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  • PM says no cabinet reshuffle yet

    Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha reiterated today (Sunday) that he has no current intention of reshuffling his cabinet, following the departures of Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao and Deputy Labour Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat, and hopes that his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, will not be upset by his decision.

    He said that his relationship with Prawit, one of what he calls his two “brothers in arms”, the other being Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, will never be broken, adding that he is ready to acquaint himself with and be more receptive to MPs of the ruling Palang Pracharat and other parties.

    Thammanat, also secretary-general of the party, is regarded as a protégé of General Prawit. On the day of his removal by the prime minister, Thammanat claimed his relationship with Prawit remains strong.

    The prime minister also said that he will pay more visits to upcountry provinces, in an effort to reach out to the local people and to hear their problems and points of view.

    The Palang Pracharat party reportedly will hold a general assembly soon, to discuss a possible revamp of its structure, amidst speculation that Interior Permanent Secretary Chatchai Promlert, who is due to retire at the end of this month, may join the party.

    There is speculation that Chatchai could be named the new deputy interior minister, to fill the seat left vacant by Thammanat, adding that the “Sam Mitr” faction of the party may, again, demand the energy portfolio, in exchange for the industry post currently held by Suriya Juangroongruangkit.

    Super Poll said Saturday that 98.4%, of 1,224 respondents to an opinion poll, agreed that the prime minister should revamp his cabinet and bring people who are competent and honest to join his team.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • PM denies rift with Prawit

      Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has rejected rumours of a rift between himself and Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Prawit Wongsuwon following the exit of Capt Thamanat Prompow and Narumon Pinyosinwat from the cabinet.

      Speaking to the press at Government House on Monday, Gen Prayut made a firm guarantee that his relationship with Gen Prawit, also deputy prime minister, was solid.

      "I can assure you that between us there is no need to clear the air. There is no problem with our work. Everything should be by the rules and be in line with the democratic system," Gen Prayut said. "I do what falls under my authority as the prime minister. And there isn't a time we don't understand each other."

      Capt Thamanat and Ms Narumon were known to be close to Gen Prawit who was reportedly kept in the dark about the pair's sackings from the ministerial posts until they were made official.

      Capt Thamanat stands accused of masterminding a campaign to oust Gen Prayut during the recent censure debate almost two weeks ago. The plot allegedly involved a number of PPRP heavyweights and renegade members of micro-coalition partners and politicians in the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.

      Gen Prayut rejected speculation he would take the helm at the PPRP with some analysts convinced that he could be soon moving to assert his authority in the ruling party.

      "I never think that far. Spare me the question. It's no good [addressing the question] at this point. I'm doing my best now," he said.

      Gen Prayut also said he was preparing to make visits to the provinces now that the Covid-19 situation was easing while noting that it should not be seen as a signal for fresh polls.

      The prime minister appeared keen to put to rest talks about tensions between him and Gen Prawit.

      When arriving for a meeting of the national land policy committee at Government House in the late afternoon on Monday, he greeted Gen Prawit with a wai. The pair talked for a few minutes and seemed in good spirits.

      After addressing the press, Gen Prayut was seen walking along with Gen Prawit to his car.

      It was their first meeting following the dismissal of Capt Thamanat and Ms Narumon last week amid rumours of tensions between the three brothers-in-arms boiling over. Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda joined the meeting via video conference.

      Gen Prawit shook his head when asked about a rumour that Capt Thamanat resigned as the PPRP secretary-general. He said the question should be directed at Capt Thamanat.

      The PPRP leader also asked reporters to stop asking about the alleged rift between him, Gen Prayut and Gen Anupong and insisted that he did not feel hurt and that he would not step down from the PPRP top post.

      "I've talked to them. There is no conflict, no rift, no hurt feelings. And I don't quit," he said.

      Meanwhile, Anucha Burapachaisri, the prime minister's deputy secretary-general, on Monday attended a meeting of government whips in what was seen as the premier's efforts to work closely with MPs.

      Gen Prayut reportedly agreed to close the distance between himself and the PPRP MPs after the alleged plot to oust him from the post was thwarted.

      Mr Anucha said his job would allow the prime minister to hear the MP's concerns and proposals first hand, saying he would attend every government whip meeting and report directly to the prime minister.

      Monday's meeting involved the coalition partners' plan to sponsor a draft law on the new election system after parliament last week endorsed a charter amendment bill that sought to bring back the two-ballot voting system.

      In a related development, the main opposition Pheu Thai Party's ethics committee Monday resolved to expel two party MPs for failing to respect party rules.

      Prasert Chantararuangthong, the party's secretary-general, said that the MPs facing the expulsion are Uttaradit MP Saranwut Saranket and Pathum Thani MP Pornpimol Thammasan.

      Mr Prasert said Mr Saranwut spoke ill of the party while Ms Pornpimol barely took part in party activities and often cast her vote against the party's stance.:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • Govt links 'Lisa' smash hit to 'soft power' plan

        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has praised Thai-born K-pop singer Lalisa "Lisa" Manoban, a member of South Korean hit-band Blackpink, for featuring the Phanom Rung Stone Castle and Thai craftsmanship in the music video for the first single to be released from her maiden solo album Lalisa.

        Lisa is the third member of Blackpink to make her solo debut, which features the title track Lalisa and another song titled Money. The first single, Lalisa, has amassed more than 100 million views on YouTube since its release on Friday.

        Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana on Monday said that Gen Prayut expressed his readiness to promote the country's soft power to increase value in the creative economy following the phenomenal success of Lisa's latest music video.

        "Gen Prayut admires success of Thai artists including individuals whose works reflect their dedication and determination to inspire many Thais in creative industries in arts, music and films," said Mr Thanakorn.

        "The application of Thai culture to create soft power will help to increase economic value and spread the culture internationally."

        The combination of traditional culture and new entertainment industries is also part of the government's bio-circular-green economy (BCG) development scheme.

        Mr Thanakorn said Gen Prayut also believed this phenomenon will bolster the confidence of Thai industry and fashion design in applying Thai culture to be produced as merchandise to increase economic value.

        The Thai market has already begun to expand into neighbouring countries, Mr Thanakorn said.

        Gen Prayut also expressed his confidence that Thai creative economy will be successful as Thailand has its own traits in craftsmanship, traditions and tourism sites, as well as cultural identity in communities, he said.

        The government had already begun promoting the creative economy in Thai crafts, music, visual and performing arts, films, publishing, broadcasting, software, advertising, design, architecture, fashion, food, traditional medicine and cultural tourism to gain more international traction prior to the pandemic, according to Mr Thanakorn.

        Efforts are also underway to make similar strides in other potential cultural exports, such as Thai food, videos and films, fashion, Muay Thai boxing and traditional community lifestyles, the government spokesman added.:

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • Prawit calls on PPRP old guard to support PM

          Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath (PPRP) leader Prawit Wongsuwon is asking party heavyweights to rally behind Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, amid an apparent shift in internal dynamics within the ruling party, a source in the government said.

          The source said PPRP secretary-general Thamanat Prompow, and party treasurer Narumon Pinyosinwat, are no longer invited to regular briefings with Gen Prawit at his office at Government House, which are held right before the weekly cabinet meeting. The snub, the source added, indicated a power shift within the party.

          Capt Thamanat was recently sacked as deputy agriculture minister, along with Ms Narumon, who was a deputy labour minister. Their firing came after Capt Thamanat was accused of plotting to topple Gen Prayut from power, by persuading some MPs within the PPRP and smaller coalition parties to vote against the PM in the no-confidence debate earlier this month.

          However, the plot failed with ministers who were targeted by the motion, including Gen Prayut, surviving the vote.

          Despite the loss of their cabinet posts, Capt Thamanat and Ms Narumon, who is also said to be linked to the failed plot, have kept their posts within the party.

          The pair have grown visibly estranged from Gen Prawit, who invited a new crop of senior PPRP executives to a briefing before the cabinet meeting in their place -- namely Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat and Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate.

          Mr Somsak co-founded the Sam Mitr ("Three Allies") faction in the PPRP, while Mr Santi also has a group of MPs under his wing. They could be on their way to eclipsing Capt Thamanat's influence in the ruling party, the source said.

          The source said during a recent pre-cabinet session, Gen Prawit asked them to throw their support behind Gen Prayut and assist him in his work. The ministers obliged, saying they were ready to help.

          Separately, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn dismissed speculation that Gen Prawit is considering resigning as PPRP leader.

          He said a general election is still far away, as the organic law on elections has not been reworked to accommodate changes to the ballot method, constituencies and number of list MPs.

          Mr Somsak, also a deputy PPRP leader, said there is no plan to reshuffle PPRP executives.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • Thailand ordered to prepare for tourists

            Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered various ministries to speed up preparations for boosting tourism while keeping in mind pandemic restrictions.

            The order comes as a medical expert raised concerns over the possibility of the healthcare system having to battle with another outbreak if the government insists on reopening the tourism industry as early as Oct 1.

            Gen Prayut on Wednesday assigned the Tourism and Sports, Public Health and Interior ministries to prepare for a rise in both Thai and foreign tourists in the fourth quarter of this year, known as the high tourism season, said Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

            Dr Taweesilp was speaking after a meeting of the CCSA chaired by the prime minister.

            The ministries were instructed to find areas with the potential to be a part of the government's new tourism reopening programme called "Covid-free Tourist Area Sandbox", similar to the Phuket Sandbox programme, he said.

            Dr Taweesilp said ideal candidates for the tourism programme include islands and areas with an airport, which would also have in place Covid-19 prevention and control measures.

            The pilot phase of the new tourism promotion programme will begin in October, when five provinces -- Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi and Chon Buri -- are due to reopen for tourism, he said.

            Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, meanwhile, cautioned the country is not fully ready to reopen given its low Covid-19 vaccination coverage.

            Dr Prasit suggested the government should take into account a lesson learned by Phuket after piloting its Phuket Sandbox programme and the fact that even fully vaccinated people can still catch the coronavirus and spread it. "It will be worrying to lift the Covid-19 quarantine when the country reopens its tourism on Oct 1, while only 38% of the population has received one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine and only 18% of the people have had two shots of the vaccine," he said.

            "In fact, it would be better off if we will keep waiting for another month to ensure the country is really ready." Some businesses are also thought to be concerned about the effects on tourism confidence of opening the country too early.

            Meanwhile, Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, said a disease control team has been sent to Phuket to assist local health authorities to contain Covid-19 after the province began recording 200 plus cases of Covid-19 daily.

            "The overall effectiveness of Phuket's Covid-19 vaccination is also being assessed to determine whether a booster shot will be needed," Dr Kiattiphum said.:

            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • PM promises to look into relaxing restrictions on entertainment industry

              Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday accepted proposals of the Creative Industry and Artists Network to ease Covid-19 measures related to filmmaking and reopening of theatres.

              PM's Office spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the meeting was held via video conferencing between the premier and representatives of the network which consists of over 40 organisations in the entertainment industry as well as national and local artists.

              The network has proposed that filmmaking crews be allowed to continue working while movie theatres and similar establishments be allowed to open in low-risk areas.

              Prayut promised to have the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) consider the proposals as well as issue necessary regulations to ensure a safe working environment for personnel from the creative industry.:

              “The prime minister urged the network to submit the list of personnel who will be working at filming locations so that authorities could supply Covid-19 vaccine as well as antigen test kits to help prevent the virus from spreading among filmmaking crews,” said Thanakorn. “He also promised to have the ministries of Finance, Fiscal Police Office and Office of the National Economics and Social Development Council provide financial aid to those in the creative industry, including granting tax breaks and soft loans to keep their businesses afloat amid the pandemic situation.”:

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • Prawit insists ties with Prayut, Anupong remain solid

                Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has affirmed that his ties with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda are still solid and unbreakable.

                Gen Prawit was responding on Wednesday to media speculation that his relations with Gen Prayut had turned sour, judging by the way they went on separate trips to different provinces on Tuesday.

                Gen Prayut led his entourage to Phetchaburi while Gen Prawit, accompanied by a large number of Palang Pracharath Party MPs, visited Ayutthaya.

                Gen Prawit said he and Gen Prayut never had problems with each other, but the media had tried to drive a wedge between them.

                "We have been close for over 50 years. Reports about us parting ways are nonsense," he said.

                "Remember this. Only death shall we three (Prawit, Prayut and Anupong) part."

                The PPRP leader said that Gen Prayut had visited him every day at the office of the Foundation for the Conservation of Forests in Five Adjoining Provinces in the compound of the 1st Infantry Division in Bangkok.

                The office is known to be Gen Prawit's "operations centre".

                Gen Prawit said the only reason he did not accompany Gen Prayut was that he could not walk as quickly as the prime minister. It was better for him to make a separate trip, and cover more places, he added.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • Govt to accelerate vaccinations, stimulus measures – PM

                  The government will speed up vaccinations and introduce urgent stimulus measures to mitigate the impact of its most severe coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Wednesday.

                  The country has reported more than 1.5 million infections and 15,000 deaths, about 99% of those since April this year, after a year of successful containment during which the key tourism sector collapsed.

                  The government expects the situation to normalise quickly, Gen Prayut told a news conference hosted by the state planning agency.

                  "The government will make full efforts to resolve the crisis so that people can return to normal life as soon as possible," he said.

                  So far, only 22% of the estimated 72 million people living in Thailand have been fully vaccinated. Authorities want a higher inoculation rate before reopening fully to tourists.

                  The government has introduced a series of measures to cope with the pandemic, with 1.5 trillion baht in borrowing, including 500 billion baht approved this year.

                  Earlier this week, it raised the public debt ceiling for more borrowing if needed.

                  Thailand needs a further 1 trillion baht to support the economy, the central bank's governor said last month.

                  The planning agency forecast the economy will grow 0.7% to 1.2% this year after a 6.1% contraction last year.

                  Recovery will be "K shaped" with some industries improving and some still not, particularly the service sector, said the agency's head, Danucha Pichayanan.

                  "The number of the poor tends to rise because of job losses and income declines caused by the crisis," he said.

                  Government revenue collection faces limitations with businesses unable to fully operate, restraining fiscal ability to develop the country, Mr Danucha said.

                  The government is preparing an economic and social development plan for the next five years from October 2022 to transform the country with technology and innovation, he said.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • Thai PM highlights ‘Sufficiency Economy’ for sustainable development at 76th UNGA

                    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha addressed the “SDG Moment 2021” on Monday, highlighting Thailand’s commitment to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), including the universal health care coverage, and the philosophy of “Sufficiency Economy”.

                    The meeting was held virtually during the “High-level” Week of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 20th.

                    In his pre-recorded remarks, Prime Minister Prayut reiterated Thailand’s commitment to cooperating with the international community to accelerate SDG implementation.

                    In his speech, he highlighted three milestones on the country’s path towards SDG attainment within this decade.

                    One was the promotion of quality of life and well-being for people of all ages, through a robust public health system and inclusive Universal Health Coverage. The others were the adoption of a “Balance of All Things” approach, by applying the Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model (BCG), bridging the digital gap and promoting digital literacy and accessibility.

                    These milestones will help to build back better, post-COVID-19, and ensure that no one is left behind.

                    Thailand, as one of the 42 Member States which presented a Voluntary National Review (VNR) on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development this year, was specifically invited to address the event, according to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

                    It was an opportunity for Thailand to join other countries in sharing its visions on building back better, promoting sustainable development and attaining the SDGs after the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy as the guiding light, the ministry said in a press release.:

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • PM announces Thailand’s 70% vaccination goal at Global COVID-19 summit

                      Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced three milestones to be achieved to control the spread of COVID-19 in Thailand, as well as cooperation with other countries, during the virtual “Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better”, which is part of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
                      The three milestones:
                      • Inoculation of at least 70% of the country’s entire population this year, which is part of Thailand’s national agenda. The government is also investing in domestic research and development of vaccines and is cooperating with other countries to enhance vaccine production in the region.
                      • Increasing the production capacity for medical supplies and equipment. Thailand has been helping to provide medical supplies and equipment to 10 other countries and increasing the capacity of public health infrastructure in nearby countries.
                      • Strengthening preparedness against all epidemics within the country, the region, and globally. Thailand also supports the WHO in writing the international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response. The country’s Communicable Diseases Act is also being amended to be in accordance with international health policies, to prepare for future pandemics.

                      According to Government Spokesperson, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, the Prime Minister will also be attending the Food Systems Summit today, the High-level Dialogue on Energy tomorrow, and the General Debate on Saturday, where he will discuss the global outlook post-COVID-19.:
                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • PM again downplays rift rumour

                        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday told military leaders that there is no rift between him and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

                        Gen Prayut, also defence minister, insisted the rumour about him and Gen Prawit going through a rough patch was untrue.

                        Instead, the PM said he and Gen Prawit always had a healthy relationship.

                        The issue was raised during the last Defence Council meeting of the 2021 fiscal year, which was attended by leaders of the three armed forces and other high-ranking officers.

                        Reports of tensions between the pair emerged following the sacking of Thamanat Prompow and Narumon Pinyosinwat, Gen Prawit's close aides, from the cabinet. Gen Prawit was reportedly kept in the dark.

                        "There is no rift between me and brother Pom [Gen Prawit]. There is only love between us and it will stay forever that way. Nothing will come between us," Gen Prayut was quoted as telling the leaders of the armed forces during the meeting.

                        Gen Prawit, who serves as adviser to the Defence Council, did not attend the meeting.

                        The rift speculation was fuelled again earlier this week when Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit made separate flood inspection trips on the same day.

                        Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich, spokesman for the Defence Ministry, on Thursday also dismissed the rumour about tensions between Gen Prawit, Gen Prayut and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda.

                        He also played down the separate inspection trips held on Wednesday, saying they were to gather details of local people's needs for cabinet consideration. Gen Anupong was seen accompanying Gen Prayut in Phetchaburi while Gen Prawit was escorted by cabinet ministers and MPs from the Palang Pracharath Party.

                        According to Lt Gen Kongcheep, the prime minister also emphasised unity and assured that the coalition government was on the same team.

                        Meanwhile, Gen Prawit, also leader of the PPRP, did not join the party meeting and had Capt Thamanat, the party's secretary-general, preside over the session.:

                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • Businesses sue Prayut, his govt for bad administration

                          The representatives of 40 businesses on Monday filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government for their failure in running the country effectively.

                          The lawsuit was filed at the Bangkok Civil Court.

                          The move was led by architect Duangrit Bunnag, who is also owner of the Never Ending Summer restaurant. He told the press that Prayut and his government were guilty of “wrongful acts” and should pay the plaintiffs 50 million baht in compensation.

                          He also said the government should have provided proper compensation to businesses affected by the national lockdown from the very start.:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • PM thanks Thais for cooperating to bring Covid numbers down

                            The prime minister issued a statement on Tuesday thanking people for observing preventive measures and bringing the number of daily cases to below 10,000.

                            Government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the number of Covid-19 cases is likely to drop further, while that of patients being discharged is likely to rise.

                            “This proves that the public health system is efficient and that the effort of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and people’s cooperation has paid off,” he said.

                            However, he said, people should continue observing preventative measures such as wearing a facemask and washing hands regularly.:

                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • How long can PM Prayut remain in power?

                              August 24 marked the seventh anniversary of General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s tenure as Thailand’s prime minister. It also spurred questions over whether he has only one year left in the post, as the Constitution prohibits anyone from being PM for more than eight years.

                              Legal experts disagree as to when PM Prayut must vacate his seat — another legal issue that may finally land in the Constitutional Court.

                              Some say the eight-year period runs from when the current charter came into force on April 6, 2018. Others, including some lawmakers, point out that Prayut has actually served as head of the government since 2014. They maintain that what counts is the spirit of the Constitution, whose unprecedented provision is intended to prevent any prime minister from entrenching their power.

                              Time limit

                              Article 158 of the Constitution states that “The prime minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not consecutively. However, it shall not include the period during which the prime minister carries out duties after vacating office.”

                              No previous Thai charters set a time limit for the PM’s tenure.

                              Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, said earlier the eight-year limit should not have a retroactive effect on PM Prayut.

                              He said the period should start on the date that the current Constitution was promulgated, and not the day Gen Prayut became prime minister after leading the 2014 coup.

                              Professor Udom Rathamarit, spokesman for the now-defunct Constitution Drafting Commission and former dean of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law, commented that the eight-year period should start on June 6, 2019, when Prayut was appointed prime minister by Royal command after the general election.

                              Gen Prayut, while serving as the Army commander-in-chief, overthrew the Pheu Thai-led government in May 2014 and became prime minister in August that year. He resumed premiership after the Palang Pracharath Party, which nominated him as its sole PM candidate, managed to form a coalition government following the 2019 general election.:

                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                              • PM outlines vision for 'Phuket transformation'

                                The government is gearing up to promote Phuket as a world-class destination, hoping to lure one million foreign visitors over the next six months and generating at least 60 billion baht in revenue.

                                Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha shared the "Phuket transformation" initiative on his Facebook on Friday as fresh easing of coronavirus restrictions took effect that saw cinemas reopen and shortened spells in curfew and mandatory quarantine.

                                He said the programme aims to attract up to a million high-quality foreign travellers and those who are on "workation" during the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2022, or an average of 5,000 visitors per day.

                                Some 500,000 tourists travelling via chartered flights from England, Russia, Germany and Nordic countries are likely to visit Thailand from October to March, he said.

                                Gen Prayut said the government will develop online registration systems including health screening and vaccination certificates to help ease their travel.

                                He also shared data involving the Phuket Sandbox reopening scheme which was launched on July 1, stressing the scheme was a strategy to restart the hard-hit tourism industry amid the public health crisis.

                                The Phuket Sandbox was followed by Samui Plus and Phuket Extension, all of which had contributed 2.33 billion baht to the economy as of Sept 27, according to Gen Prayut.

                                The Phuket Sandbox generated 2.25 billion baht while Phuket Extension brought in 12 million baht. Samui Plus contributed 66 million baht to the economy.

                                Gen Prayut hailed the sandbox programmes as a success, saying they helped stimulate the economy and had not set back the country's Covid-19 containment measures.

                                He said the government is also speeding up economic relief including compensation paymements, debt relief and loan programmes.

                                According to Gen Prayut, a new measure to retain jobs in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) is in the pipeline.

                                Under the scheme, SMEs will be provided with a subsidy to help them retain employees.

                                He said that now the outbreak has eased and more businesses can reopen, the government can refocus on the economic recovery.

                                Gen Prayut said the vaccination drive is vital in helping the country survive the outbreak and move ahead with the reopening plan.

                                By the end of this year, the country will have secured 178.2 million doses, an increase on the original 100 million-dose estimate, and will also see the rollout of home-grown vaccines next year, he said.

                                With sufficient vaccine supplies and various types of shots available, he said people will receive vaccines suitable for their age and health conditions.

                                Gen Prayut expressed confidence that if containment measures go as planned, Thailand will see further reductions in Covid-19 cases and avoid further lockdown.:

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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