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Double-digit export growth for Thailand in 2013 impossible

BANGKOK, Nov 29 – Thailand will not achieve double-digit growth in export volume next year, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said today.

He said the predicted monthly export growth of US$20 billion in the final quarter of this year will push the annual volume to US$232.3 billion, an increase of only 5 per cent for the entire year.

The grim outlook for Thailand’s trading landscape was shared by former commerce minister Narongchai Akrasenee who forecast Thailand’s exports next year to increase by 8-9 per cent at the most.

It is almost impossible for Thailand to reach double-digit growth since the public sector will have to import raw materials on a large scale for investment in infrastructure relating to flood prevention and logistics development, he said.

Mr Narongchai urged all parties concerned to control the boom of personal loans given the risk of non-performing loans in the market next year.

While the euro remains weak, the strong Thai baht will attract foreign investment in the country, he said.

Srirat Rastapana, director general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said the department will be engaged in expanding investment among members of the ASEAN Economic Community as well as non-ASEAN countries next year.

Promotions of the Thai kitchen to the world, halal food, development of merchandise to meet green economy requirements and the development of small- and medium-size enterprises to the global market are some of the ITD’s major missions next year, she added. (MCOT online news)

PTT offers free engine check-up service

BANGKOK, 29 November 2012 (NNT) - Petrol conglomerate PTT has begun offering free engine check-ups from yesterday until December 5th as part of a global warming alleviation campaign.

PTT President and CEO Pailin Chuchotetaworn, elaborated that PTT has cooperated with the Vocational Education Commission to offer the service by technical students since 2004, in order to help promote fuel efficiency and reduce air pollution.

84-thousand vehicles were checked under the campaign last year, potentially reducing 13-thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. PTT expects 120-thousand vehicles to come in for service this year, which could help cut 23-thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Free full engine tune-up services are available at 55 PTT stations while minor check-ups, available until December 31st, are on offer at 97 ProCheck service centres. PTT lubricant oil will also be sold at discounted prices at the service spots.


Thailand poised to overtake India in rice export

BANGKOK, 29 November (NNT) - The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has said Thailand could soon overtake India as the world’s largest rice exporter.

Bloomberg reported that the IRRI forecast Thailand will surpass India as the world’s largest rice exporter as the country accelerates sales from state stockpiles. However, the IRRI said the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects rice prices in the global market to fall because of large stockpiles, explaining that Thailand will be forced to sell its rice at lower prices. Senior Economist Samarendu Mohanty said Indian rice exports decreased to 7 million tons during the first 9 months of this year.

According to the Department of Foreign Trade, Thailand plans to export 8.5 million tons of rice next year, compared to 7.3 million tons this year.

The Kingdom is also expected to have 12.1 million tons of rice in its stock by the end of the 2012/2013 season.


Thailand schedules rail talk with China

BANGKOK, 29 November (NNT) - The Transportation Minister has made known that Thailand and China will be holding a discussion concerning collaboration on a high speed rail project next week.

Transport Minister Chatchart Sitthipan revealed that the talks will seek to conclude rail routes and inform China of the project’s progress so far. The minister revealed that an auction to head the project has been tentatively scheduled for the end of next year.

Mr Chatchart further disclosed that he will visit Bali, Indonesia to attend the 18th ASEAN Transport Ministers Summit from 29-30 November 2012. Fellow ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, will be at the meeting to exchange information.

Thailand plans to discuss air travel and connectivity within ASEAN at the meeting.


Thailand International Motor Expo 2012 officially launched

BANGKOK, Nov 29 - The 29th Thailand International Motor Expo 2012 was officially launched today by a former deputy premier and the minister of industry.

Former deputy prime minister Suwat Liptapanlop and Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk presided over the opening ceremony.

Mr Suwat said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will host a celebration tomorrow marking Thailand's highest auto manufacturing record at two million units. The figure is the highest for the country in the past fifty years, ranking the world's top-ten of those producing cars, while auto export counts for more than 10 per cent, and car manufacturing created over 200,000 job positions.

Once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) takes effect in 2015, Thailand's auto industry will expand considerably, he said. One million cars will be produce for the domestic market, and the rest will be for neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, Motor Expo organiser Kwanchai Prapaspong said around 1.6 million people are expected to visit the fair, an increase from 1.3 million visiting last year.

He believed the event will attract more visitors this year as a result of the government's 'first car' scheme which will end in December.

Ordering new automobiles by reservation is expected to reach 50,000 units, higher than last year which marked 30,000 total reservations, while Bt55 million is forecast to be in circulation.

Thailand International Motor Expo 2012 is held through December 10 at Bangkok's Muang Thong Thani's Impact Challenger Hall, with 38 car producers and nine motorcycle producers participating. (MCOT online news)

BAAC asserts it has adequate loans for rice pledging scheme

BANGKOK, Nov 29 – Thailand’s only state bank for farmers stood firm today that it is financially sound and has sufficient funds to fulfill the government’s rice pledging scheme through the new harvest despite a required fresh loan of Bt240 billion.

Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) deputy manager Boonthai Kaewkanti said the bank has reserved a special fund for the purchase of paddy stocks, targeted at 15 million tonnes in the 2012-2013 harvest, while the government will pay back its loans from its sales of rice from the previous year.

Farmers have gradually transported their paddy to be sold at various locations established by the government under the rice pledging scheme, he said, adding that the latest trading volume was reportedly at more than 1 million tonnes.

Nakhon Phanom Governor Anukul Tangkananukulchai said drought has lately affected the quality of rice sold to the government under the scheme, compelling farmers to release their produce at lower price. The government sets a pledging price of Bt15,000-20,000 per tonne.

In Buri Ram province, the provincial rice monitoring committee has asked the Internal Trade Department to set up 10 more rice purchasing sites to facilitate farmers in remote areas. (MCOT online news)

Bank of Thailand maintains policy interest rate at 2.75%

BANGKOK, Nov 28 - The Bank of Thailand (BoT) maintained its policy interest rate at 2.75 per cent, saying the current policy rate remained accommodative and conductive to growth.

BoT Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) secretary Paiboon Kittisrikangwan, announced the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting said the MPC voted unanimously to maintain the policy rate at 2.75 per cent. The MPC will remain vigilant in monitoring global and domestic economic developments and stand ready to take appropriate policy action as warranted.

The MPC viewed that as downside risks to growth subsided with inflationary pressure in check, the current policy rate remained accommodative and conducive to growth.

The Thai economy continued its positive growth momentum from the previous meeting. The global impact has so far remained limited only to export‐related sectors, while the greater‐than‐expected strength in domestic demand appeared to provide sufficient cushion against the adverse impact of the slowdown in exports, the central bank said in its statement.

Going forward, exports were projected to recover in the first half of 2013 on the back of anticipated improvement in the global economy. Private consumption and investment will continue to be the main growth drivers for the economy, supported by strong private sector confidence and accommodative monetary conditions with high credit growth. Inflationary pressure stabilised at a moderate level close to the previous meeting, it said.

The global economic outlook showed signs of stabilisation on the back of the better-than‐expected economic data especially from the US and China. There was sustained improvement in the US labour and housing markets, although the fiscal cliff remains a key risk factor. China’s economy appeared to regain traction with recent strengthening in all key areas including exports, domestic consumption and investment, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the central bank said the eurozone economy contracted, but the economic and financial outlook of the region was projected to become more stable next year as resolution of the euro debt crisis becomes more concrete and the core economies continued to expand in tandem with improvement in the global economy.

Against this backdrop, the outlook of Asian economies has gradually improved with signs of recovery in exports, and a recent pick‐up in China’s economy. (MCOT online news)

Loy Krathong in Hat Yai lively; 30 mln expected in circulation

SONGKHLA, Nov 28 - The Loy Krathong festival's ambience in Hat Yai today is lively, with Bt30 million revenue is expected to circulate.

Songkhla Tourist Industry Association chairman Somchart Pimtanapunporn said Malaysian tourists started slowing into the area before the Loy Krathong festival, for it was already a school holiday in Malaysia.

Room reservations in Hat Yai have been about 80 per cent booked for the festival, which is a satisfactory figure, he said, given that the day has not fallen on a weekend.

Security measures are well prepared for safety in Hat Yai municipality, with defence volunteers, special task force officials, and a civic network to monitor the situation round the clock.
Provincial police ordered strict measures imposed on checkpoints in both inner and outer Hat Yai, while stationing personnel at places where Loy Krathong activities are held. (MCOT online news)

Outbound industrial expansion ‘a must for Thailand’

BANGKOK, Nov 28 – Thailand must extend its production bases into neighbouring countries, especially Myanmar, to pave the way for trade and marketing penetration into South Asia where the total population is three times higher than in Southeast Asia, according to an adviser to the prime minister.

Olarn Chaipravat, president of the Thailand Trade Representative, said investment in neighbouring countries should focus on agriculture and labour-intensive industries.

The opening of Myanmar will attract foreign investment while that country’s labour force in Thailand will eventually return to their homeland, causing a labour shortage in the textile and fisheries industries in Thailand, he said.

Mr Olarn said it is time for Thailand to revamp its manufacturing industries by concentrating on high quality services and products using advanced technology.

It is important that the Thai private sector enters joint ventures with or owns shares in overseas companies investing in Myanmar, he said, adding that the Thai private sector will soon be invited to survey industrial estates in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to look for future investments in those countries.

Arkom Tempitayapaisit, secretary general of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), said Thailand currently focuses on a five-point strategy which involves goods, service, investment, labour supply and capital funds.

The government will be asked to push forward the strategy including cooperation with Myanmar and the development of the Dawei deep seaport project, he said. (MCOT online news)

Minimum wage moves severely hit Thai garment exports

BANGKOK, Nov 28 – Overseas purchase orders for Thai garments have declined by 20-30 per cent since April when the country’s daily minimum wage was increased to Bt300, according to an industrialist.

Taweekit Chaturacharoenkun, chairman of the labour committee under the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said the first phase of the minimum wage increase has covered 40 per cent of the country while the second phase, to be effective January 1, will be in force nationwide.

Some small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have moved their factories to neighbouring Vietnam and Cambodia, he said, adding that foreign importers have hinted about shifting their orders from Thailand to Vietnam and Cambodia next year.

Mr Taweekit said labour-intensive industries in Thailand will have to adjust their production while the Labour Ministry is not able to help the private sector to reduce their costs.

Citing the northern province of Payao as an example, he said it saw a daily wage increase by Bt70 in the first stage of the minimum wage policy, and another Bt80 hike is looming in the second stage.

“Payao business operators will be subject to pay an additional Bt3,661/month to each employee,” he explained.

“The operators will be more than happy if their extra financial burden is relieved by 60 per cent but 10 per cent is the most the Labour Ministry can do.”

Mr Taweekit said that Thai-based TK Garment Co has moved its manufacturing base to Cambodia’s Sisophon province which imposes a daily wage of Bt60-70, while a factory in Tak’s Mae Sot district on the Myanmar border may relocate to Bangkok to save logistics cost.

The higher minimum wage combined with a labour shortage have dashed the hope of Chaiyaphum province to become Thailand’s textile and garment hub as several operators have moved to Vietnam and Cambodia, he said. (MCOT online news)

October auto sales hit record high, over 200% increase

BANGKOK, Nov 27 – Thailand’s auto sales in October totalled 142,839 units, up 233.2 per cent, a new record high, according to Wuttikorn Suriyachantananont, executive vice president of Toyota Motors (Thailand).

Total sales included 72,211 passenger cars, 70,628 commercial vehicles, and 61,391 one-tonne pickup trucks.

The considerable year-on-year sales increase was in part due to last year’s auto sales being impacted by the devastating flood. The government’s first car buyer scheme and automakers’ return-to-normal manufacture capacity also contributed to record high sales.

Toyota recorded the highest sales at 49,055 units, followed by Honda at 21,265 units and Isuzu at 20,170 units.

Culminated sales in from January to October this year were 1.1 million units, 60.2 per cent year-on-year growth. Passenger car growth accounted for 62 per cent.

Toyota recorded top sales at 429,806 units, followed by Isuzu at 170,173 units and Honda at 127,709 units.

The auto market is likely to remain robust until the end of this year due to potential customers’ right to buy their first car under the government scheme to encourage car ownership and increased auto production capacity. (MCOT online news)

Over Bt3 billion circulation likely for Loy Krathong festival

BANGKOK, Nov 26 - Bangkokians’ spending during this week’s Loy Krathong or Candle Light festival is forecast at around 3.5 billion baht this year, much higher than last year’s spending when the capital faced a devastating flood, according to the Kasikorn Research Centre.

A survey on Bangkokians’ response to this year’s Loy Krathong festival 2012 December 1-10 was conducted among 511 respondents, covering various occupations, age groups, and income ranges.

Most plan to float krathong, small flower vessels, in Bangkok’s rivers and canals.

More than three out of four persons--76.8 per cent--said they would spend on travel, food and beverages, and buying krathongs, according to the survey.

Most of the spending-about 2.1 billion baht or 59.5 per cent will likely circulate in Bangkok and 1.4 billion baht or 40 per cent in the provinces. (MCOT online news)

Thais deeper in debt due to gov't policies: NESDB

BANGKOK, Nov 26 - Thai households in the third quarter of this year are found to have greater debts and less ability to repay their debt, according to Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).

NESDB deputy secretary-general Suwannee Kamman cited statistics from the Bank of Thailand (BoT) that outstanding debts for personal consumption totalled Bt2.74 trillion, up 20.4 per cent year-on-year and also consecutively higher than those in this year's first and second quarters, partly as a result of household spending stimulated by the government's 'first car' and 'first home' schemes.

Personal consumption debts for cars and motorcycles reached the highest figure of 33 per cent, while for other types of consumption at 30 per cent and for loans for buying homes at 10 per cent.

Ms Suwannee said the public's ability to repay their debts decreased as seen by non-performing loans (NPL) from personal consumption loans which increased 25 per cent, or Bt56 million in value, or counting as 21 per cent of overall NPLs.

Meanwhile, outstanding personal debts whose holders failed to make payments for more than three months increased 37 per cent or Bt7.3 billion, while credit card loans with debts failing to be paid for more than three months grew 11 per cent.

Ms Suwannee concluded from these figures that Thai households' spending behaviour is worrisome and should be monitored particularly among those low- and middle-income earners who tend to spend their money in response to social values and advertisements. (MCOT online news)

Thai exports expand 15% in October

BANGKOK, Nov 26 – Thai exports in October were valued at more than US$19 billion, a 15 per cent growth owing to high demand prior to the New Year festival.

Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the Department of International Trade Promotion said Thai exports grew in all markets.

Exports to mature markets increased 12.3 per cent, dynamic markets rose 14 per cent and emerging market 31.4 per cent.

Exports of industrial goods were up 24.3 per cent. Auto parts, construction materials and electronics were up 53.4 per cent, 74.5 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. While exports of textile and agriculture and agricultural and agro-industrial produces dropped 3.2 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

Thai exports in the first ten months of this year were worth US$191 billion, up 0.34 per cent.

Imports in October 2012 valued US$21 billion, a 21 per cent increase. Imports of fuel rose 35.6 per cent and vehicles and transport equipment were up 70 per cent and auto parts and components rose 70 per cent and cars 75.5 per cent. Manufacturing and transportation sectors needed more fuel and the global oil prices increased.

Imports rose ahead of Christmas and New Year festival. Thai imports in the first ten months valued at US$206 billion, up 7.15 per cent. In October alone, Thailand posted a trade deficit of US$2.4 billion and for the first ten months, the country’s trade deficit was recorded at US$14.25 billion.

Commercial Attachés and agencies concerned from the state and private sector will meet on November 28-30 to set a direction and target for next year’s exports to push for the two-digit growth.

The ministry will work to penetrate new markets and autos, electronics and electric appliances are Thailand’s main export industries. It is projected exports in the last two months of this year will grow at least 10 per cent and the whole year’s export growth is likely to stay around 4.5-5 per cent. (MCOT online news)

Thai industrialists’ confidence alarmingly low

BANGKOK, Nov 23 – The ­Thai Industries Sentiment Index (TISI) continuously slipped lower in the past five months, sliding below 100 points for four consecutive months, an industrialist said today.

Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) president Phayungsak Chartsuthipol said the latest TISI in October was 93.9, down from 94.1 in September.

According to an FTI survey, the declining index was mainly due to decreasing purchase orders, poorer industrial production and overall business performance.

The disappointing TISI signals diminishing enterpreneurial confidence given their concerns regarding the higher costs of raw materials, wage and electricity, he said, adding that the global economic meltdown also has an impact on their confidence.

Despite the unfavourable atmosphere, domestic consumption has successively expanded compared to the previous month thanks to an increase in purchase and sales orders.

Industrialists predicted the TISI in the next three months at 101.8.

Mr Phayungsak said investors were most worried about the global economic impact while other concerns involved exchange rates, Thailand’s internal political situation, fuel prices and interest rates.

Local investors have proposed to the government to delay an increase of fuel adjustment charge (Ft) on electricity, control fuel prices and solve the problem of labour shortage, he said.

He added that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) had called on the government to set up a fund to enable them to seek loans for human-substituted machinery and reduce taxes on imported raw materials and machines. (MCOT online news)

Domestic car production exceeds 2 million units this year

BANGKOK, Nov 23 – Thailand’s automotive industry is jubilantly celebrating its “2012 Golden Year” as the annual automobile manufacturing has surpassed 2 million units for the first time in five decades.

Vitoon Simachokedee, permanent secretary for industry, said today that domestic automobile production through the yearend will reach 2.3 million units—1.3 million units for domestic distribution and 1 million units for export.

The champion products are pickup trucks and eco-cars, he said, adding that Thailand has moved forward as one of the 10 top automotive-manufacturing countries.

He said Thailand’s automotive exports rank sixth worldwide. Exports are expected to reach 2.5 million units next year and 3 million units in 2017.

Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) president Payungsak Chartsuthipol called 2012 as the “golden year” of Thai automotive industry and said the country currently has over 2,500 spare parts and automotive-related plants, hiring a competent labour force of more than 800,000 people.

The automotive and spare parts industries sought investment privileges at a total value of Bt2.02 million this year, a 95 per cent increase from last year, he said.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will preside at a celebration of automotive achievement, entitled “2 million units: New era to global success,” scheduled for next Friday. (MCOT online news)

China interested in rail project, PM pleads for pandas, Labor Min sure wage hike will have little detriment

BANGKOK, 22 November 2012 (NNT) – China has expressed a special interest in the kingdom's high-speed train project and confirmed its intention to compete for the deal.

The message was conveyed to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra by visiting Chinese premier Wen Jiabao during a meeting at Government House yesterday.

Chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affair's East Asia Department Damrong Kraikruan said China has sent a proposal to the government for consideration.

PM Wen reiterated his country's plan to join international firms in bidding for the project and expressed hope the contest would be transparent and fair.

Thailand has plans for two high-speed railway lines to Chiang Mai and Nong Khai but has yet to set bidding conditions for the multi-billion dollar plan.

Many other countries have also expressed an interest in competing.

The Bangkok-Nong Khai railway will link to Laos, to a Laotian line that will continue to the Chinese border by 2018, making the line an appealing logistical instrument.

The Chinese leader arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday night for a 24-hour visit while en route back to Beijing after having attended the East Asia Summit in Cambodia.

During his stay in Bangkok, the premier presided over the opening ceremony of a Chinese Cultural Centre, the first in Thailand and made a courtesy call to Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda (เปรม ติณสุลานนท์), and was granted an audience by His Majesty the King.

Thailand and China yesterday inked four memorandums of understanding on rice, education, development cooperation, and prisoner exchanges.

In a related development, Prime Minister Yingluck yesterday asked Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that the three pandas living at Chiang Mai Zoo be allowed to stay longer, as the agreement for their care in Thailand expires next year.

Premier Wen reportedly smiled at the request and said he would ask concerned agencies to consider the request. The pandas - Lin Hui, Chuang Chuang and their daughter Lin Ping - sent as a diplomatic gesture from Beijing have become popular in Thailand.
Meanwhile, relevant authorities have expressed belief that the imminent hike in the minimum daily wage will likely cost some people their jobs but the number will be relatively low.

Labor Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap commented yesterday that many industries are facing a shortage of labor, elaborating that there are more than 300,000 vacancies across the country.

The minister was speaking after the Thai Labor Solidarity Committee voiced concern that some employers might lay off their workers before January 1 in a bid to avoid paying higher severance pay. The Bt300 minimum daily wage goes into effect in 70 provinces from the beginning of 2013.

The Labor Minister assured that due to the current labor shortage, employers will be reluctant to lay off workers due to the increased pay rate.

Thailand’s Amata B. Grimm to build 10 power plants for Bt50 billion

BANGKOK, Nov 22 – Thailand’s Amata B. Grimm Power Group plans to invest over Bt 50 billion (US$1.6 billion) to build 10 more power plants to cope with augmented foreign investment after the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

The group, a subsidiary of the B. Grimm conglomerate, currently operates three power plants in Amata industrial estate in Chonburi and one in Amata City Bien Hoa industrial estate near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Two more plants at Amata industrial estates in Chonburi and Rayong are under construction.

With the 10 additions, Amata B. Grimm Power will have a total of 16 electricity power plants.

Priyanart Sunthornvata, chief operating officer of Amata B. Grimm Power, said the independent power production group is ready to fulfill domestic industrial expansion given liberalised trade in the Southeast Asian region in 2015 and to alleviate the burden of the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) which supplies power to more than 800 industrial plants nationwide.

To satisfy foreign investor demand, the country’s transportation system, facilities, infrastructure and electricity supply must be ready, she said, insisting on the urgency to expand power plants to feed the industrial sector.

The group currently produces 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity under a Small Power Producer (SPP) purchase agreement with EGAT. The remaining electricity and steam are sold to about 300 plants in the three industrial estates.

The 10 new power plants are scheduled for completion in 2019. The 16 plants will have a combined production capacity of 2,000 mw to be supplied to over 800 industrial plants in six industrial estates, Ms Priyanart said.

EGAT Governor Suthas Patamasiriwat said domestic power consumption has been rising rapidly for several years, particularly in the industrial sector.

Thailand’s power demand reached its peak of 26,121MW on April 26 this year, an increase of 9.3 per cent from the previous year and it is predicted that the demand will be greater to 26,950 MW next year, he said, adding that the nation’s electricity demand will be as high as 53,000 mw in 2010.

The multiplied power demand has compelled the Energy Ministry to ensure sufficient power supply through several means: production by EGAT, purchase of power from domestic and foreign producers and encouraging production by independent and small power producers. (MCOT online news)

Fisheries Department on alert for widespread diseases in prawns

PATHUM THANI, Nov 22 - Thailand's Fisheries Department is on high alert watching out for widespread diseases in prawns during the change of season from rainy to cool, after numbers of dead prawns have been found in some areas.

Fisheries director-general Wimol Jantrarotai said at a seminar that the changing weather is dangerous to the health of the aquatic creature.

According to statistics, damage from prawn diseases to shrimp farming nationwide has so far counted for 11 per cent losses, reducing production from 520,000 tonnes to 500,000 tonnes this year. Prawns produced in October alone decreased 6 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Mr Wimol said prawns initially die within a month after being put in water wells with pale livers, dark chests, and inflammation.

Diseases found are white spot disease, yellow head disease (YHD), and could also be diagnosed as Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS). Academics are speeding up their research to find the cause of death, and said that EMS has never been found in Thailand, but was seen in Vietnam, Malaysia, and China.

Mr Wimol said the situation is still controllable and not yet considered as an epidemic, for it is mostly found the eastern provinces of Rayong and Chanthaburi.

Fisheries specialists are collecting prawn samples to examine and are monitoring the situation with prawn farmers for more efficient disease prevention. (MCOT online news)

Thai rice expert: Latest Thai-Chinese rice deal ‘an empty promise

BANGKOK, Nov 22 – Thailand’s leading economist Ammar Siamwalla today described the agreement on rice purchases signed Wednesday by Thailand and China as a “hollow document suitable for putting in a frame to be hung in the minister’s office.”

His sarcastic remark came on the heels of the government’s highly-publicised memorandum of understanding between Bangkok and Beijing during the visit of outgoing Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Thailand.

Dr Ammar, an expert on Thai rice and agricultural economics, said the latest Thai-Chinese agreement is meaningless for the Thai government in its rice management policy.

The government has never planned to release its rice stock from the very beginning despite the Finance Ministry’s repeated requests for a concrete rice distribution plan, the Thailand Development and Research Institute (TDRI) economist said.

The volume of rice to be pledged with the government this year will rise from 8.8 million tonnes to 11.11 million tonnes while the government has recently added more tonnage, Dr Ammar said. The total volume of rice in the pledging scheme will be 13.31 million tonnes.

The cash-exhausted Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) has asked the Finance Ministry to guarantee additional loans of Bt120 billion to Bt161 billion to pledge rice in the new harvest but the ministry disagreed, according to the TDRI academic.

The BAAC has resorted to seek loans without the Finance Ministry’s guaranty which resulted in higher interest, he said, warning that the BAAC will face sporadic liquidity problems while rice pledging expense will be higher.

It is the first time in Thailand’s experience that the rice marketing mechanism has been completely destroyed given the government’s policy to buy every single grain of rice and monopolise the paddy and rice markets and rice milling business, he said.

Another TDRI expert, Niphon Puapongsakorn, warned that the BAAC’s liquidity will be severely tested by the government’s pledging of rice from the second harvest. (MCOT online news)

Thai Rice Exports dramatically slump

BANGKOK, 22 November 2012 (NNT) - The Thai Rice Exporters Association has made known that rice exports during first ten months of this year dropped 10 percent.

The report compared rice exports during the first ten months of this year and the same period last year to show a drop of 40 percent in quantity and 28 percent in value. It noted however that export prices were up 17 percent when compared to the mean price during the same time last year.

Thailand’s top five rice importers this year were Nigeria, Iraq, Ivory Coast, South Africa, and Indonesia. The association also pointed out that the export of sticky rice in October jumped significantly from its previous month, with increased orders from Africa and India.

The industry association expects 700-thousand tons of rice to be exported during the last two months of this year, despite higher competition from Vietnam.

Tax on diesel oil remains unchanged

BANGKOK, Nov 21 – Thailand’s excise tax reduction for diesel oil will be extended until the end of December, the cabinet decided yesterday.

Chalitrat Chandrubeksa, deputy spokesman of the Prime Minister’s Office, said the cabinet’s resolution to maintain the lower excise tax for another month was aimed at alleviating the public burden in light of higher fuel prices in the global market.

An informed source said the government will lose Bt9 billion revenue from the excise tax reduction.

The previous government lowered the excise tax on diesel oil by Bt0.005/litre, maintaining the diesel price at Bt5.31/litre while the real market price should be Bt5.83/litre, the source said. (MCOT online news)

Thailand to allow major foreign ownership in aviation sector

BANGKOK, Nov 21 – Thailand’s obsolete Air Navigation Act, enforced since 1954, will be amended to allow up to 70 per cent foreign ownership in aviation-related businesses, according to Transport Minister Chatchart Sitthiphan.

He said a draft of the new Air Navigation Act, approved yesterday by the cabinet and set for parliamentary deliberation, allows foreign companies to engage in aircraft manufacturing, maintenance and spare parts distribution.

A Thai-based company can accept up to 70 per cent foreign ownership in accord with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreement on air navigation, and foreign ownership may be increased to 100 per cent if it involves aviation business using advanced technology.

The present Air Navigation Act came into law in 1954 setting maximum foreign ownership at 49 per cent, but the act has failed to attract foreign investment to Thailand, Mr Chatchart said. He called for changing the law in accord with the coming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

The government will encourage the private sector to set up an aviation industrial estate to prepare Thailand as a logistics hub for the region, he said, adding that the aviation industry will boost Thailand’s economic opportunities after the country’s success in the automotive manufacturing industry.

The transport minister said he invited Rolls-Royce, world leader in spare parts manufacturing and aircraft maintenance, to invest in Thailand during his recent trip to the United Kingdom.

He said Rolls-Royce had reservations about the Thai Board of Investment (BoI) requirement that foreign investors disclose some confidential technological information, adding that he would discuss the issue with the BoI. (MCOT online news)

Thailand and China to sign MoU on rice trading

BANGKOK, Nov 21 – Thailand and China will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) today which gives Bangkok more leeway in its rice export to Beijing.

According to the draft MoU, a three-year time frame, effective between 2013 and 2015, which is imposed for the Thai-Chinese rice deal will be lifted. The annual rice export ceiling to China, set at 5 million tonnes, will also be nullified.

Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra and her Chinese counterpart Wen Jiapao will witness the signing of bilateral agreements including the MoU.

The MoU also calls for bilateral cooperation in pursuing rice trading while both countries will work together to create stability, fairness and transparency on every level so that China increases the volume of rice import from Thailand as much as possible.

Thailand and China will support their respective state enterprises and private businesses to expand the global rice market and eliminate rice trading obstacles for the interest of both countries. (MCOT online news)

PM asserts no decision on signing of TPP

BANGKOK, Nov 17 -- Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday asserted that the government has not made any decisions on the signing of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP).

Before leaving for Cambodia to attend the 21st ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Phnom Penh, Ms Yingluck told reporters that the government has just shown intention to study the TPP but have not yet signed anything.

The Commerce Ministry has been assigned to study the pros and cons and possible impacts that may occur if Thailand signs or does not sign the agreement, she said.

Any talks on the agreement must be based on the country's readiness and potential benefits, she said, adding that the deal must be agreed upon at the cabinet level and required ratification from the Parliament.

There are four counties in ASEAN that have signed the TPP, and Thailand has not made any decision over the issue, she said.

Ms Yingluck also affirmed that she would not raised the TPP issue for discussion with US President Barack Obama when he visited Thailand on Sunday.

The premier also said regarding the preparations to welcome Mr Obama that National Police Chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew has assured that there would be no problems, particularly with security measures. (MCOT online news)

Prolonged anti-government protest would affect Thailand's GDP growth: Academic

BANGKOK, Nov 17 - A Thai academic said the planned anti-government rally of the Pitak Siam group next Saturday will have an impact on the country's economy if it is prolonged or turns violent.

Thai Chamber of Commerce University's Economic and Business Forecasting Center director Thanawat Polvichai said the public must keep a close watch on the Pitak Siam group protest on Nov 24 as the political situation is now in a delicate position.

He said this could result in the slowing of consumer spending and affect the tourism industry as the protest--which its leader earlier announced the possibility of the prolonged rally until the government is toppled--is occurring near the New Year festive season.

If the protest remains peaceful, Mr Thanawat said it will not affect 2012 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is forecasted to grow at 5.5 percent this year and 4.5 percent in 2013.

Mr Thanawat, however, noted that the 2013 GDP will expand less than 4 percent and cost about Bt10 billion in losses to the tourism industry if the protests turn violent and lead to a change of the government.

Meanwhile, deputy chairman Pornsilp Patcharintanakul of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said the private sector is worried and does not want to see any political demonstrations.

He explained that the peaceful political gatherings under the rule of law are acceptable, but if they are prolonged and/or violent, this will impact confidence of foreign investors, affecting the trade, investment and tourism industries.

Particularly on tourism, Mr Pornsilp said Thailand expects Bt2.2 trillion of revenue from the industry within the next two years, a figure almost equal to the entire budget of the country each year.

He added the private sector does not want see any political chaos which could lead to violence, as had happened a few years ago. (MCOT online news)

Private sector asks government to hold off minimum wage hike

BANGKOK, Nov 16 – Thailand’s private sector today called on the government to delay implementation of the Bt300 daily minimum wage nationwide, originally scheduled for Jan 1 next year, by two years to 2015, warning that otherwise the majority of country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will be forced out of business.

Sommat Khunset, secretary general of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said 90 per cent of SME operators, especially labour-intensive businesses, have expressed concern about the Bt300 minimum wage which they say will double their production overhead.

Citing the northern province of Payao where the daily minimum wage is Bt159, he said that with a sharp increase to Bt300 it will be impossible for operators to survive.

He said the government should announce assistance measures for operators affected by the minimum wage increase so that they can carry on their businesses, adding that business operators should be granted low-interest loans while loan-seeking conditions are more lenient.

Another measure is a compensation scheme in which the government absorbs 75 per cent of the wage increase in the first year, 50 per cent in the second year and 25 per cent in the third year while the private sector pays 25, 50 and 75 per cent of the increase amount in the first to third year.

He said additional assistance measures will be discussed Monday before submitting a proposal to the government for its consideration. (MCOT online news)

THAI Smile Air to separate from flag carrier THAI

BANGKOK, Nov 16 – THAI Smile Air, a budget airline operated by Thai Airways International (THAI), will be split off as a sister company of the national flag carrier, according to a resolution by the THAI board of directors.

Board chairman Ampon Kittiampon said today that THAI president Sorachak Kasemsuwan has been instructed to map out a four-point business strategy, including Thai Smile Air status as a sister company, to be submitted to the board of directors on Dec 15.

The board positioned THAI as a premium airline while Thai Smile Air will provide multi-point regional service and Nok Air, another sister company, is a quality low-cost air carrier.

Mr Ampon said the four-point strategy which must be developed involves the THAI kitchen, ground services, air cargo and expense control, especially on fuel.

At its meeting today, the board was informed of the THAI performance in October which saw 1.71 million passengers, an 8 per cent increase from the previous month, and an 11 per cent increase from the same period last year.

Performance in the second quarter was Bt 3 billion below target while expenses were Bt 1 billion higher.

Mr Sorachak, however, painted a positive projection for an 11-12 per cent revenue growth next year when THAI will have 17 more aircraft.

The THAI president predicted a total revenue of Bt 223-224 billion next year. He also targeted increasing sales volume by 15 per cent from online ticketing.(MCOT online news)

Public protest against Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement escalates

BANGKOK, Nov 16 – Fourteen Thai social activist groups have jointly submitted an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, calling on the government to refrain from negotiations with the US for membership in the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP).

The letter, endorsed by the Free Trade Agreement Watch and 13 health-related non-governmental organisations, said the negotiations should not be held until studies on its merits and negatives are clear to all parties in society and consultations are sought from the people.

The groups warned the government against rushing into a decision with the single mindset of jumping on the ‘trade bandwagon’ which may eventually put the welfare of the people and the nation’s sustainable development into jeopardy.

They said the cabinet’s abrupt decision to negotiate with the US will severely affect the country’s economic and social stability, charging that the TPP will favour the interest of US multinational companies which had been rejected in other international trade organisations. (MCOT online news)

MCOT reports growth in 3rd quarter profits

BANGKOK, Nov 15 – MCOT, Thailand’s leading public broadcaster, today reported a 30 per cent jump in its profit from TV and radio operations in the third quarter of this year.

MCOT president Anek Permvongseni said the Bt481 million profit in the third quarter contributed to a net profit of Bt 1.283 billion in the first nine months of this year, representing a 3 per cent increase from the same period of last year.

The higher profit was mainly from TV revenue which increased by 24 per cent, he said, adding that MCOT had tapped more viewers during the Olympics live broadcast while other revenues were from MCOT-produced shows and advertorial programmes to publicise activities of the public and private sectors.

Radio operations reported an 8 per cent growth in the third quarter thanks mainly to social activities in Bangkok and upcountry by FM 95, FM 97.5 and FM 107.

Mr Anek pointed out that MCOT is taking a significant step towards digital television to generate more viewers in Thailand.

He disclosed that MCOT will cooperate with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission in launching a trial digital broadcasting next month for better reception among Thai audiences. (MCOT online news)

Thai private sector welcomed to invest in Uganda

BANGKOK, Nov 16 – Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has urged Thai businessmen to invest in his country, assuring potential investors of his nation’s sufficient supply of raw materials and economic efficiency.

He made the overture in a meeting between Thai and Uganda investors, which was jointly organised by the Thai Board of Investment and the Foreign Ministry at a Bangkok hotel on Thursday.

The Ugandan leader said his country welcomed Thai investments in food processing and agricultural industries, adding that Thai investors can also use Uganda as a springboard for business and export opportunities in other eastern African countries. (MCOT online news)

Thai central bank warns: Be careful of Trans-Pacific Partnership

BANGKOK, Nov 15 – Thailand must be cautious and thoroughly study the pros and cons of the US-initiated Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP), Bank of Thailand (BoT) governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul warned today.
Referring to the government’s planned negotiations with the US on the TPP during President Barack Obama’s visit to Thailand on Sunday and Monday, Mr Prasarn said he has yet to look into details of the agreement but a preliminary study found both pros and cons for Thailand.
“We must aim for the best interest of the country and determine how TPP membership will connect Thailand with the coming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC),” he said.
He pointed out that the AEC will link Thailand more with other countries in the region which shared similar economic size and flexibility.
TPP is different in terms of economic size especially in the financial sector given the liberalisation of finance and banking service, said Mr Prasarn, adding that Thai financial institutes are not as strong as those in the US.
Thai banks are capable of competing with their foreign counterparts domestically but overseas competitions are tougher due to their smaller capital base, he said.
Citing rapid change in today’s financial sector, the BoT governor said Thailand’s financial stability and security must be protected.
On the readiness of Thai financial institutes in light of the AEC, Mr Prasarn said central banks of ASEAN countries are working on standardised measures for commercial banks to operate in other member countries.
Thai financial institutes should start opening banks in other ASEAN countries next year, ahead of the 2020 schedule, he concluded. (MCOT online news)

Thai AirAsia gives Don Mueang a ‘thumbs-up’

BANGKOK, Nov 15 – Thai AirAsia is greatly satisfied with service at Don Mueang airport since its relocation from a crowded Suvarnabhumi Airport on Oct 1.

Chief operating officer Tassapon Bijleveld of Thai AirAsia said service has been smooth with only a few minor problems -- long waiting lines for taxis and insufficient food shops which the Airports of Thailand (AoT) quickly solved.

Thai AirAsia has informed AoT that it needs an expanded the passenger terminal in the near future since the budget airline, which currently has eight million passengers a year, will see an increase to 10 million next year.

Terminal 1 has a capacity to receive 18.5 million passengers a year.

Combined with passengers from other airlines, Terminal 1 will be on the brink of full capacity next year and the AoT will need to prepare for it, he said.

Mr Tassapon said Don Mueang has become Thai AirAsia’s springboard in the region with flights to various Chinese cities starting from here including Bangkok-Chongqing, Bangkok-Macau, Bangkok-Wuhan and Bangkok-Xi’an.

The airline will open three to four new routes to China next year, he said, adding that 2.8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand this year, representing one-third of Thai AirAsia passengers.

Thai AirAsia has cooperated with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, King Power Group and the Mall Group hosting trips to Thailand for media from five Chinese cities: Wuhan, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Macau.

Media visitors learn first-hand of Thailand’s interesting destinations and the readiness of Don Mueang airport in providing service to international travellers, he said. (MCOT online news)

TPP to put Thailand at competitive edge: academic

BANGKOK, Nov 14 – Thailand’s membership in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), approved by the cabinet on Monday, will place the country in a more competitive position in trading and investment, a Thai academic said today.

Aat Pisanwanich, Director of the International Trade Studies Centre, University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the TPP will be advantageous to Thailand as it will be free from having to seek the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) since there is no export tariff.

He said neighbouring Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia have become TPP members, adding that the membership will be help agricultural and processed food sectors, as well the service sector (banks and hotels) and the information technology sector.

The government will negotiate Thailand’s possible TPP membership during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Thailand this weekend.

Dr Aat said the process in becoming a TPP member may take at least two years given the government’s obligation to thoroughly study the pros and cons before seeking Parliament’s endorsement as imposed in Section 190 of the constitution.

He expressed concern that Thai small and medium enterprises will find it hard to adjust and compete in the global market. (MCOT online news)

TPP to be signed, rice trade zone to be established, Xayaburi power bought

BANGKOK, 14 November 2012 (NNT) - The Thai government has agreed to join negotiations in a United States-led free trade agreement (FTA) in a move to be formally announced during US President Barack Obama's visit to the Kingdom on Sunday.

Thailand's entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be a highlight of the visit by the US president.

The TPP is a proposed regional FTA being negotiated by the US and several Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Mexico and six other countries.

The agreement is aimed at liberalizing trade in nearly all goods and services and includes commitments beyond those currently established in the World Trade Organization.

The cabinet agreed on Monday to the proposal tabled by the Ministry of Commerce to have Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announce the pact in a joint press statement with President Obama.

The agreement would lead to fewer tariffs on Thai exports to the US and would eliminate Thailand's reliance on the US’s Generalized System of Preferences.

At the same time, the cabinet approved a Commerce Ministry plan to develop a rice trade partnership with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to stabilize international rice prices.

According to deputy government spokesman Pakdihan Himathongkam the ministry's proposal involves the creation of a rice trade zone with the neighboring countries.

The plan will include meetings with government officials from all five countries as well as representatives from the ASEAN rice cooperation committee and ASEAN rice millers and traders' associations.

Closer commercial and governmental cooperation built into the rice trade zone is expected to stabilize rice prices in global markets, promote food security in the region, and prevent the smuggling of rice from neighboring nations.

The cabinet asked the Ministry of Commerce to form a working group to arrange and plan for the creation of the trade zones. The rice trade zone project has been initially planned to begin with Cambodia and will involve rice trade in the border areas of Thailand and Cambodia, including the provinces of Buri Ram, Si Sa Ket, Sa Kaeo, Prachin Buri and Chachoengsao. The Cabinet also approved a 12-billion baht budget to build facilities to receive electricity from the Xayaburi Dam, currently undergoing construction in Laos.

The facilities, which will be used to obtain, store and relay the electricity, will be built in Loei, Nong Bua Lamphu and Khon Kaen provinces and will be operated by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

The Cabinet has instructed EGAT to adjust the timing of the construction and related projects to suit contingency plans regarding the electricity purchase deal, in order that good relations with Cambodia and Vietnam - which oppose the Xayaburi Dam project - are maintained, without affecting acquisition of electricity and various agreements with Laos.

Chinese Premier to visit Thailand Nov 20-21

BANGKOK, Nov 14 - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will visit Bangkok as a guest of the Thai government next Tuesday and Wednesday, holding bilateral talks with his Thai counterpart to boost the ties between the two countries.
The Chinese leader's visit comes at an invitation of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Nov 20-21 visit is considered the first official trip of the outgoing Chinese premier to the kingdom.

The two prime ministers will discuss and exchange views to promote bilateral relations and cooperation between Thailand and China as earlier agreed in the "Joint Statement Between the People’s Republic of China and Thailand on Establishing a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership" during Ms Yingluck's visit to China in April.

The Chinese and Thai leaders are scheduled to witness the signing of several agreements between their countries on education, prisoners' extradition. They will also attend the inauguration of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Bangkok.

The Chinese premier will also meet Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda at his Si Sao Thewes Residence on the evening of Nov 21 before being granted an audience with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital, the last programme of his two-day visit.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit comes only one day after an official visit of US President Barack Obama, scheduled to visit Thailand on Sunday and meet with Ms Yingluck at Government House the same day.

Mr Obama will also be granted an audience with the Thai monarch Sunday evening and spend the night in Bangkok before leaving for Myanmar and Cambodia, as part of his Southeast Asian tour, the first overseas trip since he was re-elected as US president. (MCOT online news)

Karen leader reopens border crossings

TAK, Nov 14 – An ethnic army which closed the Thai-Myanmar border earlier this week has reopened the checkpoints, allowing trade to resume and local residents to cross.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army ( DKBA) reopened Thai-Myanmar border crossings in Tak’s Phop Phra and Umphang districts after Thai immigration police released two of the Karen leader’s nieces who were detained for illegal entry to Thailand.

However, legal action was taken against their driver for facilitating illegal entry.

The border closure was in response to the detention of two of Karen leader Maj-Gen Na Kham Mwe nieces.

The two women were travelling by car from Myawaddy to and area opposite Phop Phra district on the Mae Sot-Umphang Road when they were detained by Thai police at a checkpoint.

The four passengers in the vehicle were the general’s mother-in-law, his aunt and two nieces, none of whom had travel documents. The Thai authorities detained the two nieces, but released his 70-year-old mother-in-law and his aunt.

Gen Na Kham Mwe is number five on Thailand's most wanted list of drug kingpins. He earlier ordered his forces to close 15 border crossings to ban Thai nationals and vehicles from entering Thai side, but does not ban Myanmar nationals from entering the Thai side. (MCOT online news)

Thai PM to attend ASEAN Summit in Cambodia

BANGKOK, Nov 14 -- Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will attend the 21st ASEAN Summit and related meetings Sunday through Tuesday next week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs' ASEAN Department director general Attayut Srisamut said that in addition to the November 18-20 21st ASEAN Summit, regional leaders will also join meetings with key Dialogue Partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, and the United States as well as the ASEAN Plus Three Summit and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Ms Yingluck will also participate in the first ASEAN Global Dialogue (AGD).

The upcoming Summits aim to review the progress and push forward various areas of cooperation in ASEAN, as well as between ASEAN and Dialogue Partners, and to provide an opportunity for leaders to exchange views on important regional and international issues.

The issues to be discussed at the summit include ASEAN community building-- implementing blueprints for the three pillars and Master Plan on ASEAN connectivity, its Human Rights Declaration to be adopted by ASEAN leaders, appointing a new ASEAN secretary-general to succeed Dr Surin Pitsuwan whose term ends next month.

The Summits with Dialogue Partners will review likely future cooperation, and exchange views on regional and international issues. The ASEAN Global Dialogue will be conducted under the theme “Role of multilateral institutions, ASEAN and East Asia in addressing economic and financial disorder.”

During the summit, ASEAN and its Free Trade Agreement partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand will join the launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations during the upcoming summits.

The summits expect 11 outcome documents, including the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, ASEAN-China Joint Statement on the 10th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea: Enhancing Peace, Friendship and Cooperation, Leaders’ Statement on ASEAN Plus Three Partnership on Connectivity, Phnom Penh Declaration on East Asia Summit Development Initiative, and the Joint Declaration on Launching the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Negotiation. (MCOT online news)

Promotional Campaign for Thai Rice on the Occasion of Prime Minister’s Visit to the United Kingdom

A promotional campaign for Thai rice, especially Hom Mali rice, will be launched in London on the occasion of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s visit to the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister will pay an official visit to the United Kingdom on November 12-14.

During her visit, the Prime Minister will be accompanied by representatives of the private sector who will explore trade opportunities with their UK counterparts. On this occasion, the President of Thailand Trade Representative, Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Olarn Chaipravat (โอฬาร ไชยประวัติ), is leading a group of Thai rice exporters and officials from the Department of Foreign Trade to visit London from November 11 to 16.

Mr. Olarn said that he had been assigned by the Prime Minister to help promote the marketing of high-quality Thai rice, especially Hom Mali Rice and organic rice. London has been selected as the first country for the promotional campaign for Thai rice, coinciding with the official visit of the Prime Minister to the United Kingdom.

On November 13, Prime Minister Yingluck will deliver a keynote address on “Thailand: Unparalleled Opportunities” during a luncheon with British and Thai business people at the Grosvenor House Hotel. On the following day, she is scheduled to preside over the opening of the Thai Rice and Thai Select fair at TESCO store in Kennington.

Mr. Olarn said that the campaign for Thai rice is aimed at making Thai rice better known among European consumers. In fact, Thai Hom Mali rice is already popular among Asians. The group of Thai rice exporters will meet and discuss with members of the London Rice Broker Association, which have networks in other European markets and Africa. The discussion will pave the way for the expansion of Hom Mali rice markets to various countries in Europe, Africa, and even the Middle East.

During the visit, Thailand and the United Kingdom will initiate the establishment of Strategic Dialogue as a new mechanism to strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation. The issue will be discussed and approved by the Prime Ministers of both countries.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague recently paid a visit to Thailand to discuss preparations for Prime Minister Yingluck’s visit to the United Kingdom and the opportunities of increasing bilateral trade and investment. He also presided over a signing of an anti-corruption pledge by a number of British companies in Thailand and Thailand’s Coalition against Corruption.

Among European Union countries, the United Kingdom is the largest group of foreign investors in Thailand. About one million tourists from the United Nations visit Thailand each year.

Blue Flag” markets selling low-cost goods set countryside

BANGKOK, Nov 14 – ‘Blue Flag’ markets selling goods at budget prices will be held in all districts countryside at least once a year following public requests.
Wiboonluk Ruamruk, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said Blue Flag markets help reduce the cost of living for the public. The department was allocated Bt190 million to implement the project in all districts of Bangkok and in major provinces.
The biggest event at the national level will be at Muang Thong Thani and at Sanam Luang 2.
Ms Wiboonluk said the department has been asked by the public, particularly in the provinces, to organise Blue Flag markets to help people buy goods at lower prices than otherwise available on the open market.
The department will seek cooperation from more traders to participate in the reduced-price goods sales promotions to feature goods and to cut consumer spending.(MCOT online news)

Malaysian locomotives for Thai railway service

BANGKOK, Nov 14 – Two locomotives will be leased from Malaysia to boost Thailand’s railway service which has worsened due to an inadequate number of available engines, new State Railway of Thailand (SRT) governor Prapas Chongsa-nguan said today.

Taking office at the SRT today, he met with managers to outline his four-point policy and stress the urgency in procuring new engines, passenger carriages, freight cars and transport platforms which has made little progress given the government budget allocation of Bt 170 billion.

Mr Prapas said ordering new locomotives takes several years, too long a timeframe considering passenger requirements. An immediate alternative, he said, is to rent rolling stock from Malaysia as both countries share the same track width.

“An insufficiency of locomotives has compelled SRT to suspend some routes. If the problem is resolved, train service will be back to normal and right on schedule,” he said.

Highlighting his four-point policy is an ambitious high-speed train which is the government’s top agenda priority. He said he would convince the government that SRT can operate a high-speed train service.

Mr Prapas urged railway staff to cooperate in improving the organisation and railway service while promising to upgrade working condition and employee benefits.

SRT properties nationwide will be fully used to generate more revenue. Included is a planned discussion with PTT Public Co on a rental fee for its headquarters on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

PTT’s headquarters has occupied SRT rent-free property for some years thanks to an internal governmental agreement between the two agencies. The arrangement was made before PTT changed from state enterprise to public company. (MCOT online news)

Higher minimum wage a blow to Thai SMEs

BANGKOK, Nov 13 – Thailand’s enforcement of the new Bt300 daily minimum wage since April has taken its toll on Thailand’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) after more than 100 companies have closed, a businessman said today.

Jirabool Vithayasingh, secretary general of the Thai Lifestyle Products Federation (TLPF), said the country’s 3,000 SMEs have had to bear a higher financial burden by 40 per cent after the wage increase.

Combined with higher raw materials and transportation costs, the SME capital overhead has increased by 50 per cent, he said.

He predicted more SMEs will close when another round of minimum wage increase is implemented on Jan 1, indicating that over 100 SMEs are currently on a tightrope.

Mr Jirabool called on the government to improve the quality of Thai labour and allow SME operators’ accessibility to financial sources so that they can carry on their businesses.

“We do not disagree with the Bt300 daily minimum wage but we want the government to review assistance measures to SMEs,” he said.

He said that the export of lifestyle products will reach Bt 90 billion this year, representing a 3 per cent increase year-on-year but “it’s a growth with less profit.”

Despite a 10 per cent decrease in the first nine months of this, the US remains Thailand’s major market, followed by Japan which sees a 12 per cent increase and Eurozone on the minus side due to the debt crisis.

Thailand’s exports of lifestyle products has enjoyed growth in new markets like China, India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia—the latter increasing by 30 per cent.

He predicted a 5-8 per cent export growth, or a total value of over Bt90 billion, for lifestyle products next year. (MCOT online news)

Thailand Striving to Become a Gem and Jewelry Trading Hub

Gem and jewelry producers have been urged to focus on creative manufacturing, as Thailand is striving to become one of the world’s gem and jewelry hubs.

Director-General of the Department of International Trade Promotion, Srirat Rastapana (ศรีรัตน์ รัษฐปานะ), said that the public and private sectors had met constantly to prepare Thailand in various sectors for achieving the goal of becoming a global gem and jewelry trading center.

Toward this aim, she said, the Department of International Trade Promotion has set strategies for developing and promoting the Thai gem and jewelry industry. The strategies include enhancing the competitiveness of the industry in terms of production, processing, designing, and management. They also seek to study marketing in foreign markets and develop personnel in the gem and jewelry business to cope with business expansion.

In this regard, she said, Thai entrepreneurs need to develop their products with an emphasis on quality and creativity, so that Thai gems and jewelry products would gain more recognition in the world market.

As creativity is found in the production of Thai gems and jewelry, these products have been classified as creative goods. The Government has a policy to develop and promote Thai gems and jewelry in order to add value to these creative goods for entrepreneurs, designers, and craftsmen.

The gemstone and jewelry industry is also among Thailand’s top foreign exchange earners. It generates employment for 1.1 million people in the country.

Mrs. Srirat said that, from January to September this year, Thai gem and jewelry exports amounted to 10.9 billion US dollars, an increase of 11 percent over the same period of last year. Major markets with more export growth include Hong Kong, Germany, and Japan. The global economic slowdown has led to the decline in Thai gem and jewelry exports to the United States by 9 percent, India by 22 percent, and Belgium by 0.3 percent. However, exports to emerging markets, such as the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon are on the rise.

Thailand successfully exported 12.3 billion dollars of gems and jewelry products last year. Exporters hope to maintain exports this year at close to the level of last year.

Thailand is famous for the fine craftsmanship of its jewelers, especially in setting each piece of jewelry by hand. The quality of Thai gems and jewelry, with a variety of materials and designs, is also recognized internationally. All types of manufacturing processes are available in Thailand, from mass production to fine handcrafted pieces of jewelry.

The Government will launch campaigns to promote the image of Thai gems and jewelry, and it will ask the private sector to help provide training for skill development in this industry.

Five suburban hubs planned

BANGKOK, 14 November 2012 (NNT) - The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced a plan to decentralize the growth of urban areas by designating five locations around the capital as commercial areas.

Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning committee member Preecha Ronnarong said the development plans, including new mass-transit lines and high-rise building projects, are to be launched in Bang Na, Bang Khen, Ram-Indra, Min Buri and Taling Chan districts.

Mr. Preecha said the plan will be implemented by May of next year, elaborating that it would also allow private developers to construct underground rail junctions.

He suggested that Bangkok and nearby provinces, such as Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani, adopt a unified development plan to foster growth.

Thailand’s elite card refuses to die

BANGKOK, Nov 13 – The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has mapped out an ambitious plan to recruit 10,000 new members for the ‘elite card’—a scheme which had ‘gone silent’, but is now to be resurrected following cabinet approval yesterday.

The cabinet action allows a maximum expense of Bt100 million from the remaining registered capital of Thailand Privilege Card (TPC) Co for the revived operation which includes recruitment of a manager, personnel and management.

It should take three months to fully launch the project after which the company should have sufficient cash flow from the sales of membership, according to deputy government spokesman Pakdiharn Himathongkam.

As the sole owner of TPC, the national tourism agency projects 10,000 new members in the next 10 years, with each paying a one-time membership fee of Bt 2 million plus an annual fee of Bt 20,000. A membership is valid for 20 years.

The status-bearing TPC currently has 2,562 members.

TAT plans to recruit 1,300 members in the first year of the revived programme (2013), 1,200 members in the second year, 1,100 members in the third year, 1,000 members in the fourth to seventh years, 900 members in the eighth year, 800 members in the ninth year and 700 members in the tenth or final year.

It hopes to earn Bt2.016 billion after the first year but the loss remains at Bt 117 million due to the accumulated deficit of Bt1.284 billion.

TPC should make a Bt 242 million profit in 2014 and pay off the accumulated deficit by 2017. In 2042 when the elite card turns 20 years, TPC should have Bt 2.280 billion in cash or a profit of Bt 1.095 billion. (MCOT online news)

Bangkok’s No 1 shopping zone to be spared from political rally

BANGKOK, Nov 12 – A leading Thai business operator at Ratchaprasong, Bangkok’s top shopping avenue, today allayed fears of a mass rally by the anti-government Pitak Siam group later this month, saying he expected it to be a peaceful demonstration within the framework of the law.

Chai Srivikorn, president of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association, said he did not believe the Nov 24th political rally will lead to a repeat of the month-long demonstration at Ratchaprasong in mid-2010.

He said business at Ratchaprasong has already returned to the level of its peak in 2009 while tourists from the US and Europe have opted out to be replaced by those from China, India and Russia.

The occupancy rate at area hotels is 80-90 per cent, and hotel rooms are fully booked until early next month, he said. He was optimistic regarding tourists’ confidence on Thailand, adding that Ratchaprasong has been ranked one of the top ten suitable locations for a New Year’s countdown in Bangkok.

Mr Chai painted a rosy prospect for Thailand’s tourism next year thanks to the improving economic situation in the U.S. and higher purchasing power among neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

The association has joined with four public and private organisations in holding the “Happiness is all around @ Ratchaprasong” campaign during the holiday season and expected to attract more than 16 million tourists to the shopping hub and generate a total revenue of more than Bt13 billion.

A Bt80-100 million budget will be allocated for the campaign and more than 3,000 shops will offer up to 70 per cent discounts, he said.

The traditional Thai ceremony of offering alms to monks will be carried out on BTS Skytrain stations on New Year’s morning, while Ratchaprasong will be colourfully illuminated during the festive season, he said. (MCOT online news)

Cabinet approves mechanism, special zone for ASEAN rice

BANGKOK, Nov 12 – Thailand’s Cabinet today approved establishment of a cooperative mechanism for the ASEAN rice market and a special zone for ASEAN rice trade as proposed by the Commerce Ministry.

Government deputy spokesman Pakdiharn Himathongkam said such measures will help retain stable rice prices in the world market, create sustainable food security in the region, prevent rice smuggling from Thailand's neighbouring countries, and efficiently develop the quality of rice of ASEAN countries.

The Cabinet also agreed to the result of the first Thai-Myanmar Joint High Level Committee (JHC) meeting on the Dawei special economic zone, approving eight urgent projects -- roads, a deep-sea port, industrial estates, a first-phase power plant, water treatment system, telecommunication, community development and migration, and a high-speed train project.

Related agencies are to follow up with further meeting results.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet agreed in principle to provide financial assistance, initially at Bt1.4 billion, to the Lao PDR to spend on a development project and road construction in Thailand's northern province of Phayao and the Lao PDR. Neighbouring countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) was assigned to study details of the project.

The Cabinet also approved in principle to buy stock at a budget of Bt102 million by the Thai government to increase the capital of Asia Reinsurance Corporation. (MCOT online news)

Thailand, South Korea agree to expand trade to US$30 bln within 5 years

BANGKOK, Nov 10 -- Thailand and South Korea agreed on Saturday to work closely together to expand bilateral trade volume to US$30 billion by 2016 as their leaders pledged to upgrade relations between the two countries to a "strategic partnership."
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and visiting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reached the agreement during bilateral talks in Bangkok.
Mr Lee, who arrived in Bangkok on Friday, is the first South Korean president to make an official bilateral visit to Thailand in 31 years.
According to the joint statement after the talks, the leaders also agreed to "serious efforts" to conclude a trade and economic cooperation "action plan" for 2013-2017 at an early date to further energise trade and minimise trade barriers. They asked the joint trade committee of both sides to start negotiations as soon as possible.
Trade between South Korea and Thailand reached an all-time high of $13.9 billion last year.
Bangkok and Seoul have agreed to seek preliminary discussions and a joint study about forging a comprehensive economic partnership agreement in order to strengthen economic links between the two countries, said the joint statement.

Ms Yingluck and Mr Lee have welcomed cooperation in various Thai infrastructure projects, especially its water management system, high-speed train line, power plant development projects and the Dawei deep sea port project.
During her visit to South Korea in March, Ms Yingluck expressed keen interest in South Korea's project to revive its four major rivers in a way that prevents floods, preserves water resources and promotes tourism along the waterways.
South Korea has expressed interest in importing rice from Thailand in response to higher demand while many Thais fruits including mango, longan and pomelo are also favourite choices for South Koreans.
Both leaders also called for launching aviation talks at an early date to facilitate people-to-people exchanges and transfers of goods and services at a time when the number of people visiting each other's nation topped 1.3 million last year.
After the meeting at Government House, Mr Lee toured the Chao Praya River and the Lad Pho canal, a move seen as underlining South Korea's willingness to share its water management experience and know-how. Thailand is working on a massive $11.3 billion project to build a large-scale water management system.
Mr Lee is scheduled to return home on Sunday. (MCOT online news)

Rice pledging scheme vehemently criticised again

BANGKOK, Nov 12 – Public dissent against the highly-criticised rice pledging scheme has escalated with noted public figures issuing fresh warnings, charging the government with running the country into serious debt.

Former deputy prime minister Pridiyadhorn Devakula said farmers will benefit from the scheme but long term stocks of rice will reduce its quality and incur financial losses.

With a combined 21.95 million tonnes of rice in government stockpiles, the loss will be as great as Bt140 billion, he said, adding that the public debt will be as high as 47.8 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and it will increase to 49.9 per cent of GDP by the end of this year.

If the government carries on the project into next year, public debt will skyrocket to 61 per cent of GDP, he warned.

Mr Pridiyadhorn expressed concern that other countries will have less confidence in Thailand and that the Thai currency will also be affected.

Academic ignorance, combined with corruption, is twice as dangerous to the country, he said, adding that it is most difficult to salvage the country’s loss of credibility in the face of the international community’s lack of confidence in Thailand.

Nipon Poapongsakorn, a senior academic at the Thailand Development and Research Institute (TDRI), said the government has breached its agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as it has set an intervention ceiling for the rice market at 3-4 million tonnes but Thailand has gone far beyond the promised figure and the government has not disclosed any information on the rice deal to the public.

Warning against the rice-for-train barter contract with China, he said brokers of both countries will benefit for both the rice and train deals.

The government, he said, has lost Bt172 billion since the start of the rice pledging scheme while benefits to farmers were only Bt110 billion, and rice mills and warehouse operators earned big profits of Bt21.38 billion and Bt2.313 billion respectively.

The longer rice is stocked, the lower its quality becomes, as it deteriorates, and losing quality will cost nearly Bt10.5 billion while the government also has to pay interest of Bt14.45 billion for loans with financial institutes, he said.

Dr Nipon called on the Commerce Ministry to leave it to the private sector and the market mechanism, and refrain from intervention in selling rice to Cambodia.

The Finance Ministry admits it has just Bt150 billion budget for next year’s rice pledging scheme and there is concern that the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) must bear the financial burden since the cost of the scheme will exceed Bt300 billion.

Chookiat Opaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, described the government’s planned purchase of 4 million tones of rice from Cambodia as ridiculous.

“Where will we stock the rice? Buying rice from Cambodia does not put Thailand on a competitive edge with Vietnam,” he said. With the government’s announcement to export 8.5 million tonnes of rice, and buying white rice at US$800/tonne, it will be impossible for Thailand to compete with Vietnam which sells rice at US$450-460/tonne.

In the global market, the US sells rice at US$600/tonne, Thailand at US$580/tonne, Vietnam at US$450/tonne, India and Pakistan at US$440/tonne while Myanmar has started to export at US$400/tonne, he said.

The government will only lose if it pledges rice at US$800/tonne, he said, adding that the government has more than 10 million tonnes of rice in stock, excluding rice from the new harvest which will add to the stock. (MCOT online news)

Thai gem, jewellry exports in first 9 months valued at US$10 bln, 11% growth: Commerce Ministry

BANGKOK, Nov 11 - Commerce Ministry says Thailand's gem and jewellry exports in the first 9 months of 2012 was valued at US$10.9 billion, accounting for an 11 percent growth year-on-year.

International Trade Promotion Department director-general Srirat Rastapana said increasing exports were due to constant meetings with the public and private sectors on the readiness and preparedness to push Thailand to become a world centre for gems and jewellry.

However, Ms Srirat said the US$10.9 billion export value did not include unworked gold, which was separately worth some US$4.9 billion.

The value of Thai gem and jewellery exports in existing main markets such as Hong Kong, Japan, and Germany and in new markets like UAE and Lebanon increased, while the US, Belgium, and India markets decreased 9, 0.31, and 22 percent respectively, owing to the troubled economy and import tax adjustment on gem and jewellery in India.

High export growth was seen in UAE at 41 percent; Germany, 48 percent; Austria 58 percent; Singapore 92 percent, and Lebanon 261 percent. (MCOT online news)

Thai GDP grows 3.3% in Q3, exports shrink 3%

BANGKOK, Oct 31 – The Thai economy in the third quarter grew at a slower pace of 3.3 per cent with exports contracting 3 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to the Bank of Thailand (BoT).

The economy continued to be weighed down by the weakening global economy. Manufacturing production in export-oriented industries exhibited a continued contraction, in tandem with deteriorating exports in these industries, the BoT said in its statement.

Thai exports in the first nine months of this year contracted 0.9 per cent after in September alone, it dropped 7.9 per cent, according to Mathee Supapongse, Senior Director in the Macroeconomic and Monetary Policy Department,.

Mr Mathee said, however, it is believed that in the fourth quarter, Thai exports will improve, compared to their low fundamentals last year when Thai exports were suspended by the devastating flood.

Thai exports have already touched bottom and in the next 3-6 months, are likely to be stable. It is estimated that 2013 exports will expand 9 per cent on the condition that exports in the second half of 2013 will recover. This year’s exports are projected to grow by 4.4 per cent.

Thai export markets in ASEAN countries fell 11.7 per cent, in China 14.7 per cent and in Europe 15.5 per cent. (MCOT online news)

2012 November 30


Back to Main Page

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Thailand’s elite card refuses to die

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Cabinet approves mechanism, special zone for ASEAN rice

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Rice pledging scheme vehemently criticised again

Thai gem, jewellry exports in first 9 months valued at US$10 bln, 11% growth: Commerce Ministry

Thai GDP grows 3.3% in Q3, exports shrink 3%




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