HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

THB to move 30.00-30.35 THB/USD this week

SET to fluctuate in narrow range this week

NESDB: Thai Q1/2011 GDP expands 3.0%

Foreign media nominate Korn one of IMF MD candidates

Ratchaprasong biz demanding rally management

DEP: Exports to Japan unaffected by twin disasters

Government banks take charge of credit card debt

GHB approved the interest-free first home loan campaign

Thailand to fast track FTAs with Peru, Chile

FPO chief confident diesel excise tax cut will not affect fiscal position

FTI: Printing biz livelier thanks to election

House prices to increase 4-5%

Apr export grows by 24.6%

Special Report: 3 Challenges Facing New Govt

THAI launching low-cost airline next year

Mar 2011 public debt stands at 41.28% of GDP

BoT to urge more payment via debit card

TISI up to 106.6 points in April

DIT hotline flooded with complaints on expensive goods

Drought eases off in 5 provinces

DEP sets up website to boost exports

Retailers suing for damages from Red Shirt protest

Thai export growth in 2011 revised upward to 15%: Commerce Ministry

PTT, Bangchak to cut oil prices by 40 satang/liter

Car sales in first 4-months hit new high

Car production in Thailand declined, with better forecast at yearend

MOPH warns farmers of leptospirosis

FTI: New govt should increase minimum wage

Mobile phone network operators’ income up

Thai exports to EU increasing

PTT, Bangchak, Caltex cut oil prices by 30 satang/liter

Thai exports to European Union grow 24% in first quarter

Thai Trade rep to systematise Thai boxing in US

THB to move 30.00-30.35 THB/USD this week

BANGKOK, 23 May 2011 (NNT) – Kasikorn Research Centre (KResearch) has estimated that the Thai baht this week ending 27 May 2011 will move in the range of 30.00-30.35 baht per US dollar after it had depreciated last week.

KResearch reported that the baht last week depreciated against the greenback following other Asian currencies which all faced selling forces at the beginning of last week when the Thai financial market was closed on a religious holiday. Meanwhile, foreign investors were selling Thai stocks and bonds.

In addition, the selling of risk assets by investors gradually stimulated the Thai baht depreciation. The baht on Friday closed at 30.27 baht per US dollar, compared with 30.19 baht per US dollar in the previous Friday 13 May.

As for this week, the baht is expected to move in the range of 30.00-30.35 baht per US dollar. Domestic factors that should be monitored are the Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter this year, domestic politics and intervention of the Bank of Thailand to stabilise the baht.

External factors that should be monitored are the Greek debt crisis and reports of many economic figures from the US.

SET to fluctuate in narrow range this week

BANGKOK, 23 May 2011 (NNT) – Kasikorn Research Centre (KResearch) has projected that the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) this week from 23 to 27 May 2011 will fluctuate in a narrow range with a chance to adjust upward after last week’s fall.

KResearch reported that the SET index last week closed at 1,072.94 points, down 1.11% from the week earlier in line with other global stock markets following concerns over economic slowdown. Meanwhile, the MAI index closed at 292.06 points, up 0.57% from the week earlier.

The Thai stock index went down following other countries on Wednesday due to selling forces amid concerns over the Greek debt crisis before bouncing back on Thursday. The index however fell again on Friday due to external factors such as the Euro zone debt crisis and US economic fragility.

KResearch and Kasikorn Securities predicted that the SET index this week might fluctuate in a narrow range and might go up thanks to sales of politically related stocks. The support line and resistance line will be at around 1,060-1,048 points and 1,096-1,113 points respectively.

Factors that should be monitored include prices of consumer goods, domestic politics, the Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter this year as well as important US economic figure reports.

NESDB: Thai Q1/2011 GDP expands 3.0%

BANGKOK, 23 May 2011 (NNT) – The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) has reported that the Thai Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figure for the first quarter this year stands at 3.0% while the 2011 GDP is expected in the range of 3.5%-4.5%.

According to NESDB Secretary-General Akom Termpittayapaisit, factors supporting the Thai economic growth are foreign demand leading to rising exports as well as confidence of domestic investors and consumers leading to expanding investment and consumption.

The agricultural sector grew by 6.7% thanks to a 12.2% rise in agricultural produce, especially rice, sugar cane, corn and para rubber and a 25.7% rise in crop prices. Farmers’ income for the first quarter this year rose by 41.0%, up from 19.0% in the previous quarter.

As for the tourism sector, the number of foreign tourists coming to Thailand in the first quarter this year was at 5.4 million people, up 15.0% year-on-year. Most of the increase was attributed to journeys of Asian tourists to Thailand such as Chinese, Koreans, Malaysians and Indians.

Domestic spending grew 3.4% following rising income among farmers and rising crop prices. The unemployment rate was 0.8% or 310,000 people. Consumer Confidence Index stood at 71.9, up from 71.3 in the previous quarter; however, people were spending less due to expensive product prices.

Private investment expanded 12.6%, up from 9.2% in the previous quarter owing to supports from continuous domestic and foreign demands. Meanwhile, confidence of business entrepreneurs in average stood at 53.1, up from 51.4 in the previous quarter.

As for the 2011 economic growth projection of 3.5-4.5%, supportive factors are the tourism sector, rising crop prices, confidence of consumers and investment; however, the global economic condition, Japanese economy, interest rate and rising oil prices must be monitored closely.

Foreign media nominate Korn one of IMF MD candidates

BANGKOK, 23 May 2011 (NNT) – Japanese and Hong Kong media are cheering Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij to take the helm of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) replacing Mr Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The Japan Times of Japan and the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong recently proposed several figures to replace Mr Strauss-Kahn who has recently resigned. Mr Korn's name appears among the candidates proposed by the two famous foreign newspapers for his deep understanding in the financial market.

Other candidates nominated by the two newspapers included Egyptian Dr Mohamed A El-Erian, Indian Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Singaporean Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Mr Korn recently supported ASEAN economists to be the next IMF managing director since economies of developing nations, especially in the ASEAN region, are growing. He then named Mr Shanmugaratnam and Indonesian Sri Mulyani Indrawati as possible candidates.

The minister added that the old tradition to focus only on European and American candidates should be forgotten in order to give economists from other regions a chance to sit in the high positions of global organizations.

Ratchaprasong biz demanding rally management

BANGKOK, 23 May 2011 (NNT) – Business entrepreneurs at Ratchaprasong Intersection are demanding for good rally management plan after they have been affected by the mass gathering of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) on 19 May 2011.

Democracy Without Infringement Network representative Chai Srivikorn stated that the recent UDD mass gathering on 19 May had caused difficulties and trouble to people and companies around Ratchaprasong Intersection, a famous shopping district of the capital city.

Mr Chai, also the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association (RSTA) president, further elaborated that companies and shops had to close early while over 1,500 earlier booked rooms and seminar arrangement in hotels in the area were cancelled that day for fear of violence similar to last year.

The RSTA president hence asked the Metropolitan Police Commission to come up with an efficient demonstration management plan to ensure peace and order at all protest sites. He confirmed that his network is not against any group but just wants a good operational regulation to limit demonstrations.

Mr Chai also asked protest groups to inform the date and demonstration venue in advance, refrain from closing Ratchaprasong Intersection or blocking the traffic and open entries and exits around BigC supermarket Ratchadamri branch and the Anoma hotel for employees working in the area.

DEP: Exports to Japan unaffected by twin disasters

BANGKOK, 23 May 2011 (NNT) – The deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan have no significant impact on Thai exports in general, according to the Department of Export Promotion (DEP) under the Ministry of Commerce.

DEP Director-General Nuntawan Sakuntanaga stated that the twin disasters barely affect the Thai exports to Japan because the Thai export value to Japan for April still expanded by 39.5% year-on-year with the total value of 1.829 million US dollars.

The director-general added that the figure reduced slightly compared with the value in March 2011 of 2.086 million US dollars. She said the exports from January to April this year to Japan rose 32.3% year-on-year with the total value of 7.770 million US dollars.

Ms Nuntawan nonetheless admitted that the DEP still has not trusted the Japanese economy because the latest official economic announcement shows that the Japanese economy is shrinking.

The director-general stated that the DEP hence will monitor the economic situation and nuclear crisis as well as other risk factors such as the baht currency fluctuation, rising oil price and dwindling agricultural production in the latter half this year closely to prevent impact on Thai exports.

Government banks take charge of credit card debt

BANGKOK, 22 May 2011 (NNT) – The Government Savings Bank (GSB) stated that three government bank managers including Krung Thai , GSB and the Islamic Bank of Thailand (IBank), had made joint statements of new finance policies regarding credit card debt. In order to minimize the people's economic burdens, the three banks had raised quotas to an accumulated value of 10 billion baht. 4.5 billion baht for both Krung Thai and GSB, and 1 billion for IBank.

GSB had considered raising loans to 300,000 baht per person and a 3-year repayment period and a 10 percent rate of interest. The project is available for registration on June 1 and preliminary document requirements include copies of census documents, identification as well as credit card invoices.

Futhermore, on May 30 , four financial institutions; made up of GSB, Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives (BAAC), the Government Housing Bank (GHB), and IBank will collaborate to launch the ATM Pool Transactions service which include withdrawals, deposits, and join transfers with low fee payments as part of minimizing costs for clients and continuous repayments of debt.

GHB approved the interest-free first home loan campaign

BANGKOK, 22 May 2011 (NNT)- The President of Government Housing Bank (GHB), Mr. Worawit Chailimpamontri declared the loan campaign of interest-free first home program for the first two years. At present, there have been 1.3 billion applicants submitted the request, equivalent to 1.9 billion baht with 5.6 billion baht remained to be approved in the near future.

In the past, 270 applications have been approved, accounting for 344 million baht. The loan campaign is expecting 2 billion baht loan to be approved within 30 days.

Mr Worawit also said the majority of borrowers were the average income earners, and the loan was for townhouse and condominium according to government’s purposes. The other 70 percent aimed for houses.

As for the parties campaign policy which needed help from the GHB to proceeds the loan program of interest-free house extended for 5 years, Mr Worawit insisted that GHB is ready to run the procedure in order to ease public’s burden. On the other hand, the government would also have to provide credit limit to compensate the certain part for GHB as well.

Meanwhile, last year’s overall picture of GHB in issuing loan for accommodation has proved to be successful in carrying out several policies, which consequently, would issue an additional amount of 1.1 billion baht, from initial amount of 9.9 billion baht. However, the result is yet to be seen in the middle of the year.

Thailand to fast track FTAs with Peru, Chile

MONTANA, May 22 -- Thailand is expected to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Peru which is likely to become effective late this year and the kingdom will sign a similar agreement with Chile which would be completed around mid-2012, a senior Thai commerce ministry official said today.

Srirat Rastapana, director-general of Commerce Ministry's Trade Negotiations Department, said she had held talks with Peruvian officials on the progress of an FTA between Thailand and Peru and was informed that Peru still has to wait for a new parliament to be formed.

Thailand will organise a general election on July 3 and the commerce ministry will seek an approval on the FTA between the two countries after the lower house is formed and meets, Mrs Srirat said. If approved, the agreement could become enforced later this year in which nearly 6,000 goods items are covered and Thailand will benefit from increased exports of electrical appliances, pick-up trucks, plastic resins and rubber, while Peru will gain from exports of shrimp, cod fish and insecticides.

The talks were held on the sidelines of the 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting held in the state of Montana in the United States between May 19-20.

The Trade Negotiations Department is also moving to sign a similar agreement with Chile and it believes that the agreement would be ready by mid-2012. The move comes after major Thai petrochemical industry players wanted the country to sign an FTA with Chile after several countries such as the US, South Korea and China have already signed agreements with that nation.

Mrs Srirat said both Peru and Chile are considered important gateways to Latin America and Thailand would benefit from signing FTAs with the two countries, as it could further export to the two nations' neighbours, such as Argentina and Bolivia. (MCOT online news)

FPO chief confident diesel excise tax cut will not affect fiscal position

BANGKOK, May 21 – Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) Director-General Naris Chaiyasoot on Friday expressed confidence that the diesel excise tax reduction measures taken by the government to cap diesel oil prices at below Bt30 per litre would not affect the country’s fiscal position.

Announcing the fiscal position in the first 7 months of fiscal 2011, he said the government managed to put Bt916.24 billion into the state coffer, up Bt67.29 billion or 7.9 per cent from the same period the year before.

The revenue collection by three state agencies responsible for taxation had surged due to continued economic growth.

Simultaneously, the budget disbursement totaled Bt1.29 trillion, up Bt219.33 billion or 20.3 per cent from the corresponding period last year.

It resulted in the budget deficit of Bt382.63 billion. The figure, when combined with the off-budget deficit of 61.08 billion baht arising from the fiscal bill redemption, put the balance of cash in deficit at Bt443.71 billion.

However, the government borrowed Bt129.61 billion to compensate for the deficit. It helped reduce the deficit to Bt314.11 billion, resulting in the treasury cash balance standing at Bt115.21 billion at the end of April.

Although the government issued the diesel excise tax reduction measure, Mr. Naris said, FPO was confident it would not impact the fiscal position given the improved economic situation and strong fiscal position.

As at the end of fiscal 2011, he projected, the treasury cash balance would remain at around Bt300 billion, which is considered a stable position. (MCOT online news)

FTI: Printing biz livelier thanks to election

BANGKOK, 21 May 2011 (NNT) – The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has estimated that the printing industry will get livelier as political parties are making intense election campaigns with the total circulation of over 3-4 billion baht.

According to FTI Deputy Secretary-General Kriengkrai Thiennukul, the printing and advertising industries were apparently lively at once after all 26 political parties had drawn their numbers for party-listed MP candidacy.

Posters and signs for election campaigns are expected to be printed around the clock urgently as each political party wants to have the very best spots to place their posters and signs, which represents a fiercer competition in this election.

The total budget used by all political parties to advertise via various media is expected to stand at 15 billion baht, notably in printing material detailing policies of political parties such as posters, brochures, leaflets and billboards.

The total circulation for printing industry is projected at 3-4 billion baht, up from the previous general election amount of 2-3 billion baht.

Printing media is considered the most effective channel to advertise in political campaigns as it can reach all groups of audience. Social media channels are accessible only for some groups of people while television advertisement is against the electoral laws.

House prices to increase 4-5%

BANGKOK, 21 May 2011 (NNT) – House prices are expected to increase by 4-5% following the rising construction material costs while investors are encouraged to invest in housing business of which growth rate is higher than the normal national inflation rate.

Sena Development Executive Director Asst Prof Dr Kessara Thanyalakpark expected that housing developers will increase prices of all types of property from house, condominium to townhouse by at least 3-5% following the rising construction material costs.

Asst Prof Dr Kessara added that projects near sky trains or undergrounds will be even more expensive since they are in high demand, especially along Chaeng Wattana Road, which is also another important venue for investment with mushrooming public and private offices.

Meanwhile, Real Estate Information Centre Executive Director Samma Kitsin suggested that investors should shift to make investment in housing business because it offers greater value than the inflation rate growth.

Ms Samma explained that the housing business growth from the mid of 2009 to the mid of 2010 was at 6% while the national inflation rate was at 4%. He added that houses took only 12 years to have their prices double unlike other kinds of goods which took at least 18 years.

The Executive Director reported that people at present have been delaying their decision to buy new property as they are waiting to see policies of the new government. He believed that the housing market will become lively once again after the election.

Apr export grows by 24.6%

BANGKOK, 21 May 2011 (NNT) – Thai export figure in April 2011 was recorded at 17.564 billion US dollars, an increase of 24.6% year-on-year while the import figure stood at 18.360 billion US dollars, rising by 27.9% year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai hence concluded that Thailand last month experienced a trade deficit of 795.5 US dollars; however, the country still enjoyed a trade surplus for the first four months of this year at 1.9 billion US dollars in total.

Ms Pornthiva reported that the total export value from January to April was 74.438 billion US dollars, an increase of 27.39% year-on-year, while the import value in the same period was 72.537 billion US dollars, expanding by 27.9% year-on-year.

The Ministry of Commerce has readjusted the country’s export target this year to 12-15% from the earlier projection at 12%.

Negative factors that must be monitored closely comprise global oil price, product prices, especially foods and other consuming goods, Thai baht movement, interest rate and lack of workforce in the export sector.

The ministry also voiced its readiness to attend the upcoming meeting of commerce envoys in the THAIFEX-World of Food Asia 2011 at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani from 25 to 29 May 2011 in a bid to push forward the country’s export.

Special Report: 3 Challenges Facing New Govt

After the House is dissolved, political parties are campaigning hard to prepare for the upcoming general election. The new government will be facing with three major challenges, including energy prices, minimum wage rise and trade competitiveness enhancement, according to Kasikorn Research Centre (KResearch).

As for the first issue, the skyrocketing energy prices and subsidy policy of the government, KResearch estimated that the government might spend over 110 billion baht in total to pin energy prices until September 2011. The state will have to reduce subsidy gradually to avoid long-term impact on the financial stability and urge the society to step up energy conservation.

As for the second issue, many political parties have been boasting that they will increase the minimum wage to relieve low-income earners from the rising living costs if they can form a new government. KResearch viewed that such an initiative should be done together with labour potential enhancement in order to maintain competitiveness of Thai trade and investment. In addition, it must be monitored that the rising minimum wage will not affect the skyrocketing inflation rate.

The other challenge for the new government is to boost competitiveness of the nation. The new government should focus more on enhancing the national competitiveness in the long-term by investing in the national infrastructure and ready the country for the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community establishment in 2015, which will complicate the business environment and competition further.

KResearch expected that the Thai economy this year would grow about 3.0-4.0% with the base at 3.6%. However, impact from the shortage of auto parts and components following the twin disasters in Japan and the southern flood in Thailand will still be a major factor pressuring the Thai economy in the second quarter as it might shrink by 1.0% or only expand by 0.2% compared with the previous quarter.

The aforementioned challenges named by KResearch are only economic issues. A new government will certainly have a hard time ahead as there are still many other problems pending to be solved from deeply rooted political rifts to social affairs confusion.

THAI launching low-cost airline next year

BANGKOK, May 20 - Thailand's national flag carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) will launch its own low-cost airline in April next year, according to THAI board of director's chairman Ampon Kittiampon.

The chairman make the announcement after a board meeting had agreed to set up the new business unit.

THAI's board of directors has the authority to approve the process directly without proposing its plan to the Transport Ministry or to the Cabinet for approval, according to the company's legal team.

Managed according to the earlier announced strategy plan for 2011-2017, the new business unit aims to reclaim market share of passengers opting for other low-cost airlines and to support additional market expansion in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) so-called Single Aviation Market in the future.

The new airline has not yet been given a name. "Thai Silk", "Thai Wings" and "Thai Fly" were initially offered for selection by the public and THAI staff.

The payback or break even point is considered to be in 2-3 years, Mr Ampon said, with 70-80 per cent of passenger capacity per flight expected with the new airline.

Flights of no more than three hours will be operated for domestic and international routes. Seven aircraft will be used at the initial phase. Five of them are Boeing 737, which THAI already owns, while another two will have a150-seat capacity rented through a bidding process. The new airline will have 11 aircraft within three years.

This business unit will be 100-per cent owned by THAI and operated as a full airline. Customers using the service will receive benefits such as luggage allowances and mileage credit accumulation as when they fly with THAI.

The new airline will focus on the speed of its service by offering a high frequency of flight schedules and a ticket issuance online.

Retired THAI pilots no more than 65 years old will be considered for employment as captains, while flight attendants will be outsourced.

Mr Ampon added that the board, meanwhile, approved the extension period of THAI and Singapore's Tiger Airways contract for another three months. If by then Thai Tiger Aiways, earlier planned to be operated by both airlines, cannot yet be set up, Thai Airways International will cancel its joint venture with the Singaporean counterpart. (MCOT online news)

Mar 2011 public debt stands at 41.28% of GDP

BANGKOK, 20 May 2011 (NNT) – The national public debt as of 31 February 2011 stood at 4.24 trillion baht or 41.28% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Public Debt Management Office (PDMO).

PDMO Director Chakkrit Parapuntakul reported that out of the total debt, 2.98 trillion baht was directly acquired by the government while about 31.056 billion baht was worth of loans raised by the state-owned Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF).

Mr Chakkrit elaborated further that 1 trillion baht was in the form of loans raised by non-financial institution state enterprises while the debt figure of financial institution state enterprises with government guarantees accounted for 160.34 billion baht.

Compared with February 2011, the national public debt in March reduced by 11.295 billion baht; however, debts directly owed by the government and those of the FIDF increased by 673.22 and 474.38 million baht respectively.

Meanwhile, debts owed by the non-financial institution state enterprises and financial institution state enterprises with government guarantees declined by 12.133 billion and 308 million baht respectively.

The director noted that there were no pending debts owed by other state agencies.

BoT to urge more payment via debit card

BANGKOK, 20 May 2011 (NNT) – The Bank of Thailand (BoT) will encourage people to make payment via debit cards more after the statistics last year showed that debit cards were mostly used for cash withdrawal or transfer purposes.

The BoT is studying measures to reduce conditions and encourage people to use debit cards more in line with commercial banks’ policy to promote the use of the cards among customers instead of ATM cards, to stimulate electronic payment. The policy was started five years ago but has not been so successful.

As of the end of 2010, there were over 34.130 million debit cards in the system, up by about 23.086 million cards from just 11.043 million cards in 2005. The number of ATM cards fell from about 28.752 million cards in 2005 to over 20.991 million cards last year, or down by 7.760 million cards.

In 2010, the amount of money used through debit cards totalled at 6.294 trillion baht; however, use of debit cards for payment purpose accounted for only 30 billion baht or 0.5% of the total amount while the rest was only for cash transfers and withdrawals.

Average monthly credit card spending was at 3,764 baht while debit card spending was only at 74 baht. Average monthly cash withdrawal via each ATM card and debit card was at 6,767 baht and 9,165 baht respectively. Thai people apparently are using debit cards instead of ATM cards.

In addition, people, especially teenagers, were conducting more financial transactions via the electronic systems over the past year such as via mobile banking and internet banking services.

TISI up to 106.6 points in April

BANGKOK, 20 May 2011 (NNT) – The Thai Industrial Sentiment Index (TISI) has recovered after it had been dwindling for two consecutive months. The TISI increased to 106.6 points in April from 102.3 points in March 2011, according to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

FTI Chairperson Payungsak Chartsutipol stated that the higher TISI figure last month mainly resulted from the total purchasing orders, sales, production volume, operating costs and business profits.

Mr Payungsak elaborated that positive factors driving the TISI up included the continuous expansion of the domestic demand, rising spending of people during Songkran Festival, better flood situation in the South and export growth.

However, the chairperson admitted that entrepreneurs remained concerned over the mounting operating costs following higher prices of raw materials, oil price hike and rising interest rate.

As for the expected industry confidence index in the next three months, Mr Payungsak forecast the index to stay around 116.2 points, expanding from the earlier estimate of 108.0 in March following the anticipated increase in purchasing orders, sales, production volume, operating costs and profits.

DIT hotline flooded with complaints on expensive goods

BANGKOK, 20 May 2011 (NNT) – The Department of Internal Trade (DIT) has reported that over 3,200 complaints had been filed via the DIT hotline 1569 in the first four months of 2011, one-third of which are on expensive product prices.

There were 3,214 complaints filed with the hotline, of which 1,248 cases were about expensive product prices while 1,966 others asked for advices. The figures for the whole year of 2010 were recorded at 4,488 cases, of which 1,703 cases were on expensive goods while 2,785 cases asked for advices.

Most of the complaints were about expensive product prices, failure to display price tags and overpricing. Food and beverages were complained the most, followed by goods in the agricultural sector and personal care products respectively.

Palm oil has been receiving most of the complaints from the beginning of this year due to shortage and overpriced sales. Sugar is also another product in the list. In certain areas, sugar is sold at 26-30 baht per kilogram, up from the regulated price of 23.5 baht per kilogram.

Other complaints were associated with pork price as it went up from 110-120 baht per kilogram to 140-150 baht per kilogram and used to peak to as high as 180 baht per kilogram. Prices of dishes sold in food stalls and food shops have been skyrocketing following rising product prices.

Drought eases off in 5 provinces

BANGKOK, 20 May 2011 (NNT) – The drought situation in five provinces out of a total of 45 provinces has eased off while the declaration for dry spell zones in those provinces has been cancelled, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) under the supervision of the Interior Ministry.

The Emergency operations center of the DDPM reported that originally there were 34,936 villages in 437 districts of 45 provinces facing the drought. In addition, a total of 9.894 million villagers from 3 million households got affected from the disaster.

Nevertheless, the center has recently called off its declaration for drought-stricken areas in three northern and two eastern provinces, including Uttaradit, Lampang, Lamphun, Rayong and Chon Buri.

The center further reported that a total of 866 villages in 237 districts of 39 provinces had been devastated by thunderstorms from 1 April to 10 May 2011. About 18,408 houses were damaged, and one villager was reportedly killed by a thunderbolt in the northeastern province of Kalasin.

DEP sets up website to boost exports

BANGKOK, 19 May 2011 (NNT) – The Department of Export Promotion (DEP) is planning to open a trading website,, within next month with an aim to augment Thai exports through online media.

DEP Director-General Nantawan Sakuntanak stated that the department had come up with an online central market project featuring the website, which was expected to be ready for operations within June. She indicated that up to 500 entrepreneurs, notably those in the gift, fashion and furniture businesses, had agreed to participate in the project, which would be further promoted during the upcoming THAIFEX 2011.

Ms Nantawan pointed out that the website would serve as an effective tool in boosting the potential of Thai exporters and showcasing their products and services to prospective customers in every corner of the world. After the website’s official launch, she expected the project to have more than 3,000 participants with over 60,000 products.

Retailers suing for damages from Red Shirt protest

BANGKOK, May 20 - Retailers at Bangkok's prime shopping and business area of Ratchaprasong upset by new business losses from the latest Red Shirt protest, plan to sue both the government and Red Shirt leaders for damages.

Supporters of Thailand’s anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the Red Shirt movement, rallied at Ratchaprasong Thursday to mark the anniversary of last year’s May 19 protest clampdown.

Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association President Chai Srivikorn told a news conference that the rally forced vendors and business operators in the area to close their shops and stores to end their working hours early.

Many hotels around Ratchaprasong have been hard hit by the protest as visitors who realised that there would be the demonstration, cancelled 1,500 rooms reserved earlier, while 3,000 customers had cancelled seminars or functions which caused hotels loss of more than Bt10 million, he said.

Shops and stores inside the premium shopping complexes and surrounding areas closed before normal closing time, including Gaysorn Plaza, CentralWorld, and Big C, he said, adding that schools and business were forced to shorten their office hours which affected their businesses.

Moreover, the Bangkok Mass Transport Authority (BMTA) which operates bus services in Bangkok reroute buses to avoid the rally site, which inconvenienced the general public, Mr Chai said.

He said that the rally did not run in accordance with the conditions earlier agreed particularly the blockade of the gate of Big C department store and the Arnoma Hotel which caused particular inconvenience to the staff.

Mr Chai said the association is gathering evidence to sue the government as it knew in advance about the demonstration but, the business spokesman said, the authorities had no plan to cope with the large-scale gathering, and he alleged the police failed to properly handle the rally.

He said the police had early pledged not to allow any demonstrators to block traffic but fail to do so.

The association planned to file a lawsuit against the UDD leaders leading the demonstration causing trouble to the general public and business operators

Mr Chai said the association did not object to demonstrations or protests but wanted the event to be held in an orderly manner, to consider the safety and not caused problems for other people.

He urged all groups who planned to rally to avoid business areas as that could involve violating business owners rights and cause damage to other people. (MCOT online news)

Thai export growth in 2011 revised upward to 15%: Commerce Ministry

BANGKOK, May 20 -- The Ministry of Commerce has revised Thailand’s export growth this year to 15 per cent from an earlier projection of 12 per cent, while exports in April gained nearly 25 per cent year-on-year, Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai told a press briefing Friday.

Thai exports in April were valued at over US$17.5 billion, up 24.6 per cent, from a year earlier.

Ms Pornthiva said increasing shipments were registered across all key sectors, driven especially by the demand for agricultural and industrial products which grew by 37 per cent. Meanwhile, the industrial product sector rose by 19.8 per cent, except for the shipment of automobiles and auto parts which fell by 5.4 per cent.

In the first four months of 2011, the country’s exports reached more than $74.4 billion in value, a 27.4 per cent increase, compared to the same period last year.

The minister explained that the shipments to key markets gradually expanded 33.3 per cent for the fourth consecutive month, in particular those to Japan, while those to the promising markets marked only a 1 per cent rise, owing to 36.9 per cent decline to Australian markets.

Imports in April posted a 27.9 per cent expansion, worth over $18.3 billion, year-on-year with rising volumes in all major sectors. The growing figures resulted in a trade deficit around $796.5 million thanks the fuel imports.

However, the country still enjoyed a trade surplus of $1.9 billion in the first four months of this year, with the total import value of $72.5 billion, Ms Pornthiva said, believing that the overall Thai economy in 2011 will not face a trade deficit.

Meanwhile, the ministry keeps monitoring risk factors which may impact the economy and exports, including global oil prices, goods and commodity prices, the baht currency, the key interest rate, labour shortages and the Japanese government’s policy to return the country to normal after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which was forecast to push the economy into recession in the second half of the year.

Ms Pornthiva predicted that Thailand will benefit from the agricultural sector. The country’s volume of rice exports will outstrip the previously projected figure of 9.5 million tonnes as the volume of rice exports was about 1 million tonnes a month during January to April. (MCOT online news)

PTT, Bangchak to cut oil prices by 40 satang/liter

BANGKOK, 19 May 2011 (NNT) –Domestic oil retailers and refineries, PTT Plc and Bangchak Petroleum Plc, will reduce their retail prices of benzene products by 40 satang per liter, except for E85, which will be decreased by 20 satang a liter, starting from Friday at 05.00 hrs onwards.

The announcement for the price adjustment results from lower prices of petroleum products in Singapore’s market while the global crude oil price currently stands beyond 100 US dollars per barrel.

Retail oil prices at PTT and Bangchak stations in Bangkok and its vicinities tomorrow will be as follows:

Benzene 91 will be sold at 42.44 baht per liter.

Gasohol 95 will stand at 37.54 baht and Gasohol 91 at 35.04 baht per liter.

E20 will be at 34.14 baht, while E85 at 22.22 baht per liter.

High-speed diesel will remain at 29.99 baht per liter thanks to the government's diesel price subsidy policy.

Car sales in first 4-months hit new high

BANGKOK, 19 May 2011 (NNT) – Sales of cars in April 2011 have been concluded at 67,283 units, an increase of 17.8% year-on-year while a total of 305,902 cars are sold in the first four months of this year, rising by 36.6%, a new record high.

Toyota Motor Thailand Senior Vice President Vudhigorn Suriyachantananont reported that the sales volume for passenger cars last month stood at 30,953 units, expanding by 17.8% while the commercial vehicle sales, including one-ton pick-up, were at 36,330 units, an increase of 17.7%.

The senior vice president added that the sales of one-ton pick-up trucks alone were reported at 31,272 units, a rise of 20.8% from the same month in 2010.

Mr Vudhigorn pointed out that the vehicle sales volume in April could indicate the continuous expansion of the auto business despite serious effects on production capacity from the twin deadly disasters in Japan in March.

The senior vice president continued that the rising sales of passenger cars resulted from higher popularity on smaller, modern and energy-saving cars while the expanding figure of commercial vehicles was due to higher demand prompted by better economic condition.

As for vehicle sales during the first four months this year, Mr Vudhigorn reported that the passenger car sales grew by 48.2% while commercial vehicles expanded by 28.4%, and this could reflect stronger domestic economy driven by the expansion in investment, production and exports.

Car production in Thailand declined, with better forecast at yearend

BANGKOK, 19 May 2011 (NNT)-The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has lowered the production capacity of the auto –industry in Thailand from 1.8 million units to 1.6 million units due to the massive earthquake in Japan.

Vice President of the Federation of Thai Industries Suparat Sirisuwannangkura said the number of cars sold in the country had declined by 27.6% from March to April.

However, it was a sales growth from last year which had been recorded at 17.8%. According to Mr. Suparat, sales continue to increase due to improving economy with demands rising for new cars and the energy efficient ones.

Sales of motorcycle have increased by 11.6% from April last year but reportedly declined from March this year at 21.8%. The overall sales in the first four months of this year have risen 36.6% from the same period last year.

Since the devastating tsunami in Japan, the production of cars in Thailand has decreased by 48.15% to 15.16% in March and April respectively compared to last year.

Mr. Suparat added that the production would further decline by another 10%, but things were expected to be brighter by this yearend if the production headquarters in Japan were able to resume their operations next month.

MOPH warns farmers of leptospirosis

BANGKOK, 17 May 2011 (NNT) – The Ministry of Public Health has urged agriculturalists to beware of leptospirosis after the number of patients this year has reached 548 with 12 fatalities.

As the rainy season has arrived and the cultivation of crops has begun, Public Health Ministry Spokesperson Suphan Srithamma indicated that agriculturalists were at high risk of contracting leptospirosis when working in their farmland. He explained that leptospirosis was a waterborne disease while infective bacteria could live in the water for at least three weeks and could easily enter the body through skin and open wounds.

Therefore, the Spokesperson stated that he had instructed provincial public health offices, tambon health promotion hospitals and village health volunteers across the country to help educate the public, especially farm workers, about the disease and preventive methods at haste. Medical personnel have also been told to pay special attention to patients who have walked through flood waters and puddles of mud, where leptospirosis is most prevalent.

Since the beginning of this year, a total of 548 people nationwide have been infected with the disease, most of them are in the age range of 25-54. Twelve patients have passed away.

FTI: New govt should increase minimum wage

BANGKOK, 18 May 2011 (NNT) – The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has suggested that the new government should adjust the minimum wage up in line with the current situation and take the impact of the increase on entrepreneurs in consideration.

FTI Vice Chairperson Dr Tanit Sorat stated that the new government should consider increasing the minimum wages reasonably because doing so without considering its impact on the national industrial system will certainly have adverse effect on the industry’s operating cost and exports of products.

Dr Tanit expressed his opinion that minimum wage hike should be in accordance with the living costs, and that it could be increased every few years in the form of annual income, which should not be lower than the national inflation rate.

The vice chairperson added that the government should also expedite the regulations to increase wages based on skills and qualifications; therefore, skilled workers’ salaries should be commensurate with their experience and ability.

Dr Tanit explained that failure to do so could lead to skilled workers migrating to and earning more in neighbouring countries after the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Mobile phone network operators’ income up

BANGKOK, 18 May 2011 (NNT) – Mobile phone network operators in Thailand are enjoying skyrocketing profits as the overall income last year was mainly boosted by the expansion of smartphone market, according to the National Telecommunications Commission.

The combined earnings of all mobile phone network operators for 2010 were concluded at 220 billion baht, up 7% year-on-year. AIS reportedly earned 111.280 billion baht with 31.2 million mobile phone numbers. Average monthly income per phone number was 240 baht.

Revenues for DTAC were reported at 72.351 billion baht, with 21.6 million mobile phone numbers, each spending an average of 215 baht a month. Revenues for Truemove were 30.960 billion baht with 17.2 million phone numbers. Average monthly income per one number was 105 baht.

As for 2010’s dividend payments to shareholders, AIS has announced that it will pay 12.92 dividend per share, which include 6.92 baht for 2010 in annual dividend payments plus special payments of 6 baht per share. The company expects to pay 9.5 baht dividend per share this year.

Meanwhile, DTAC paid 3.21 baht per share in annual dividend and special dividend of 0.56 baht per share. The company expects to pay no less than 4 baht dividend per share this year.

The rising revenue has been attributed to the economic revival in the fourth quarter last year and the popularity of the mobile online society plus the smartphone trend. Service fees and online applications were also key revenue generators.

Thai exports to EU increasing

BANGKOK, 18 May 2011 (NNT) – The Department of Export Promotion (DEP) has foreseen a positive outlook for the export to the European Union (EU) region, given it grew as much as 26% in the first quarter this year.

According to DEP Director-General Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, the EU economy is improving conducive to its increase in exports although the financial situation remains worrying to a certain extent because investment risks in some member nations are still high.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the region, however, could grow by 1.5% thanks to the gradually increasing internal and external demands owing to the block’s economic recovery, especially by the UK whose GDP might expand by 2% this year.

Thailand has set a target of at least 10% in export growth to the 15 EU nations, worth altogether 20.177 billion US dollars, this year. Exports to the region in the first quarter of this year, from January to March, rose by 24%; with a combined value of 5.612 million US dollars.

The top three exported goods are computer and parts worth 668 million US dollars, down by11%; followed by jewellery and accessories with 433 million US dollars, up 26%. Para rubber was third with 431 million US dollars, expanding by 132%.

PTT, Bangchak, Caltex cut oil prices by 30 satang/liter

BANGKOK, 18 May 2011  – Good news for motorists. PTT, Bangchak and Caltex have decreased their retail prices of benzene products by 30 satang per liter, except for E85 and diesel products whose prices remain pinned, beginning from today at 05.00 hrs onwards.

The price adjustment is resulted from the continuously falling prices of crude oil in the global market; therefore, the new retail oil prices at all PTT, Bangchak and Caltex stations in Bangkok and its vicinities are now as follows:

Benzene 91 now costs 42.84 baht per liter.

Gasohol 95 stands at 37.94 baht and Gasohol 91 at 35.44 baht per liter.

E20 is at 34.54 baht, while E85 at 22.42 baht per liter.

High-speed diesel remains at 29.99 baht per liter thanks to the government's diesel price subsidy policy.

Global oil prices have been going down since last week due to concerns that the rising oil prices will dampen energy demand. The International Energy Agency has recently revised its estimate of the global oil demand down to 190,000 barrel a day owing to expensive oil prices and fragile economic recovery of richer nations.

Thai exports to European Union grow 24% in first quarter

BANGKOK, May 17 - Thailand's exports to the European Union (EU) grew 24 per cent in the first quarter of this year, amounting to US$5.6 billion, according to the Department of Export Promotion (DEP).

DEP Director-General Nantawan Sakultanak said the growth was due to the improved EU economic situation, with greater exports despite concerns about financial markets and investment in some member countries.

The main Thai goods exported to Europe from January through March were computers and spare parts at US$668 million, an 11-per cent decrease in value, followed by gems and jewellery at US$433 million, a 26-per cent growth, and rubber at US$431 million, a 132-per cent rise in value, respectively.

Ms Nantawan said Thailand aims to increase its exports to EU markets in 15 member countries by at least 10 per cent, or about US$20 billion in value.

The Department of Export Promotion has been monitoring tariff and non-tariff measures applied by the European Union due to EU alerts on the safety of consumer goods.

The European Union from July 1 will strictly control imported kitchenware made of polyamide and melamine with China and Hong Kong as the country of origin, as excessive levels of carcinogens, spreading from food containers, were found in the respiratory system of European consumers. (MCOT online news)

Thai Trade rep to systematise Thai boxing in US

BANGKOK, May 17 - The Thailand Trade Representative (TTR) in conjunction with the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Los Angeles and Thai boxing gyms and clubs in California will systematise over 1,000 Thai boxing gyms and clubs in the United States in order to create a stronger business profile for this business.

Thai Trade Rrepresentative Vachara Phanchet said there are currently more than 400 boxing gyms and clubs in California alone offering Thai boxing instruction. Although the activity is so popular it is put in the American Physical Education's curriculum, the business lacks a proper system to effectively manage all the gyms and clubs nationwide.

He believed that if Thai boxing gyms and clubs in the US cooperate, it will add great value to the business, which can be changed to complete fitness centre businesses for Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, while sportwear, souvenirs or other related merchandise can be offered for sale.

Muay Thai fees in California amount to some Bt360 million in value annually, according to initial estimates.

Mr Vachara said Thai boxing is certified by the World Boxing Council (WBC) and is globally known as second to none in comparison with Taekwondo and Karate.

TTR will collaborate with related agencies, particularly Thailand's Tourism and Sports Ministry, to promote the Muay Thai business.

It is also planning to push for a part of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, about 2km in the northern section, to become "Thai Town" by asking Thai entrepreneurs, especially real estate investors, to invest and manage buildings in the area, in which many Thai shops of various sorts and restaurants are currently situated.

Mr Vachara also said TTR will discuss with agencies on support by the local Thai community in California in order to found a community bank to facilitate Thai entrepreneurs having businesses there despite the fact that Kasikorn and Siam Commercial Bank already operated in California. (MCOT online news)