วันพุธที่ 3 มิถุนายน พ.ศ. 2558

Strategies for Boosting Thai Halal Products and Services

4 June 2015

The Cabinet, during its meeting on 2 June 2015, approved strategies for developing and enhancing the potential of Thailand’s halal business for the period between 2016 and 2020.
It also gave the green light to an action plan, to be implemented under these strategies, proposed by the Ministry of Industry. The Bureau of the Budget was told to provide budget allocations for relevant agencies that would implement the action plan.
The vision for these strategies is that Thai halal products and services will be developed to higher standards in the world market and certified by halal science on the basis of Islamic principles.
The objectives are to develop Thailand as a major halal production and export base in the ASEAN region and the world and to make Thai halal products better known and gain greater recognition.
In order to achieve this aim, four strategies have been worked out to expand the halal service sector. The first strategy seeks to develop halal standards and certification. In the second strategy, production of Thai halal goods and services will be enhanced. The third strategy seeks to develop the Thai halal business linking with the international market. In the fourth strategy, halal science research and development will receive a boost in order to strengthen the country’s halal industry.
Many agencies are involved in the five-year action plan for developing and enhancing the potential of Thailand’s halal business. They include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Industry, and the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center, as well as religious and private organizations.
Thailand has great potential for producing and exporting more halal food to the world market, especially ASEAN countries. As the ASEAN Community will be in place in late 2015, the regional market for halal products and services is likely to expand significantly. This huge market is waiting to be tapped by the Muslim Thai community, since around 46 percent of 650 million people in the 10 ASEAN countries are Muslim.
Thailand now ranks fifth among the world’s largest halal producers. The Government has provided support for the halal industry in an effort to upgrade the standards of Thai halal products.

The Halal Science Center at Chulalongkorn University is Thailand’s first halal science agency, and it plays an important role in developing the standards of Thai halal food and providing analytical services and research for the detection of contamination detrimental to halal food manufacturing.

Laying Foundations for Sustainable Economic Growth

2 June 2015

The Government is confident that it is now on the right track in laying the foundations for Thailand’s sustainable economic growth.
Deputy Government Spokesman Major General Sansern Kaewkamnerd quoted the recent report by Moody's Investors Service that Thailand's stable BAA1credit rating is supported by a very strong government financial position.
He said that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had been informed of the report and thanked all sectors of Thai society for their efforts to help stabilize the Thai economy, so that it has been well-recognized internationally. The Government intends to introduce political and economic reforms for sustainability, instead of establishing populist policies that would lead to negative impacts in the long run.
According to Moody’s credit analysis, Thailand's well-diversified economy and high foreign reserves are additional credit strengths. Manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and agriculture accounted for around 52 percent of nominal GDP in 2014, and 66 percent of employment. The services sector was the single largest source of GDP growth in 2014, whereas the contribution from agriculture was negligible.
Increased public investment spending will be the key to Thailand's growth recovery in 2015 and 2016, whereas sluggish external demand recovery and constraints on private consumption spending due to high household debt may act as a drag on growth. In Moody's view, infrastructure improvements are likely to help improve Thailand's regional competitiveness.
The rating agency also says that the military coup on 22 May 2014 restored public order and stemmed economic uncertainty. The stable rating outlook means that credit strengths and weaknesses are balanced.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Thailand issued a report on the economic and monetary conditions for April 2015. The report says that the tourism sector and public spending continued to play an important role in supporting the economy. Thailand’s tourism industry continued to expand well, thanks to Chinese and Malaysian tourists.
Public spending, particularly on capital expenditure for transportation and irrigation, continued to be disbursed well, despite a slight decline after acceleration in March 2015. Meanwhile, government revenues increased significantly from the same period in 2015.
On the stability front, the unemployment rate declined slightly, thanks to improving employment in the production sector after a continuing drop since the beginning of the year. Inflation decreased on the back of domestic retail oil prices, following the lower government oil fund levy and lower prices for meat and eggs.

The current account registered a surplus, mainly because of import contraction. The capital account also registered a surplus from inflows of foreign direct investment. Overall, the balance of payments continued to record a surplus, and the ratio of international reserves to short-term external debt remained high.

Bangkok Declaration of the Twelfth Anniversary Celebrations of the United Nations Day of Vesak

1 June 2015

All governmental and non-governmental bodies have been urged to invest more in education to promote mindful education, religious diversity, ethical values, and spiritual development, both among the young and for society at large, as, for instance, in the Village of the Five Precepts Project in Thailand.
The call was contained in the Bangkok Declaration of the Twelfth Anniversary Celebrations of the United Nations Day of Vesak, issued on 30 May 2015 in Thailand.
The declaration came after the conclusion of the celebrations, organized by Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU) and supported by the Thai government from 28 to 30 May 2015. Buddhist leaders and Buddhist monks from 85 countries joined the celebrations and meetings under the theme of "Buddhism and World Crisis."
As a way to help solve all forms of crises occurring in the world, participants in the Twelfth Anniversary Celebrations of the United Nations Day of Vesak urged all parties concerned to promote the optimistic view that, through compassion and wisdom, crises can be turned into opportunities for well-being. They also urged all individuals, especially those in positions of responsibility, to promote the empowerment of women worldwide.
The Bangkok Declaration called for relief efforts for natural disasters and famines, such as the recent earthquake in Nepal, already undertaken by the Buddhist communities worldwide. All governments and communities within the ASEAN Community, together with their neighbors, were also urged to find a solution for the dire situation of the Mekong River and its fragile ecosystem.
Buddhist leaders were encouraged to strengthen their ongoing inter-religious and inter-ethnic and cultural dialogue in order to promote mutual understanding, reconciliation, respect, peace-building, and harmony, to create a more integrated society within the ASEAN Community and beyond.
In addressing social problems, such as narcotic drugs, ethnic violence and domestic abuse, the Bangkok Declaration called for the use of resources available in the Buddhist traditions, such as the practice of mindfulness, compassion, wisdom, self-responsibility, and respect for life and for all people, regardless of social status and gender, as, for example, with the use of mindfulness meditation to rehabilitate prisoners.
On the occasion of the 60th birthday anniversary of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in 2015, the Common Buddhist Text will be published. The Bangkok Declaration also stated that, in commemoration of this special occasion, Phase I of the Union Catalog of Buddhist Texts (UCBT) will be launched. There will be a new UCBT online catalog that will link the online catalogs for all the Buddhist canons. Phase 1 will consist of creating and launching a technically advanced catalog website for the MCU edition of the Pali canon and the MCU Thai translation of the Pali canon.
"Vesak," commonly referred to among Thais as "Visakha Puja,” is the most sacred day to millions of Buddhists around the world. It is recognized internationally by the United Nations to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism has made and continues to make to the spirituality of humanity.

Thailand is holding a Buddhism week from 29 May to 9 June 2015 nationwide to mark Visakha Puja, or the "World Day of Vesak.”

Amazing Thailand Grand Sale 2015

30 May 2015

The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale 2015 will be held during the green season from June to August, as part of Thailand’s "Discover Thaines” campaign.
The event aims to stimulate the domestic tourism market and promote local products. As in previous years, the Grand Sale is intended to boost tourism and visitor expenditure. It will help promote the image of Thailand as a major shopping destination and contribute to employment generation and income distribution nationwide.
In order to encourage spending among local and international tourists, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has encouraged many shops, malls, and tour companies, as well as accommodation and spa establishments to join the Grand Sale by offering up to an 80 percent discount on their products and services.
In launching the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale 2015, TAT and NCC Exhibition Organizer will join hands in organizing the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale Fair at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok from 11 to14 June 2015.
The fair, which will be in its 14th year, is one of Thailand’s major discount events for tourism products and services. This year, a total of 340 exhibitors, including vendors and operators of tourism-related products and services, have registered to participate in the fair.
The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale Fair will feature fashion products from young designers who have made their names on the Internet. They will use this event as a stage to show their potential and further expand their businesses.
According to TAT, the four-day fair is expected to attract up to 80,000 visitors, representing a 10 percent increase over the previous year. It is likely to generate about 120 million baht spending on the tourism products and services available at the event.
The Government declared 2015 the Year of "Discover Thainess” for tourism campaign. This campaign emphasizes the country's unique cultural treasures and the Thai way of life. It is an attempt to attract first-time and repeat visitors to explore Thailand’s new destinations.
Thailand is a world-class shopping destination. From numerous street stalls to one of the world’s biggest bazaars, the Weekend Market, and the mega-malls of Bangkok, there is a shopping spree for every income bracket.

Thai silk, woodcarvings, and other handicrafts have become internationally renowned. Many items, such as sterling silver, are as famous for their quality as their affordability. As a result of the promotion of the "One Tambon, One Product, or OTOP,” program, many craftspeople from rural parts of the country have been able to set up cottage industries to revive dying arts and crafts, which are then sold to tourists.

The Thai Government’s Vision in the Years 2015-2020

30 May 2015

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has stated that his government’s vision is to see Thailand in the years 2015-2020 enjoying "Stability, Prosperity, and Sustainability.”
The statement was part of his remarks at the opening ceremony of the 71st Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), on 28 May 2015, at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok.
In his remarks, the Prime Minister explained the vision. "Stability includes political stability as well as safety of people’s lives and properties. The rule of law and access to justice are the foundation of development. At the same time, stability is the cornerstone of prosperity as it provides an atmosphere conducive to economic growth, trade and investment. Trade and investment must have prudent measures, risk protection, as well as resistance to shocks such as fluctuations in the global economy or natural disasters. Most importantly, to ensure sustainability, economic growth must be environment-friendly so not to impact on the development capital of future generations.
 "Sustainable development must embrace people’s needs and build on a genuine understanding of their concerns on the grounds, from their communities. In this regard, Thailand has been guided by His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in formulating our development policies.
"Sufficiency Economy Philosophy teaches us to build strength from within, at the individual, community and society levels. It teaches us to act with knowledge, understanding and moderation. In business terms, this translates to resource efficiency, evidence-based policy-making, as well as having insurance, immunity and resilience.”
Prime Minister Prayut said that Thailand will strive for a balance between the three pillars of development, namely, economic, social and environment.
"Economic pillar: A strong economy is one that expands inclusively, strives to alleviate poverty and inequality, narrows development gaps, and provides opportunities for equal access to resources. Thus, Thailand emphasizes strengthening the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the agricultural sector. To enhance national competitiveness, we have given high priority to science and technology as well as innovation to create high-value added products.
"Social pillar: Societies must be equal and equitable, adhere to good governance, and geared towards raising the living standards of people in terms of health, education and welfare. Thailand has promoted universal health coverage and has focused on human life-cycle development to promote quality growth of children from birth on, so that one can have a decent employment and retirement with dignity.
 "Environmental pillar: The impacts of climate change and natural disasters are common challenges for humankind. Economic growth must not be achieved at the expense of the environment. We should promote renewable energy and environment-friendly industrial development. Moreover, countries must accord priority to disaster risk reduction and strengthening resilience to disasters which are increasing in severity. Other areas in which Thailand attaches great importance to are integrated water resources management, restoration of upstream forests, and incorporating resiliency to urban planning and development to lower losses of lives and properties.”
Prime Minister Prayut emphasized that a balanced and sustainable development can only be achieved with people, quality people. The development of human capital should encompass their physical, mental and intellectual growth. A country’s competitive edge cannot be heightened in the absence of human resources. Access to quality education is a common challenge for many countries. Social development begins in families and schools. Life-long learning must be promoted.

"Moreover, the digital age we are living in now allows us to learn and communicate in every single minute. Therefore, we should use social media to create value and knowledge rather than provoke division and hatred,” he said.

OTOP Midyear 2015 Fair and Efforts to Expand OTOP Markets

28 May 2015

The Government is striving to expand markets for Thai community products, under the "One Tambon One Product,” or "OTOP,” program.
Deputy Interior Minister Suthee Markboon stated that the Ministry of Interior, through the Community Development Department, has continued to develop the quality and potential of OTOP products, which would have a larger market in the ASEAN region.
Mr. Suthee presided over the opening of the OTOP Midyear 2015 Fair, being held at the Exhibition Halls 3-8, IMPACT Trade and Exhibition Center, Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi province, from 25 to 31 May 2015.
In the opening ceremony, he explained that the Government has a policy to promote the OTOP program in order to strengthen the local economy, thus contributing to the overall Thai economy. In 2015, the Ministry of Interior has set a target for earnings from OTOP products to reach 100 billion baht.
The OTOP program aims to build up small enterprises in communities by encouraging the people to manufacture local products using their homegrown skills and expertise. It is a way of stimulating human creativity and innovation at the grassroots level, as well as generating more income for local people. The Government offers assistance and advice in terms of modern technology, marketing, and management techniques. The assistance will make their products attractive to both domestic and international markets. It will also enable villagers to produce their goods to meet higher standards.
The OTOP Midyear 2015 Fair comprises more than 1,500 booths, with OTOP products from the four regions of the country. There is a food bazaar comprising 120 booths. Apart from an exhibition and demonstrations of OTOP making, the fair also features halal OTOP products from the southern border provinces. The fair also includes several cultural performances.
Apart from marketing channels, OTOP operators also want the Government to provide them with greater access to funding sources. At the OTOP Midyear 2015 Fair, a special zone is arranged to provide financial counseling services for OTOP operators by leading financial institutions, such as the Government Savings Bank and SME Bank.
The ASEAN Community, which will become a market of 600 million people, will be in place in late 2015. OTOP operators will have greater opportunities to expand their products into other ASEAN markets.

The OTOP initiative has provided employment and generated income in respective localities, while helping communities reduce out-migration in search of jobs elsewhere. At the same time, it will ensure that wealth circulates within the communities, thereby increasing the purchasing power in rural areas.

Celebrations of Visakha Puja Festival 2015 in Thailand

27 May 2015

The Religious Affairs Department is scheduled to hold a Buddhism week from 29 May to 9 June 2015 nationwide to mark the Visakha Puja Festival, or the "World Day of Vesak.”
On this occasion, Thailand is hosting the 12th United Nations Day of Vesak Celebration 2015 between 28 and 30 May. More than 5,000 Buddhists and Buddhist monks from 90 countries are expected to attend this event.
Visakha Puja, or the Day of Vesak, commemorates the birth of the Buddha, his attainment of enlightenment, and his passing away. An extraordinary aspect of the occasion is that the three incidents took place on the same day but different years. In 2015, this significant day coincides with 1 June. Visakha Puja is recognized as an international event by the United Nations
In Bangkok, events for the Buddhism week will be held at the Sanam Luang ceremonial site. Among various activities are exhibitions, Dhamma lectures, sermons, prayers, alms-offering, and a candle-lit procession. The Religious Affairs Department is also joining hands with the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority in organizing religious tours of nine temples for interested people. The Bangkok National Museum will allow people to pay homage to significant Buddha images inside the museum during the period. In the provinces, the provincial culture offices and local temples will jointly hold religious activities to celebrate this festival.
Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat said that copies of pamphlets in Thai, English, and Chinese have been distributed for both Thais and international tourists, to help them know more about the Visakha Puja Festival. A campaign has also been launched to encourage the people to display the Thai national flag, together with the Dhamma Wheel flag, in front of their households, and to make merit, as well as refraining from all vices, as a tribute to the Buddha.
As for the 12th United Nations Day of Vesak Celebration 2015, it will take place at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, a public Buddhist university in Wang Noi district of Ayutthaya province, and at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok. The participating Buddhist leaders and monks will also join a candle-lit procession at Buddhamonthon, a Buddhist religious center in Nakhon Pathom province.
The 12th United Nations Day of Vesak Celebration features an international conference on the theme "Buddhism and World Crisis.” The conference comprises discussions on four major topics: Buddhist Response to Social Conflict, Buddhist Response to Environmental Degradation, Buddhism and ASEAN Community, and Buddhist Response to Educational Crisis. There will be a keynote address on Buddhism and World Crisis by Dr. Damien Keown, Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Ethics at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Dr. Keown stated that, while the world had faced many crises in the past, the threat seems greater today because of modern developments, such as globalization, advanced technology, mass migration, and the accelerated speed of transport and communications. There is a greater need than ever for Buddhist teachings to be heard, and not just heard but implemented with commitment and decisiveness.

Government Emphasizes Innovation for Development

25 May 2015

The Government is attaching great importance to fostering innovation and has introduced measures to promote research and development in order to attain the goal of stability, prosperity, and sustainability.
In his televised national address on 22 May 2015 in the program "Return Happiness to the People,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that the listing of Thai innovations and the opening up of markets for innovative Thai products and services are among measures to promote innovation for development.
Government agencies are also allowed to buy products and services on the innovation list with at least 10 percent of their budget allocations each year, but not exceeding 30 percent. However, the products and services must be certified by relevant agencies to ensure their accepted standards. They also must be creative and applicable on a commercial basis.
The Industrial Technology Assistance Program has been carried out and extended in an effort to strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The project is intended to help SMEs solve their technical problems and meet the challenges in introducing technology-based products and processes.
The Prime Minister explained that a target had been set to develop 13,000 entrepreneurs. The public sector will provide five billion baht in financial assistance, which accounts for one-third of the total investment budget. The remaining amount will come from investments by the private sector. It is expected that the program will reduce production costs for SMEs and contribute to the country’s overall economy. The program is likely to generate employment, valued at 90 billion baht, within six years, as well.
The Prime Minister said that a fund has been set up in the form of a "fund of funds” to mobilize money for investment through a joint-venture fund, established by universities and research institutes. The funding source will support the country’s innovation on a commercial basis.
Meanwhile, Minister of Science and Technology Pichet Durongkaveroj said that the Committee on the Development of the National Innovation System, during its recent meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, stressed the importance of using science and innovation in enhancing Thailand’s competitiveness and upgrading people’s quality of life.
The meeting agreed to spread innovation to the regional areas of the country. The Ministry of Science and Technology has been assigned to hold a Thai innovation festival in 2015 in the North, the South, and the Northeast.

The Government Public Relations Department has been instructed to disseminate more news and information on innovation, so that Thailand’s innovative products and services would become better known. The meeting also agreed to use markets in the public sector to launch certain innovative products and services, which would make them more widely accepted.

Trends and Challenges in Thailand and the Region

24 May 2015

Banks have been urged to plan ahead and invest more for the future to meet trends and challenges in both Thailand and the region.
In his speech at the Association of International Banks Dinner Talk on 21 May 2015 in Bangkok, Governor of the Bank of Thailand Dr. Prasarn Trairatvorakul highlighted the trends and challenges from technological developments, the ageing society, urbanization, and regionalization.
Firstly, Dr. Prasarn stated that, with technological developments, traditional barriers to entry were brought down, allowing non-banks, such as financial technology ("fintech”) companies and cross-border players, into the market, which helped reduce operating costs. At the same time, consumers expect better and more timely services. Banking has become something that customers want to do "anytime and anywhere,” and they want to do it cheaply as well. While technology may help people reach their destination faster, it also dictates that they be more adaptive and responsive to changes. Banks that get stuck in the past will lose out quickly.
A second challenge that put banks’ adaptability to the test is the shifting demographic structure of Thailand’s population. It is expected that by 2025, the number of older persons in Thailand will account for 20 percent of the population and exceed the number of children under 15 years old.
In an ageing society, Dr. Prasarn said, banks that are able to cater to the needs of an older population and tailor their products to accommodate changing demands would be successful.
The next trend, urbanization, happening in many East Asian countries, brings both challenges and opportunities. According to the World Bank Research that had come out early this year, almost twelve million people in Thailand now live in urban areas; about ten million live in Bangkok alone. The number seems low for the area outside Bangkok because of the strict definition of urban areas employed by the World Bank.
The same research also says that cities outside Bangkok are growing at a much faster rate, and some cities, such as Surat Thani, have more than doubled their population in ten years. Urbanization results in increased purchasing power and fuels domestic demand. More infrastructure investments, such as housing, electricity, and transportation, will be required. This is where the financial sector can contribute and benefit from the development.
The trend toward regionalization poses a fourth challenge as well as an opportunity for the banking sector. With the commencement of the ASEAN Economic Community in late 2015, competition will intensify, benefiting those prepared to pursue opportunities across borders. ASEAN as a group has already agreed on its Financial Integration Post-2015 Vision for 2025, and now is in the process of operationalizing it with the milestones and targets to be set in all areas, including banking, capital markets, and insurance.

The Governor of the Bank of Thailand stressed that banks could no longer afford to focus on maximizing short-term returns at the expense of future growth and competitiveness. They should not get struck with maximizing short-term returns or past successes, but must invest more for the future.

National Budget for the 2016 Fiscal Year

23 May 2015

The national budget for the 2016 fiscal year has been set at 2.720 trillion baht, representing an increase of 145 billion baht, or 5.6 percent, over that of 2015.
In his statement on the 2016 national budget at the first reading by the National Legislative Assembly on 21 May 2015, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha explained that out of the national budget, more than 2.706 trillion baht would be set aside for the regular expenditures of various government agencies and state enterprises, while 13.5 billion baht would be allocated as payments for the national reserves.
Like the 2015 national budget, the 2016 national budget has been set on the basis of the Sufficiency Economy approach and the royal advice to "understand, reach out, and develop.” The objective is to attain the goal of stability, prosperity, and sustainability, in accordance with Thailand’s vision 2015-2020.
The budget is also based on the principles set in the 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan, 2012-2016. It will be a deficit budget because there are still many risks in the country’s economic situation. The investment budget accounts for 20 percent of the total budget.
The Government expects that it will be able to earn 2.439 trillion baht in revenue in the 2016 fiscal year. It will also continue to maintain strict fiscal discipline. Public debt now accounts for only 46 percent of GDP.
General Prayut said that the Thai economy in 2016 is predicted to expand by 3.7 to 4.7 percent, as the global economy is likely to improve and Thai exports are expected to increase. Inflation is expected to stand at a low level of between 1.1 and 2.1 percent. A major risk is that oil prices might increase more quickly than expected, and the stronger baht might affect the export sector.
Thailand’s international reserves at the end of March 2015 were 516.3 billion US dollars. This level is considered stable. As of 14 May 2015, the national reserves stood at 180.7 billion baht. Thailand continues to record a current account surplus.
In order to prepare Thailand for the ASEAN Community in late 2015, a budget of about six billion baht has been set aside for 18 ministries and 153 agencies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security will serve as major responsible agencies.
About 6.4 billion baht has been allocated for developing special economic zones, 70 billion baht for water resource management, and 30.5 billion baht for the resolving of problems in the southern border provinces.

The National Legislative Assembly passed the national budget bill in its first reading and formed a 50-member ad hoc committee to scrutinize the bill. The second and third readings are scheduled for 17 August 2015.

Thai Rice Policies and Strategies

22 May 2015

The National Rice Policy and Management Committee has set a goal of developing Thailand as a leading country for rice trade in the world market through efficient marketing mechanisms.
Thailand also aims to seek cooperation with ASEAN in order to create a balance in both production and trade, so that the country will become a stable rice-producing country. As a result, farmers will have better living conditions and farmers’ organizations will be strengthened. This will also lead to a fair trade system, without market distortions.
In his keynote address on 20 May 2015 at Thailand Rice Convention 2015, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said that the Government has worked out clear policies and strategies to develop Thai rice. Despite market fluctuations and impacts on rice production, caused by various forms of natural disasters, as well as greater competition, Thailand is still striving to produce and export rice of good quality to consumers worldwide.
In 2014, Thailand reclaimed the world's top rice exporter status. It exported 10.97 million tons of rice, valued at 5,439 million US dollars. In 2015, Thailand has set a target to export rice in both volume and value, close to that of 2014. Major importers of Thai rice include China, the United States, the European Union, South Africa, and countries of Oceania.
The Prime Minister said that demand for rice is increasing in accordance with the growing world population. It is predicted to increase by 11 percent, from 435 million tons in 2009-2010 to 483 million tons in 2014-2015. The Government is aware of the need to restructure rice production and management in line with the changing situation.
In the short term, the Government will reduce the areas for off-season rice farming, assist farmers in rice production planning, and promote research and development in order to increase the potential for the production of high-quality rice.
In the long term, it focuses on developing rice varieties, with high yields but low production costs. A target has been set to increase Thai rice production by 25 percent and reduce production costs by 20 percent in 2021. At the same time, the Government will promote top-quality rice for niche markets, such as organic rice, sprouted brown rice, riceberry rice, and Sang Yot rice. The objective is to add value and diversity to Thai rice. New technology will be adopted to reduce production costs and increase efficiency, as well as upgrading the value chain and the processing of rice into various products.
In order to maintain the quality of Thai rice, premium rice and indigenous rice that has been registered as geographical indications, such as Thung Kula Ronghai rice, will receive a major boost. Thai rice culture will also be added to various international trade fairs in order to make Thai rice better known worldwide.

Moreover, the Government is implementing a policy to develop special economic zones to add value to rice and other agricultural products from Thailand and neighboring countries.

National Referendum on the Draft Constitution of Thailand

21 May 2015

The Election Commission of Thailand has been entrusted with arranging a national referendum on the draft constitution of Thailand.
The decision was made by a joint meeting of the Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), chaired by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha on 19 May 2015.
The meeting agreed that the 2014 Interim Constitution be amended to allow the organizing of the national referendum in the next step. After the passage of the draft constitution, the national referendum would take place immediately. The Prime Minister said that the amendment to the Interim Constitution had been proposed by the National Reform Council. The national referendum would also delay the timeframe of the roadmap set earlier for a general election.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that the amendment to the Interim Constitution is likely to be carried out in June. The Cabinet and NCPO would propose that the National Reform Council vote to amend the Interim Constitution within 15 days. The Election Commission of Thailand will have to print the draft constitution for 47 million eligible voters to consider.
Mr. Wissanu said that the national referendum is expected to take place in January 2016. After the referendum, about four months will be needed for the process of drafting organic laws. Then a general election will be held within 90 days after the announcement of the organic laws.
The upcoming national referendum on the constitution will be the second of its kind in Thai history. The first referendum took place on 19 August 2007 for the 18th constitution of Thailand. It went smoothly in all parts of the country. Official results, announced on the following day by the Election Commission of Thailand, showed that out of 45 million eligible voters, 25.9 million cast their ballots on the referendum day. A total of 57.8 percent of voters chose to support the new charter, while 42.2 percent voted against it.
At the joint meeting of the Cabinet and NCPO on 19 May 2015, both sides also discussed efforts to continue to move the country toward stability, prosperity, and sustainability. Their joint efforts aim to maintain internal security and prevent conflicts. They also seek to mobilize the national administration for the maximum benefit of the people, plan for reform in the future, and amend laws to facilitate national administration.
Mr. Wissanu explained to the meeting that Section 44 of the Interim Constitution was recently used to solve problems concerning Thailand’s civil aviation industry, in order to comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, as well as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. It aims to complete certain tasks that would normally take considerable time to implement.

He reaffirmed that Section 44 had not been used in terms of judicial power, which is exercised through the courts.

Gross Domestic Product in the First Quarter of 2015

20 May 2015

The Cabinet, during its meeting on 19 May 2015, acknowledged a report on Thailand’s economic situation in the first quarter of 2015. According to the report, the Thai economy in the first quarter of 2015 grew by 3 percent, accelerating from 2.1 percent in the previous quarter.
The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) stated that the growth rate was spurred by non-agricultural expansion, which rose by 4.1 percent.
The expenditure side was assisted by the expansion of private consumption expenditure, government investment, and export of services. On the production side, improvements were seen in almost all sectors, especially the construction, hotel and restaurant, transportation, and industrial sectors, which continued to grow. After seasonal adjustment, the Thai economy in the first quarter of 2015 expanded by 0.3 percent over the fourth quarter of 2014.
Private consumption increased by 2.4 percent, improving from the growth of 2 percent in the previous quarter. General government consumption increased by 2.5 percent, compared to a 3.6 percent growth in the previous quarter.
Total investment grew by 10.7 percent, accelerating from a 3.2 percent growth in the previous quarter. Public investment expanded by 37.8 percent. Construction improved remarkably, as the disbursement of the Government’s capital budget in land and construction grew by 74 percent. Private investment expanded by 3.6 percent. For the first time in seven quarters, the Business Sentiment Index stood at a level higher than 50, which is the level at which business expand their investment.
The export value was recorded at 52.9 billion US dollars – a 4.3 percent contraction – and the export volume declined by 2.6 percent. The decline was a result of several factors: the deceleration in key trading partners’ economies, especially China and Japan; the appreciation of the baht; the drop in export prices in line with lower crude oil prices and agricultural prices in global markets; and the end of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) for Thai exports to Europe.
Export products recorded an expansion in value, including automotive products, machinery and equipment, integrated circuits and parts, and printed circuits. The export products that experienced a contraction in value included rice, rubber, cassava, petro-chemical products, and petroleum products.
Exports to major markets, such as the United States and Australia, expanded in this quarter, while exports to the European Union, Japan, China, and ASEAN contracted.

According to the NESDB’s press release on 18 May 2015, the Thai economy in 2015 is projected to grow by 3-4 percent, downwardly revised from the previous projection of between 3.5 and 4.5 percent. The revision is mainly due to a downward revision of the export volume.

Progress of the Government’s Water Resource Management Plan

19 May 2015

The Government is focusing on developing more water retention areas in its water resource management plan, in order to ease recurrent flood and drought problems.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said that the Government is accelerating its water resource management plan, 2015-2016, which, in the initial stage, seeks to build more large and small areas to store water, in addition to providing sufficient water for consumption and agriculture.
He said that relevant agencies had been told to complete the task of creating more water retention areas in time for the coming rainy season. For example, more swamps will be built, and in low-lying areas, lakes might be developed. The Prime Minister wanted to see more areas across the country that could be used for storing water, but they must not have impacts on the ecological system.
He said that local people in various areas might dig small water sources, or artesian wells, for their own water supply to help in cultivation. The Government is seeking ways that will enable them to tackle the recurring flood and drought problems.
There are currently about 3,000 subdistricts that face recurrent drought. The Prime Minister stated that the digging of more water sources for water distribution would help improve the situation. Thailand’s total area covers 123 million acres. Out of this area, more than 50 million acres, accounting for 40 percent, are devoted to agriculture. Around 30 percent of the farmland is now covered by the irrigation system. The Government is striving to expand the irrigation system to cover 40 percent of the farmland.
Apart from developing more water sources, agricultural zoning has been suggested as another way to help ease water shortages. Under the agricultural zoning program, farmers would be given advice as to which crops they should produce and how to produce them for a more efficient and productive agriculture sector.
He said that the situation in general is now improving. Even so, the Government is not complacent, as it is concerned about the hardships of farmers, whose problem of insufficient water sources for consumption and agriculture is a matter of great concern.
Thailand often faces an annual pattern of flooding following the dry season. In order to tackle this issue, the Government deems it necessary that all water management-related projects be integrated, so that flood and drought problems could be tackled more effectively.

Because of the low levels of water in major dams in 2015, the Royal Irrigation Department has prioritized water allocation corresponding to the water volume in various dams. The first priority is placed on allocating water for consumption. The second priority is for maintaining the ecological system during the dry season. The third priority is given to crop cultivation, and the fourth priority to industry.

Efforts to Ease Shortage of Personnel in the Aviation Industry

17 May 2015

Thailand is stepping up efforts to ease the shortage of qualified personnel in the aviation industry in order that the country will be able to attain the goal of becoming an aviation hub in this region.
The Vice President of the Civil Aviation Training Center (Thailand), Squadron Leader Watana Manon, stated that Thailand needs to accelerate the production of more highly experienced professionals, such as pilots, aircraft maintenance technicians, aviation engineers, and air traffic controllers.
He said that 13 public and private institutions in Thailand currently provide training in aviation. They can produce and develop only 2,000 personnel a year, which is not sufficient, taking into consideration that the aviation business is expanding significantly.
The value of Thailand’s aviation business stands at about 400-500 billion baht a year, and it involves thousands of people. Between 80 and 90 million people use aviation services each year. Thailand now has 2,500-3,000 pilots. Each year, the country’s aviation business needs to recruit at least 400-500 new pilots to replace retiring pilots and to meet the growing demand, as more aircraft have been acquired.
About 12 pilots are needed for one aircraft. At present, Thailand can produce only 200-300 pilots a year. There are around 8,000-9,000 aviation technicians and engineers in the country. Demand for this group of skilled workers is about 700-800 a year, while production is only 200-300 annually.
Apart from the shortage of aviation personnel, brain drain is another problem. Thailand has lost many professionals in the aviation industry to foreign airlines.
ASEAN is one of the regions that continue to enjoy the highest growth rates in the global aviation industry. Growth is also attributed to the expansion of low-cost carriers. Demand for flights rose with the expansion of the middle income class in the region, as well.
The year 2015 marks the deadline for the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to get its Single Aviation Market project in place. The aviation business in the ASEAN region is likely to expand significantly once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) goes into full effect.
The Thai aviation industry is preparing to meet growing demand at home and abroad when the AEC comes into existence in 2015. More tourist arrivals within the region will be seen, together with growth in the aviation business. As a result, pilots will be in great demand, and many airlines will try to recruit experienced pilots.

The Ministry of Transport is accelerating the solving of aviation problems. Training of more personnel to higher standards will be carried out, with cooperation from international organizations.

Government Striving to Reform the Agriculture Sector

15 May 2015

The Government is determined to seriously reform the agriculture sector in order to improve Thai farmers’ quality of life and raise their income.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said that as part of the reform, the Government has set several policies on agriculture, such as those concerning the reduction of production costs and the use of marketing mechanisms to oversee prices of farm products.
Moreover, it has adjusted the structure of agricultural production in line with the current demand. The Government has also encouraged cooperatives to play a greater role, as buyers of agricultural products, in agricultural processing and exports. Farmland in Thailand covers an area of 147 million rai, or 58.8 million acres. Out of this area, 40 percent is covered by the irrigation system.
The Prime Minister stated that he wanted farmers to be empowered and to attach greater importance to production and distribution chains. Instead of serving as only producers, he said, farmers should be able to be engaged in business and have bargaining power in order to fetch better prices, especially through cooperatives.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has proposed new laws, as well as seeking to revise the existing laws to contribute to the agriculture sector. Among the laws are those governing the income and welfare of farmers and land reform for agriculture.
It is also updating the registration of farmers and other related information. In this regard, the Prime Minister urged farmers to give their cooperation, so that the national budget allocations for the agriculture sector would be able to ensure a better future for farmers, thus stabilizing the country’s economic system.
In assisting farmers to attain the goal of sustainable development, the Government places an emphasis on encouraging them to group together to develop their potential and empower their communities. In addition, the production of major crops is being restructured, so that they will be grown in suitable areas, based on the agricultural zoning system. The management of the royal development study centers will also be adopted as models.
The Prime Minister also urged farmers to adopt His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy, which would empower their communities and lay down firm foundations for self-reliant agriculture.

Sufficiency Economy is a philosophy that stresses the middle path, comprising three rings and two conditions. Within the Sufficiency Economy framework, the three rings represent the three principles of moderation, reasonableness, and self-immunity. The knowledge and morality contents are two necessary conditions that make it possible to achieve the three main principles.

Thailand to Host a Seminar for Knowledge Exchange on ASEAN Cultural Heritage

14 May 2015

The Ministry of Culture will invite representatives in various artistic fields from ASEAN countries to join a seminar in Thailand to exchange knowledge on ASEAN cultural heritage.
Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat said that the Fine Arts Department told a meeting of the executives of the Ministry of Culture that the regional seminar would be held on the topic "ASEAN Cultural Heritage.”
Besides Thailand, participating in the seminar will be Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, and Viet Nam. These representatives are engaged in artistic creations, such as craftsmen in lacquer ware from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam.
Apart from craftsmen, experts in performing arts and literature from ASEAN will also be invited. The seminar, which is scheduled for July 2015, will handle knowledge management of ASEAN cultural heritage. It will provide craftsmen and experts in various artistic fields with an opportunity to share knowledge and experience and present their craftsmanship, as well as demonstrating their artistic creations.
In the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint, ASEAN will promote the conservation and preservation of ASEAN cultural heritage. This will ensure its continuity and enhance awareness and understanding of the people about the unique history of the region and the cultural similarities and differences between and among ASEAN Member States. It will also promote the distinctiveness of ASEAN cultural heritage as a whole.
Mr. Vira said that all relevant agencies would discuss preparations for an ASEAN Ramayana Festival, to be held at the National Theater in Bangkok in December 2015. The festival is meant to honor His Majesty the King on the occasion of his birthday on 5 December.
Artists in various artistic fields in ASEAN will also be invited to discuss the organizing of the khon masked performance on the Indian epic Ramayana. This performance is regarded as part of ASEAN’s cultural heritage. The discussion will be held during the time when the Fine Arts Department holds the seminar on the ASEAN cultural Heritage.
Mr. Vira said that construction of an ASEAN Cultural Center in Bangkok is being accelerated. The center is located at the Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. It will feature exhibits showing ASEAN cultural heritage and way of living. The center will offer various services for searching for information about ASEAN countries. There will be a library and an exhibition site, and cultural products will also be on sale, as well.

The center will officially be opened on 8 August 2015, which marks the ASEAN Day Celebration.

Thailand Rice Convention 2015 at the Beginning of Rice-Planting Season

13 May 2015

The Thai government is scheduled to host Thailand Rice Convention 2015 from 19 and 21 May at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, Exhibition and Convention Center Hall 4, Nonthaburi province.
Organized by the Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce, the three-day event is intended to serve as a forum for players in rice trade to meet and exchange views, which will contribute to the development of the global rice industry. It will provide an opportunity for rice importers and exporters to hold trade negotiations, as well.
About 500 delegates from 40 countries worldwide are expected to participate in the convention. They comprise representatives from rice-producing and exporting countries, rice importers and traders, academics, and rice experts, as well as members of the Thai and international media.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha will preside over the opening ceremony. A field trip will also be arranged, giving international delegates the opportunity to observe rice cultivation and production in Thailand.
The rice-planting season in Thailand usually starts in May, when the Royal Ploughing Ceremony takes place and paddy land is prepared for rice cultivation. Regarded as a ceremony to boost the morale of Thai farmers, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony signifies one of the prominent traditional features of Thailand’s cultural identity.
It is held at the Sanam Luang ceremonial site in Bangkok each year. Thailand has conducted the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony since the Sukhothai period, more than 700 years ago. The organizing of the full-scale ceremony was abandoned after 1936, but in 1960, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej suggested the re-introduction of the Ploughing Ceremony.
In the ceremony, the Lord of the Harvest, who is a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, leads the procession of the "celestial maidens” and a pair of oxen, while circumambulating across the symbolic ground. Walking along the plough are also white-clad Brahmans blowing conch shells. The Lord of the Harvest selects one of three pieces of scarlet cloth of varying lengths. His choice predicts the amount of rainfall for the coming planting season. Then the seeds blessed earlier are cast into furrows, from where they are gathered by farmers, who regard them as auspicious and keep them to mix with seeds to be used in cultivating their own fields.
When the ploughing is over, the oxen are presented with seven offerings, namely paddy, hay, corn, sesame, mung bean, water, and liquor. The animals’ first choices serve as means to predict the harvest of the upcoming season.

The staple food of the Thai people, rice has always been the most important crop and is grown in every region of Thailand. Its importance is not only in terms of economic value. Farmers regard growing rice as their food security.

Project on Famous Food from Pattani for the Ramadan Period

12 May 2015

The Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC) is joining hands with the Pattani Cooks Club in launching a native Muslim food project for the period of Ramadan this year.
The holy month of Ramadan in 2015 begins on 18 June and will continue until 16 July. Ramadan is a month of faith when all Muslims, for one month, wholeheartedly devote themselves to living in accordance with the principles of the Prophet Muhammad, including the diligent practice of fasting, refraining from eating and drinking from the first light of dawn until sunset, and refraining from any act that might adversely affect themselves and society.
The act of fasting is a practice of perseverance and self-restraint, which gives strength to both body and mind. This is intended to foster one’s awareness and understanding of the hardships of less fortunate others, thus creating compassion and purifying one’s heart.
SBPAC Deputy Secretary-General Kwanchat Wongsuparanan said that the native Muslim food project is intended to support the religious practice of Muslims in all parts of Thailand during Ramadan. SBPAC also wants Muslim Thais in various provinces to taste the high-quality halal food that has made a name for Pattani.
The project is receiving good cooperation from the Provincial Islamic Commissions and provincial governors in 39 provinces. Under the project, famous Muslim food prepared in Pattani province will be put on sale during the holy month. Proceeds from the sale will contribute to an assistance fund for poor families and those affected by unrest in the three border provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat. People who are interested in ordering the food may call 086-9615844.

There are many halal dishes offered under this project, such as khao yam, or rice salad, which is regarded as health food, as it contains major nutrients, as well as various minerals and vitamins. Khao yam consists of cooked rice mixed with certain ingredients, mainly dried shrimp that is pounded into flakes, toasted coconut flakes, and assorted fresh vegetables that are sliced into small pieces, such as kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and string beans. Other popular dishes in Pattani are roti mataba (a stuffed Muslim-style pancake), stuffed chili, stuffed fish, octopus stuffed with sticky rice, ayam golek (spiced chicken with coconut cream), and some desserts. In the southernmost provinces, where there is a large Muslim community, sweet, mild, and spicy curries abound. Southern food is typified by the Malay culinary culture. Muslim food has inevitably become part of Thai eating culture or even a favorite dish for many, regardless of their faith. On special occasions or religious gatherings in a mosque, there will be a wide range of Muslim food on offer.

The “2015 Discover Thainess” Campaign Attracts Tourist Arrivals

10 May 2015

Tourist arrivals in Thailand in the first quarter of 2015 came to 7.8 million, accounting for an increase of 24 percent, over the same period of 2014. The Government declared 2015 the Year of "Discover Thainess.”
The report on tourist arrivals was presented to the meeting of the Committee on the 2015 Discover Thainess Campaign, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on 8 May 2015.
Minister of Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said that, from January to March 2015, Thailand earned 370 billion baht from international tourism, representing an increase of 18 percent. The number of domestic tourists during the same period rose by 6 percent to 38 million, and income from domestic tourism was 133 billion baht, an increase of 13 percent.
As for the 2015 Discover Thainess Campaign, it emphasizes the country's unique cultural treasures and the Thai way of life. The campaign is an attempt to attract first-time and repeat visitors to explore Thailand’s new destinations. In the campaign, 12 provinces that tourists should not miss have been recommended.
Recognized as "hidden gems,” the 12 provinces include Lampang, Phetchabun, Nan, Buri Ram, Loei, Samut Songkhram, Ratchaburi, Trat, Chanthaburi, Trang, Chumphon, and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Their tourism income during the first quarter of 2015 increased 15 percent. Among the 12 provinces, tourism growth in Nan came first, followed by Nakhon Si Thammarat and Lampang. Visitors can learn about the Thai way of life through observation and participation in various local activities.
In 2015, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has set the revenue target of 41 billion US dollars (1.35 trillion baht), which will be generated by 28 million international visitors. Source markets that are indicating positive growth trends are the United Arab Emirates, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, France, Italy, Spain, and Brazil.
The Airports of Thailand plans to expand Suvarnabhumi Airport in order to raise the present capacity of 45 million people to 60 million people per year. In October 2015, Don Mueang International Airport will open its second terminal to increase the capacity to 30 million people per year. Phuket International Airport will also expand its capacity from 6.5 million to 12.5 million people a year.
The Prime Minister stated that benefits from tourism should be distributed to local communities and people who are not involved directly with tourism. In this regard, he said, products under the "One Tambon, One Product” (OTOP) program, should be developed to higher standards in order to add value to them.

All provinces were assigned to organize contests on livable Thainess cities. Emphasis is placed on city management, the maintenance of local identities and cleanliness, hospitality, safety, and high-quality products and services.

Mobilizing Efforts to Manage the Justice Fund

8 May 2015
Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya and Deputy Interior Minister Sutee Markboon have given a policy briefing on the management of the Justice Fund at the provincial level via a videoconference.

Taking part in the videoconference on 6 May 2015 were provincial governors, district officers, chiefs of provincial justice offices, and other relevant officials.

The Government has a policy to revise various laws and reform the justice process. One of the laws involves the Justice Fund, which has been set up as a mechanism to provide legal counseling services and financial assistance for hiring lawyers and for bail.

The fund aims to protect the rights of the accused in the judicial process. It helps poor people facing legal charges but who are hampered by budget constraints. With the fund, they will have access to justice on an equal basis, and innocent poor people will be given justice.

The Deputy Interior Minister said that the National Council for Peace and Order had established the Damrongdham Center in various provinces to receive complaints and suggestions from the public, as well as providing counseling and information services. He explained that the Ministry of Interior has mechanisms covering all villages and communities nationwide. For this reason, it plays an important role in translating the Government’s policies into action.

On 8 December 2014, the Ministry of Interior joined the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Council of State in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure justice for the people and reduce social disparity. The MOU will be used as a framework that relevant agencies may use to mobilize efforts to tackle problems concerning social inequality.

In response to the implementation of the MOU, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice jointly organized the videoconference on the Justice Fund. The Damrongdham Center at the provincial and district levels was assigned to work closely with the Provincial Justice Office in making the system of receiving public complaints and requests more efficient before passing them to agencies involved.

The Justice Minister explained that the Justice Fund was set up in 2006 in accordance with the Constitution. Since its inception, the fund has received 15,156 requests. About 347 million baht has been spent on assisting people in the course of justice. Most of the assistance money, accounting for 96.9 percent, was paid for bail deposits, followed by lawyers’ fees, accounting for 6.8 percent.
He said that the Justice Fund Management Committee had approved the decentralization of fund management. In this regard, the Provincial Justice Office and the Provincial Justice Fund Subcommittee are empowered to approve up to 500,000 baht for each case.

He added that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior would step up efforts to ensure the right of people to have access to justice.