic rights.

        Some of the biggest unknowns include whether the government can weather the economic whiplash brought on by the impact of the pandemic, and if there could be a post-pandemic backlash over its handling of it.

        Be more competive

        Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand, said the government's overall performance over the past year was moderate given the global economy has faced sluggish growth.

        He lauded the regime for its handling of public health concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it did a good job of protecting people and helping relieve the impact on all sectors.

        "I expect to see more efficiency and concrete measures in stimulating the economy, and a long-term plan for promoting the country's sustainable growth," Mr Kalin said.

        Mr Kalin suggested the government should focus on making Thailand more competitive, narrowing the income gap, promoting tourism and trade, and continuing to expand trade on bilateral and multilateral tracks, among other areas.

        Yet, Aat Pisanwanich, director of the International Trade Studies Center at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the government has performed poorly on the economy.

        "Many economic-related problems still need to be solved or improved, including the declining price of agricultural products, and declining trade competitiveness," he said, suggesting the government reshuffle its economic team to better tackle these.:

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • Prayut to reshuffle Cabinet after 4 ministers quit ruling party

          Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he will reshuffle the Cabinet, after his four economics ministers resigned from the ruling Palang Pracharat Party.

          His move came after four key members of Palang Pracharat quit the party on Thursday (July 9). Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Energy Minister Sonthirat Sonthijirawong, Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Suwit Maesincee and Kobsak Pootrakool, deputy secretary-general to PM and secretary to Council of Economic Ministers, held a joint press conference to announce their resignations. Political observers say the move by the quartet, who are credited with running Thailand's economy, came after weeks of Palang Pracharat Party infighting between factions jostling for power.

          Responding to the resignations, Prayut said that he respected the decisions. “But I have to move the country forward and will talk with coalition parties about a Cabinet reshuffle,” he said.

          Prayut did not confirm a report that the Cabinet reshuffle would take place in September. He said the timing would depend on the political process which he would discuss with parties in the government coalition.

          He confirmed that the four ministers who quit the party were under his quota when he accepted the post of premier a year ago.

          Asked if the economic ministers would be reshuffled as well, Prayut said the whole Cabinet would be revamped. Those with the best performance could continue to work with him, he said.

          Asked if outsiders will be invited to participate, he said that he would consider all options.

          Prayut said the Council of Economic Ministers meeting on Friday (July 10) has been postponed so that he can meet with his team of economic advisers team instead tomorrow. He will then put their proposals to the Economic Ministers.

          The economic ministers were due on Friday to discuss the latest economic situation and measures to support small and medium-sized enterprises. On July 24, they were scheduled to discuss delays in tourism recovery and the virus outbreak’s impact on employment.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • Prayut shifts to 'new normal' economic management

            Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has changed the way he manages the economy by increasing collaboration with his economic advisers and business leaders.

            Prayut postponed today's meeting of the Council of Economic Ministers and instead held a meeting with his advisers, economic ministers and business leaders to discuss remedial and recovery plans after the Covid-19 outbreak.

            Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who leads the Cabinet economics team, also attended today’s meeting.

            Somkid downplayed the postponement of the economic ministers meeting, saying that economic management would run smoothly as he knows both the PM's advisers and business leaders very well.

            “It is better for the PM to have all the information, including from outsiders, before making a decision on economic measures,” said Somkid.

            “PM Prayut is interested in how to support small and medium-sized enterprises and we have already talked with the Finance Ministry about measures to support SMEs, which will be submitted for Cabinet approval once the PM agrees,” said Somkid. He added that the Finance Ministry cannot solve many problems on its own and needed cooperation from other ministries run by different parties in the coalition, such as the Agriculture, Commerce and Labour ministries. The PM, as leader of the economic team, was in a good position to secure that cooperation "because coalition government needs to move together”, added Somkid.

            Kobsak Pootrakool, secretary of the Council of Economic Ministers and the PM's deputy secretary-general on political affairs, said the prime minister has changed the way he works under the "new normal" by listening more to his economic advisers. Previously, Prayut was merely updated by senior officials and talked with ministers.

            Kobsak said the PM's economic advisers and business leaders have proposed establishing a centre for economy recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, similar to the government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which has won success in containing the outbreak.
            Meanwhile Paiboon Narintarangkul, chairman of the Federation of Thai Capital market Organisations, urged the government to make Thailand the hub for regional finance and capital markets. Others have proposed legal reform in order to make doing business in Thailand much easier.

            Other business leaders attending today's meeting were Kalin Sarasin, secretary-general of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. Suphachai Chearavanont, chairman of the Council of Digital Economy and Society, Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairmen of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries and Predee Daochai, president of the Thai Bankers’ Association. Prayut’s economic advisers in attendance included Pailin Chuchottaworn, former deputy transport minister, Setthaput Suthiwart-Narueput, a member of the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, and Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.

            The meeting came a day after the four ministers credited with running Thailand's economy resigned from the ruling Palang Pracharat Party, though kept their seats in Cabinet. Prayut announced on Thursday he would reshuffle the Cabinet after talks with coalition parties. Prayut’s economic management has failed to impress observers since Thailand's economy is currently the worst performer among Asean countries.:

            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • Prayut lures Chinese back

              Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday urged Chinese investors to return to the kingdom now the coronavirus situation in both countries has largely subsided, saying the Thai government will fully support them, according to officials.

              The government spokesperson team said the call was made during a phone conversation with President Xi Jinping on Tuesday. The phone call marked 45 years since the establishment of Thai-Chinese diplomatic relations.

              Gen Prayut also asked China to consider importing more farm products from Thailand, a request the Chinese president reportedly promised to implement through existing trade cooperation mechanisms.

              Both sides agreed to increase cooperation in all areas, including the digital economy, information technology and innovation sectors, the team said.

              China has pledged to scale up its support of the government's Thailand 4.0 policy and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project.

              Gen Prayut also promised Mr Xi that Thailand will resume projects put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic as soon as the global disease situation improves.

              Thailand is still interested in learning from China's experience, including how it is tackling poverty, Gen Prayut reportedly said.

              During the call with Mr Xi, Gen Prayut also shared Thailand's experience in handling the outbreak with the Chinese leader and praised him for managing the outbreak in China.:

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • Prayut confirms asking banker Preedee to join cabinet/PM denies reports that NESDC chief Thosaporn was being considered

                Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has confirmed that he had approached banker Preedee Daochai to join a new cabinet lineup and dismissed reports that the head of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) was a candidate.

                The prime minister acknowledged for the first time on Friday that he had contacted Mr Preedee to join the government and said he was waiting for a reply.

                Mr Preedee is a co-president of Kasikornbank and chairman of the Thai Bankers' Association. His name surfaced as a potential candidate for finance minister following the resignations of Uttama Savanayana and four other cabinet members, including Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

                The prime minister said he needs the “right person” to steer an economy still in serious trouble because of the coronavirus outbreak. Most forecasters expect Thailand, with its heavy dependence on foreign tourism, to post the worst economic contraction in Southeast Asia this year, possibly in the range of 8%.

                Gen Prayut denied reports that NESDC secretary-general Thosaporn Sirisumphand had been asked to join the new economic team, adding that no civil servants would be approached to leave the bureaucracy to join the lineup.

                “I am still working as the NESDC secretary-general with a mission to oversee and screen projects under the 400-billion-baht borrowing scheme to achieve its goals,” Mr Thosaporn said in a post on the NESDC Facebook page.

                “However, I am happy to help and support the prime minister on any given assignments after my retirement.”

                Mr Thosaporn will retire at the end of September.

                The name of Prasarn Trairatvorakul has also surfaced as a target of the prime minister but Gen Prayut said the family of the former Bank of Thailand governor did not want him to get involved.

                Mr Prasarn and Boontuck Wungcharoen, a former chief executive of TMB Bank, have been tipped as candidates for deputy prime minister overseeing economic policy, the position formerly held by Mr Somkid.

                The prime minister has promised to complete the new lineup by August and also indicated on Friday that he would continue to keep the top job at the Defence Ministry.

                “Today I am still steering this horse. Everything remains unchanged,” he said when asked about his double duty as the prime minister and defence minister.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • PM finalises his reshuffle

                  Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he has completed his new cabinet line-up and all that remains is for the qualifications of the new ministers to be checked.

                  Of most interest is the energy portfolio, which is expected to be given to an outsider, according to government sources, despite the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) saying it should make the appointment based on the post being within its quota.

                  Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, the PM said that following the resignations of six ministers he would announce the cabinet line-up as soon as possible.

                  Gen Prayut said after those chosen to fill the cabinet posts have been invited and accepted the invitations, their qualifications must be checked. Once the formalities have been completed, the new cabinet line-up will go to His Majesty the King for endorsement and the swearing-in ceremony will follow.

                  "You can be certain that I will do this as soon as possible," he added.

                  Asked about friction with the ruling party, particularly over whether the post of energy minister fell under the party's quota or the prime minister's, Gen Prayut said there had been no problems and he had talked with Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, the PPRP leader.

                  "We did not talk about whose quota the post belongs to. I will see to it that the line-up is suitable. Everybody has the right to speak out but it is I who make the decision, based on mutual understanding," Gen Prayut said.

                  "I think the reshuffle will be finished soon. As I have said, there are steps to be taken under the law."

                  He declined to say whether Bansarn Bunnag, the prime minister's deputy secretary-general, would be in the new cabinet or whether Don Pramudwinai would remain as foreign minister. "Just wait for the announcement," he said.

                  Gen Prayut refused to confirm whether Suriya Jungrungreangkit, the industry minister, would be shifted to oversee the Energy Ministry.

                  Mr Suriya is a co-founder of the party's Sam Mitr faction, which insists that the energy post be returned from the prime minister's quota to the party's quota and that Mr Suriya be given the job.

                  The move followed Gen Prayut's claim that it was his right to determine who should fill the position, as well as three other cabinet portfolios left vacant by the resignations of Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Higher Education, Science and Innovations Minister Suvit Maesincee.

                  The four resigned last week along with Kobsak Pootrakul, deputy secretary-general of the prime minister, in a move they said would make it easier for Gen Prayut to carry out his cabinet reshuffle.

                  On Monday, the Chart Pattana Party's Tewan Liptapanlop also resigned from the position of PM's office minister, while MR Chatu Mongol Sonakul resigned as labour minister.

                  According to a government source, the new cabinet line-up includes Predee Daochai, a co-president of Kasikornbank and chairman of the Thai Bankers' Association, who will become deputy prime minister and concurrently serve as finance minister.

                  Former deputy transport minister Pailin Chuchottaworn is also said to be touted for the sought-after role of energy minister.

                  This would mean Mr Suriya's hope of securing the energy portfolio in the cabinet reshuffle has been dashed again, the source said.

                  The source added that the list of nominees for cabinet posts under the party's quota proposed by Tuesday's meeting of PPRP MPs had been rejected by the prime minister.

                  The meeting on Tuesday concluded that Mr Suriya, the industry minister, should be shifted to the Energy Ministry, the source said.

                  The meeting also agreed that Anucha Nakhasai, the party's secretary-general, should be nominated for the industry minister post, replacing Mr Suriya while Suchart Chomklin, a PPRP MP for Chon Buri, would become labour minister, and Narumon Pinyosinwat, the government spokeswoman, would become the PM's office minister.

                  The meeting also nominated Gen Prawit for the interior minister post, only to be turned down by Gen Prawit himself, the source said.

                  Gen Prawit also informed a meeting of the party's executive committee that he had discussed with Gen Prayut the party's ministerial quota, and Gen Prayut told him that he had allocated only two cabinet seats to the party, the source said.

                  "The prime minister will decide who from the party will assume the two cabinet posts," the source quoted Gen Prawit as saying.

                  Commenting on the post of labour minister, Gen Prawit said it was originally part of the Action Coalition for Thailand Party's quota, according to the source. "We cannot get them out unless they move out themselves," he quoted Gen Prawit as saying.

                  But the source said that the only two PPRP MPs correctly tipped for cabinet posts would be Mr Anucha, who would become higher education, science and innovations minister, replacing Mr Suvit, and Mr Suchart, who would be named as PM's office minister, replacing Mr Tewan.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • PM plays down rejig talk

                    Incoming ministers will be given up to one year to prove their worth in the yet-to-be finalised cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said.

                    The prime minister also said that some outsiders tipped to become finance minister and energy minister have not yet confirmed their intention to join the cabinet.

                    Gen Prayut said on Thursday the cabinet shake-up is primarily intended to find replacements for the six ministers who have recently resigned. The reshuffle is expected to be complete by the middle of next month, he said, adding that prospective ministers are being approached to join the cabinet, and their qualifications are being checked.

                    The six cabinet members who have resigned included Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Suvit Maesincee.

                    The four resigned last week along with Kobsak Pootrakul, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister, in a move they said would make it easier for Gen Prayut to carry out his cabinet reshuffle.

                    On Monday, the Chart Pat­tana Party's Tewan Liptapanlop also resigned from the position of PM's office minister, while MR Chatu Mongol Sonakul resigned as labour minister.

                    Commenting on outsiders who have been reportedly approached to join the cabinet, Gen Prayut said that he has not yet received clear confirmations from them.

                    Sources earlier said the new cabinet line-up includes Predee Daochai, a co-president of Kasikornbank and chairman of the Thai Bankers' Association, who will likely become deputy prime minister and concurrently serve as finance minister.

                    Gen Prayut also refused to comment when asked about his negotiations with Suthep Thaugsuban, a co-founder of the Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT) Party to exchange the post of higher education, science and innovations minister for the Labour Ministry post which is under the ACT's quota.

                    "Why do you want to know? It's my procedure for administration," Gen Prayut replied.

                    Gen Prayut also said he expected to have a cabinet comprising decent people who are enthusiastic about their work. There are not only political issues that need to be fixed, but matters related to the running of government affairs also require attention. "Trust the prime minister. I will do my best," Gen Prayut said.

                    Mr Suthep, a former leader of the now defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee, revealed on Thursday that Gen Prayut telephoned him to ask for the labour portfolio which belongs to the ACT's quota in exchange for the higher education, science and innovations ministerial position which will be given to Anek Laothamatas, a member of the ACT's executive committee.

                    Mr Suthep said that he told Gen Prayut the ACT was set up to support the prime minister's efforts to steer the country forward, and the decision to choose ministers remains the premier's.

                    Anusorn Iamsa-ard, spokesman for the main opposition Pheu Thai Party, said if the cabinet line-up reported by the media is correct, the public will not benefit from it, adding: "The people have lost time and opportunities because of this vacuum in the government's handling of our national crisis.":

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • Prayut leads merit-making ceremony to mark King’s birthday

                      Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, accompanied by his wife Naraporn, led members of his Cabinet on Tuesday (July 28) to offer alms to 69 monks to mark the occasion of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 68th birthday.

                      Also present at the ceremony held in Sanam Luang were members of the Privy Council, the Parliament speaker, Senate president, Supreme Court president, officials from other government agencies and the general public.

                      After the ceremony, Prayut presided over the opening ceremony of the volunteer activity “A New Way of Life Under His Majesty’s Grace… We Build Together”.: -

                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • Report card on Prayut 2.0 regime/While results have largely been a mixed bag, there remains plenty of room for improvement

                        It's been a little over a year since the Prayut 2.0 government took over. For those who voted for the Palang Pracharath Party in the hope that stability would ensue, that appears to have been wishful thinking, as the coronavirus pandemic and sporadic domestic political protests have shown.

                        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet members were sworn in on July 16, 2019, and cabinet ministers officially began working on July 18.

                        The key political consequence of the ceremony was that the National Council for Peace and Order, which governed the country for five years, ceased to exist once the cabinet was sworn in.

                        The time is ripe for a one-year report card on the incumbent government, specifically on how efficiency and forward-looking ministers in charge of important economic policies have plied their trade in helping Thailand's economy to develop against a torrent of headwinds.

                        The travails of the tourism industry, the hardest-hit sector during the pandemic, have made the task for tourism officials something of a mission impossible.

                        Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said he rates himself a 4 out of 10, or a fail in other words, because the industry still hasn't improved.

                        He said the tourism industry has been unable to help revive the Thai economy, unlike the shining star it used to be in the past.

                        "Driving domestic tourism, especially distributing more income to local communities and imposing travel bubbles properly with potential provinces or cities, are my main targets that need to be accomplished," Mr Phiphat said.

                        He described unfinished business in terms of building a stronger foundation for the Tourism and Sports Ministry as a major economic body that helps all stakeholders, from upstream to downstream, and making work more efficient for every related organisation.

                        Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said the government always comes up with flashy ideas to boost tourism, but most of the measures are not effective in practical terms.

                        This means that the ministry sometimes fails to stimulate the industry.

                        Since the outbreak devastated the tourism industry, operators have been waiting for soft loans from a government scheme to maintain their business. But the majority of operators are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that lack access to this financial aid because of difficult conditions required for the funding, Mr Chairat said.

                        Some SME tourism operators exited the market because of a lack of cash flow, while the latest tourism stimulus campaigns, including We Travel Together and Moral Support, benefit only certain groups of operators in the supply chain, he said.

                        "Given the failure to provide practical measures for tourism operators directly affected by the economic slowdown and the virus, I would give the government only 3 points out of 10," Mr Chairat said.

                        Above average

                        Sompop Manarungsan, president of the Panyapiwat Institute of Management, awards a score of 6 or 7 out of 10, citing government relief measures designed to help offset the impact of rising unemployment, shrinking exports and dwindling tourism caused by the deadly virus outbreak on the overall economy.

                        The government has been outstanding in effective healthcare management and the efficiency of healthcare-related agencies and organisations in tackling the Covid-19 contagion, he said.

                        But in light of a second wave in many countries, the government needs to rebuild the country's strength and set a new direction for its future, Mr Sompop said.

                        "The government's two-year national strategy may need revision because the situation has completely changed after the virus outbreak," he said. "The administration seems content to slowly push along infrastructure development projects and connectivity with neighbouring countries."

                        For the performance of the commerce minister, Mr Sompop gave a score of 6 out of 10, saying the ministry's trade promotion policy still largely focuses on quantitative exports, with limited qualitative improvement.

                        "Overall Thai exports have yet to factor in value addition and productivity," he said. "Most Thai exporters are still original equipment manufacturers and have yet to build their own brands, nor have they created enough market diversification."

                        The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is satisfied with the work of Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit for his knowledge of entrepreneurship and quick actions to help SMEs cope with the pandemic.

                        "Mr Suriya is an expert in industry. He has a good understanding of what businesses want," FTI vice-chairman Kriangkrai Tiannukul said, referring to the background of the minister, a businessman turned politician.

                        Mr Suriya's family owns Thai Summit Group, a leading auto parts supplier. He also served in executive positions at many companies.

                        Because of his experience in handling issues involving all sizes of companies, "he was quick to take action in the face of the pandemic", Mr Kriangkrai said.

                        According to media reports, Mr Suriya earlier urged the SME Development Bank of Thailand to speed up disbursement of soft loans worth 40 billion baht to help staggering SMEs.

                        The minister also earned high marks for his open-minded personality. He always listens to businesses' opinions on ways to solve domestic economic problems, Mr Kriangkrai said.

                        The Prayut 2.0 government finished its first year with a satisfactory grade in the opinion of the FTI, with most of its success in containing Covid-19 and launching economic stimulus packages to relieve the impact of lockdown measures.

                        Close aides to Mr Suriya who requested anonymity said the minister has pushed ahead with key development projects, including the ambitious Eastern Economic Corridor scheme to build a high-tech industry hub.

                        More than 11,000 SMEs and up to 200,000 sugar-cane farmers have been given financial aid to run their businesses, the aides said.

                        Mr Suriya also encouraged farmers not to harvest sugar cane by burning 1.2 million rai while clearing land as an attempt to deal with harmful levels of PM2.5 dust particles, they said.

                        Be prepared

                        Nonarit Bisonyabut, senior fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the economic policy used by the administration to cope with the effects of Covid-19 is on the right path but needs to be more efficient in terms of outlays to stimulate a recovery.

                        Next year the economy may face more problems than this year, and the government may need to prepare a budget to address the problems, with the possibility of borrowing an additional 500 billion to 1 trillion baht, Mr Nonarit said.

                        Although the 1-trillion-baht loan decree is a valid measure to address faltering economic conditions, the government is spending the budget too slowly or disbursement has been too limited, as only 300 billion has been allocated, he said.

                        The government must increase the efficiency of budget spending to stimulate the economy, such as putting money into Village Funds to stimulate job creation in communities after unemployment spiked during the crisis, Mr Nonarit said.

                        For 2021, the government should devise a plan to rev up the sapped tourism industry in the event that foreign tourist arrivals decline from 30-40 million, the level of the last few years, he said.

                        The government also needs to find a way to prepare a budget to deal with slow budget disbursement by government agencies and slash unnecessary spending, such as overseas site visits, Mr Nonarit said.

                        By cutting 10% of spending for all government departments, this will leave the administration with roughly 300 billion baht that can be used to address next year's problems.:

                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • 'Boss' case may be revived/Prayut tries to quell grave public concern

                          Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the independent panel examining the 2012 hit-and-run case against Red Bull scion Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya to see whether it can be revived, despite it being officially closed after the prosecutors decided not to arraign him on a charge of reckless driving causing death.

                          "I've asked them to study if I can order a re-investigation into the case," he said when asked about a suggestion that he should invoke his power to revive the case. "We're in the stage of establishing facts about the justice process and determining who will take charge."

                          Prompted by public doubts over the handling of the case by police and prosecutors, Gen Prayut last week set up a nine-member panel headed by former graftbuster Vicha Mahakhun to look into the facts and legal aspects of the case.

                          The premier on Monday also clarified that he had ordered the body of new witness Jaruchart Maadthong to be seized for a new autopsy in order to end suspicions about the timing of his death, not because there were suspected irregularities.

                          Jaruchart was killed in a two-motorcycle crash on Huay Kaew Road in Chiang Mai municipality last Thursday, shortly after his name emerged as one of two new witnesses in the hit-and-run case.

                          Jaruchart and Air Marshal Jakkrit Thanomkulabutr had told investigators that Mr Vorayuth was not driving at high speed and they had seen the motorcycle of Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert cut in front of his Ferrari on Sept 3, 2012. Their statements convinced the prosecutors to drop the final and most serious charge.

                          "I need to ensure transparency. That's all. As a supervisor of the police, I've asked them if they can [seize the body for a new autopsy]. They'll have to talk to his family. We have to lessen the doubts with facts," said Gen Prayut.

                          A team of doctors at Chiang Mai University's faculty of medicine on Monday concluded that Jaruchart died of massive bleeding in his brain and in his stomach and there were no injuries to suggest that he had been shot.

                          Assoc Prof Kanda Mekjaidee, chief of forensic medicine, said the result of the second autopsy was consistent with the first and that the doctors were waiting for the result of a blood test to see if there were any illegal substances in his system.

                          Mr Vicha emerged from a three-hour meeting on Monday and said that four panels had been set up to review various aspects of the hit-and-run case, including how it was handled by police and prosecutors.

                          The panel studying the prosecutors' performance is being headed by Borwornsak Uwanno, chairman of the law reform committee, and the one examining the police investigation is led by Khemchai Chutiwong, chair of the police reform committee.

                          Justice permanent secretary Wisit Wisitsora has been appointed to head another panel tasked with examining witnesses and individuals in the case who are not police and prosecutors.

                          It will also address reports from the now-dissolved National Legislative Assembly's panel on police and justice administration, which worked on the case and would also include representatives from the Anti Money-Laundering Office.

                          The other committee is in charge of legal aspects and headed by Pakorn Nilprapun, secretary-general of the Council of State.

                          "We'll ask the prosecutors to submit their reports," said Mr Vicha, referring to the findings of the seven-member panel of prosecutors set up to investigate the dismissal of the reckless driving charge against Mr Vorayuth. "Every document will be sent to us."

                          According to Office of the Attorney General deputy spokesman Prayuth Phetkhun, the panel will hold a press conference at 10am today at the government office complex on Chaeng Watthana Road, to reveal the results of the investigation so far.

                          Mr Vicha, however, added that it was too soon to say if the committee would recommend that police challenge the prosecutors' decision to drop the reckless driving charge and reopen the investigation. "We'll recommend action only if it can be taken," he said.

                          He said it also depended on whether the Wisit panel recommended that Mr Vorayuth be summonsed for questioning.

                          Meanwhile, the police inquiry committee will invite assistant police chief, Pol Lt Gen Permpoon Chidchob, who did not oppose the prosecutors' decision, for questioning, said Pol Lt Gen Charuwat Waisaya, vice chairman of the police's 10-member panel reviewing its own decision.

                          He insisted the committee was not a "paper tiger" and would take action if any officers were found to be in the wrong.

                          Social activist Srisuwan Janya on Monday filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) accusing the police and the prosecutors of negligence over their handling of the case.:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • Praise for PM's charter change pledge/Parties welcome Prayut's gesture

                            Political parties have welcomed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's pledge to support constitutional amendment as the House committee studying charter changes has initially agreed to a charter rewriting body being formed to draw up a new constitution.

                            Deputy Democrat Party leader Nipit Intarasombat, who is also a member of the committee, told the Bangkok Post on Wednesday that he believed Gen Prayut has been sincere in the charter rewrite push because it is one of the government's key policies.

                            "The prime minister has said he will listen to the House committee which has 49 members from various parties.

                            "He has also told agencies to gather opinions from the public and student protesters. He is eager to hear what they have to say. This is a nice gesture," Mr Nipit said.

                            Gen Prayut on Tuesday affirmed to reporters that he supports a charter amendment and the government will present its own version of a charter rewrite bill in the next parliamentary session.

                            He said on Wednesday the government will hold forums nationwide next month to gather opinions from younger people. A charter amendment is one of the demands sought by student groups which have held protests in various areas in the country.

                            Gen Prayut also said he will find time to meet students at one of a series of forums which are held on charter change proposals.

                            Mr Nipit said that the committee will complete its work in the middle of this month and present the charter rewrite proposals to parliament.

                            One of the key proposals is to rectify Section 256 of the constitution to make constitutional changes easier.

                            The section should be altered so an assembly can be established to draft a new constitution -- a process which may take up to two years.

                            Under Section 256, an amendment requires the support of at least one-third of the Senate or 84 senators. Critics have slammed the section as a major hurdle to fixing the charter.

                            However, political observers said senators will not back the proposed amendments if they could result in the Senate being stripped of its power to vote in a prime minister and/or the current batch of senators being dismissed.

                            Mr Nipit said that the committee has also agreed that some sections of the constitution should be amended to prepare for an election that might take place before the draft of the new constitution is complete.

                            In particular, provisions targeted for change are those associated with the voting system such as moving away from the use of a single ballot for both constituency and party-list MPs to two separate ballots, Mr Nipit said.

                            Chief opposition whip and Pheu Thai Party MP for Maha Sarakham Sutin Klungsang, also a member of the committee, said Gen Prayut's gesture of support for the charter rewrite push was a good sign.

                            However, the prime minister must provide more clarity on details regarding the charter rewrite and a specific time frame, Mr Sutin said.

                            Mr Sutin also said parties in the opposition camp will table their version of a charter rewrite bill to parliament on Aug 15, the same day the House committee will present its charter change proposals.

                            Mr Sutin added that Pheu Thai has also come up with its version of the bill, although Pheu Thai will meet other opposition partners today to discuss whether they will combine their versions of the bill into a single one.

                            Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit said his party has had a clear stance on pushing to amend the constitution from the beginning because it insisted on charter change as a precondition for joining the coalition led by the Palang Pracharath Party.

                            Mr Jurin agreed that Section 256, which makes charter amendments difficult, should be changed.

                            He added the party is ready to support charter changes that will improve democracy.

                            The party has set up a working panel to work on amending the section, Mr Jurin said.

                            The panel is led by MP Banyat Bantadtan, who is a party adviser.

                            Mr Jurin added the Democrat Party did not want to be in conflict with others as a push to amend the constitution requires cooperation from MPs, senators and the public.

                            Chaithawat Tulathon, secretary-general of the Forward Party and member of the House committee, said the best way to make amendments is through a drafting assembly and public participation.:

                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • We must stay united, says PM/Crisis 'can become our opportunity'

                              Stability is the key to driving Thailand's economy to rebound, and unity and cooperation from Thais are needed to revive the country in the face of the economic fall due to the Covid-19-crisis, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Thursday.

                              In a keynote speech on "Thailand Rebounds, Policy in the New Normal'' at the "Bangkok Post Forum 2020" at Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao, Gen Prayut said: "If there is peace and stability, this will be a good opportunity for the country. We are now doing a good job in dealing with Covid-19."

                              The seminar was to mark the 74th anniversary of the Bangkok Post.

                              "The opportunity lies ahead. Tourists will come back. Therefore, we should not lose this opportunity," the prime minister said.

                              He said that he would lead from the front but stressed that conquering the current issues required the cooperation from all sectors of society.

                              He pointed out that the global economic recession had affected many countries around the world, including Thailand, and he urged Thais not to lose heart. If they did they could get through the difficult times.

                              "Don't lose heart. We have to get through it. It is expected that things will be better in the next two or three years," he said.

                              "Collaboration and understanding is important. It is also important to reduce conflict in several issues and build stability to win back confidence among people in the country and from abroad.

                              "Do we want to go back to square one? I don't think so ... But it all depends on you because you are the ones who will decide the future of Thailand. I only do my administrative job to the best of my ability,'' Gen Prayut said.

                              The prime minister said the government was now going full steam ahead to implement remedial measures to revitalise the domestic economy, help small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, promote exports and tourism to make sure negative growth will not drop below minus 10.

                              "I think we should turn this crisis into an opportunity to turn the country around.

                              "The country will not only come back good, but it must be better,'' the prime minister said, adding that nobody would be left behind.

                              The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said on Monday that Thailand's economy was likely to contract by as much as 11.4% this year, its worst showing ever, attributed largely to the pandemic, a volatile foreign exchange, widespread drought and the ongoing US-China trade spat.

                              "The success of Thailand depends on unity and cooperation among all of you," said the premier.

                              "I want every one of you to realise the importance of collaboration and creating internal stability to create a climate and restore investor confidence in projects initiated by the government, such as the Eastern Economic Corridor programme, the Southern Economic Corridor, special economic zone development programmes.

                              "These will build the foundations of Thailand's long-term social and economic development, and will pull the country out of the middle-income trap."

                              Gen Prayut went on to say the government would step up efforts to improve the way state agencies performed so as to allow more public participation by listening to people's opinions.

                              He vowed to improve the efficiency of state agencies' services through digitalised systems to respond more to public needs, adding that the government was also adopting a more proactive approach to restoring the economy in line with the "new normal'' way of life.

                              "Since I took office as prime minister on Aug 24, 2014, I have seen the Thai economy improve gradually.

                              "The economic growth in 2014 was at 1.0%, and increased to 3.1% in 2015, and 3.4% in 2016, continued to grow until this year when the world and Thailand are now struggling with the unprecedented crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,'' Gen Prayut said.

                              "Right now, we are in a very good position because we are dealing with Covid-19 very well.

                              "The agricultural sector is our strength but it still needs to be upgraded with the aid of technologies. We also need to adjust the structure of the export sector to respond to the needs of the global market."

                              He also said Thailand's financial standing remained solid, with a current account in surplus, high foreign reserves and continued inflows of dollars leading to a strengthening baht.:

                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                                • Thai PM uncomfortable with reference to “sensitive issues” at Monday’s protest

                                Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, said today (Tuesday) that he feels uncomfortable with the rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus last night, during which some speakers touched on “sensitive issues”, which has provoked widespread criticism of the University.

                                He made his comments during a 75th birthday party for Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, held this morning at a foundation chaired by General Prawit.

                                Thammasat University has offered an apology for the alleged transgression, which was blamed on non-student protesters.

                                Dr. Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a vice rector of the university, said, in a statement issued on Tuesday, that he regretted any breaches of the law, allegedly committed by non-student protesters, after he attended the protest site from 7pm to 8pm to observe the protest, which he found to be orderly and peaceful.

                                He said that he only learned afterward that some speakers had used some improper wording, which has provoked some public uproar.

                                He insisted that the University recognizes free expression on the campus, on the condition that it remains within the scope of the law “especially expressions on sensitive issues, which may cause division in society.”

                                According Dr. Prinya, student organizers of the rally sought permission on July 31st to use the campus grounds to repeat their demands for parliament’s dissolution, a new Charter and an end to harassment of anti-government protesters by state officials.

                                He insisted that the organizers had not mentioned any other issues which might be raised at the rally, adding that, after receiving the application, he held a meeting with the organizers, on August 7th, together with police from Khlong Luang district of Pathum Thani, who were invited to discuss security issues.

                                The police agreed to provide security for the protesters, but reminded those at the meeting that the protesters must act within the scope of the law and must avoid sensitive issues, said Prinya, adding that it was agreed that anyone who crosses the line would be held accountable.: -
                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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