Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thai Capital Flows

Here is the latest release press from the Bank of Thailand on capital flows:
Mrs. Suchada Kirakul, Assistant Governor, Financial Markets Operations Group, Bank of Thailand, disclosed details about the further relaxation of measures to manage capital flows as follows:

The Bank of Thailand (BOT) has introduced an unremunerated reserve requirement (URR) on short-term capital inflows since 18 December 2006 as a temporary measure to regulate short-term capital inflows, prevent speculation on the Thai baht, and avoid excessive volatility and appreciation of the Thai baht, which are not consistent with Thailand's underlying economic fundamentals. This measure has resulted in improved exchange rate stability, with the baht movements more in line with other regional currencies. Meanwhile, the real and export sectors have been able to better adapt to the exchange rate changes, through diversification of export markets and hedging of foreign exchange risk.

The BOT has been mindful of adverse effects that this measure had on the financial transactions of domestic private sector and foreign investors. This has led to gradual relaxation of the measure in order to increase flexibility in conducting business, such as (1) providing a fully hedge option as an alternative to the reserve requirement, particularly for loans and for investment in fixed income securities and mutual fund units, and (2) waiving the reserve requirement on investments in equity-like securities, namely, warrants and exchange traded fund (ETF) units. In addition, regulations on foreign currency deposit and transfer have been relaxed to increase the flexibility for Thai businesses in managing their foreign currencies and investment abroad, which should lead to more balanced capital flows in the longer term.

Juthamas scandal: Is the U.S. trying to manage Thailand’s elections?

21-12-07

The Juthamas scandal: Is the U.S. trying to manage Thailand’s elections?
CJ Hinke, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

A $1.7 million bribery scandal involving former Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor, Juthamas Siriwan, broke this week with the arrest of two Americans. Juthamas was also Deputy Leader of the Puea Pandin Party, a post which she has now resigned.

Juthamas was a top-level bureaucrat at TAT before becoming its Governor from 2002 to 2006. Tourism is a large component of the Thai economy and TAT has one of the largest non-military budgets in government. Obviously, anyone associated with managing Thailand’s tourist economy wields great power.

I was academically and professionally acquainted with Juthamas in 1990 during my conservation research into Thailand’s 146 hotsprings many of which I personally discovered. I initiated and conceived of this research and visited all 76 provinces at my own expence, being given minimal logistical assistance from TAT in a few regions. At the conclusion of my project, Juthamas accepted my research and published it for TAT without giving me credit, acknowledgement or compensation.

I came to know her again when I attended the several years of Bangkok International Film Festivals as a journalist.

It seems hardly coincidental timing that the Juthamas bribery scandal broke on the eve of the first Thai elections since a military coup d’etat September 19, 2006. Due to Juthamas’ involvement as a top official of one of Thailand’s political parties and during civil society demonstrations to stop the military-appointed Parliament, the net effect of these allegations on Thai society is severe.

This case bears classic signs of public, media and government manipulation through spin. Suddenly no one is interested in political demonstrations or elections anymore because human nature finds scandal far more fascinating than tiresome politics.

Readers familiar with the workings of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency might attribute this timing to dozens of prior U.S. attempts to destabilise countries and their economies and interfere with legitimate elections. Is the U.S. trying to manage Thailand’s elections to the benefit of its military?

Thai politics are labyrinthine, to say the least but the following analysis may prove useful. The players: Palang Prachachon (People Power) Party, pro-Thaksin Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thailand) Party version 2.0; Prachathipat (Democrat) Party, the loyal opposition since 1945; Puea Pandin (Motherland) Party, real mission undetermined.

Puea Pandin split off as a small party which offered to lead a coalition government during the regime of billionaire businessman Thaksin Shinawatra at the time his government was besieged by months of public street protests demanding his resignation. The party was only officially registered in October 2007.

Motherland’s sudden rise has led to speculation that it must be getting outside financing from interests wishing to derail Thailand’s two other major political parties. And more than several of Motherland’s leaders are former key members of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party. Puea Pandin has been no friend to the military junta.

If Puea Pandin is tainted with the brush of corruption in the Juthamas scandal, charges frequently aimed at Thaksin, the party will have no credibility to persuade the public to elect its candidates. However, should Puea Pandin elect a percentage of candidates to Parliament, it would become part of a coalition government which could well put Thaksin surrogate, long-time Thai political strongman, PPP leader Samak Sundaravej, prime minister.

Puea Pandin has been third in the Thai polls. If discredited by this week’s Juthamas scandal while it is still fresh in the public mind, this leaves only the pro-Thaksin PPP and the Democrats to contest Sunday’s election.

No bureaucratic effort has been spared in trying to disqualify PPP. It is nearly inconceivable that the military will allow Thaksin’s supporters back to power after more than a year of coup government.

Which leaves us the Democrats, a party founded decades ago and which has emerged almost unscathed by scandal. The Democrats may well be good for Thailand and it is certainly better government to have decisive majority leaders.

If People Power wins the vote and is allowed to take power, Thai society will be again be divided as it was during the Thaksin era. We may well be back to demonstrations in the streets. This would make it impossible to have any kind of effective government and lead us back to military despotism.

Juthamas may well be proven guilty of corruption. However, it is ethically repugnant that either Thailand’s military or any foreign country interfere in our fragile democracy. Democracy means letting the people decide.

Corruption and politics: Thailand's old guard set to return in post-coup election

Friday, December 21, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand: One leading candidate in Thailand's election is nicknamed the "Walking ATM Machine" for allegedly doling out cash to buy votes. Another reportedly made millions from illegal gambling dens.

Thai voters elect a new government Sunday, 15 months after the military deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on grounds that he was too corrupt. It looks like they will get more of the same.

Local commentators have dubbed the election the return of Thailand's political dinosaurs, many of whom were sidelined during Thaksin's six-year grip on power.

"Unless the old guard has come up with new ideas, it is likely that Thai politics will return to the same vicious cycle of vote-buying, election, corruption, protests — and then, perhaps, another coup," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

A military coup unseated Thaksin, a business tycoon turned politician, in September 2006 after months of public protests against him. The election will fulfill the army's promise to return the country to democracy.

Corruption and politics have long gone hand-in-hand in Thailand. Those in power are routinely accused of using their positions to enrich themselves and their families.

The leading candidates include several veterans well acquainted with the money politics and backroom dealing that have plagued Thai politics for decades, fueling the instability that has led to 18 coups since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

Among them is 72-year-old right-wing firebrand Samak Sundaravej, a former governor of Bangkok and leading contender for prime minister.

Samak, who once hosted a TV cooking show, has been accused of malfeasance for signing two questionable contracts while governor. Both deals — a waste management contract in 2003 and the purchase of fire trucks in 2004 — were allegedly marred by bidding irregularities. The case remains under investigation.

Samak, who denies any wrongdoing, heads the People's Power Party, a group of Thaksin supporters that polls indicate will win the most seats in the 480-member House of Representatives, though fall short of a majority. The rival Democrat Party is expected to finish second.

Thaksin is living in exile in London and has been barred from Thai politics for five years.

"I have to bring (Thaksin) back to the limelight," Samak said in an interview. "We will use the same policies. Thaksin can give some advice — if that is not against the law."

Another People's Power Party candidate with a dicey past is Chalerm Yoobamrung, a sharp-tongued politician who took refuge in Denmark and Sweden after a 1991 military coup in which he and other cabinet members were accused of enriching themselves.

Early in his political career, Chalerm, 59, was dogged by media reports that he made his riches in the gambling business. He was once charged with engaging in gambling, which is illegal in Thailand, but never indicted.

He also has been accused of using his clout to get his sons out of trouble. After one son was acquitted in 2004 of murdering a policeman in a nightclub brawl, Chalerm's popularity fell, and he kept a low profile until re-emerging in this election.

Not all the major candidates are corrupt. Democrat Party head Abhisit Vejjajiva, 43, another contender for prime minister, has a clean record. Then again, the Oxford-educated, former economics professor has never held a high elected office.

The "Walking ATM Machine," former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa, heads the mid-sized Chart Thai party, which is likely to be courted by the two top parties as they vie to form a coalition government after the election. He may even be offered the prime minister post again, in return for his party's support.

Banharn, 75, is also known as "Mr. 20 Percent" for allegedly skimming that amount off past government contracts. He refutes the charges.

Critics say his alleged corruption and mismanagement of the economy during a stint as prime minister in 1995-96 paved the way for the collapse of Thailand's currency, sparking the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The vertically challenged Banharn inspired a frequent quip: "It doesn't matter that Thailand's prime minister is so short, because he just does all deals under the table."

Thailand Approves Internal Security Law

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thailand's military-installed parliament approved a controversial internal security law that critics warned Friday will allow the military to maintain a grip on power even after this weekend's general election.

The new law will allow the Internal Security Operations Command to order curfews, restrict freedom of movement and curb the powers of government officials in situations deemed harmful to national security.

It also allows the agency to detain suspects without trial for up to six months and restrict access to electronic equipment — a vague clause that critics say could include censorship of the Internet and possibly permit the authorities to tap telephones.

In a concession to critics, the law names the prime minister as head of ISOC and the army chief as second-in-command, a change from draft versions that had the army chief as the agency's director.

The National Legislative Assembly voted 105-8 with two abstentions to pass the Internal Security Bill late Thursday, in a vote widely criticized as an effort to steamroll the legislation through before Sunday's general election.

The NLA was set up by the military to serve as an interim parliament until the election, which will fill the 480-seat lower house of parliament. The poll comes 15 months after the coup ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Hundreds of activists protested outside parliament Thursday, one of several demonstrations against the security law.

The legislation was proposed after Thaksin's ouster. The interim government argued that old laws covering national security needed to be reviewed to curb new security threats, such as the rise of a bloody Muslim insurgency in the country's far south and threats from drug trafficking.

Critics say the law assures sweeping military powers over the country.

"The bill will allow the military to control the situation in the future if things get out of hand. It is meant to deal with internal threats like street protests and opposition, and not external ones," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. "It will be like a state within a state."

Gothom Arya, an NLA member who abstained from voting but said he opposed the bill, said the law "lays out a structure which gives extensive power to the military."

He said the law could spark outrage among Muslims in the country's far south, the insurgency-plagued area where it is most likely to be implemented.

ISOC was created during the Cold War when it was known as the Communist Suppression Operations Command to control enemies of the state. Its functions had been reduced in past years, after the collapse of the country's communist movement in the 1980s.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

$100 oil to put Myanmar junta over a barrel again

By: Ed Cropley
Editing: Michael Battye and Alex Richardson
November 11, 2007
(oldie worth keeping)


BANGKOK (Reuters) - Oil was $72 a barrel in August when a budget crunch forced Myanmar’s ruling generals to slash fuel subsidies, sparking protests that snowballed into the biggest anti-junta uprising in two decades.

Since then, crude prices have climbed 35 percent to near $100 a barrel, and with no new revenues coming in from natural gas sales or anywhere else in a shambolic economy, the regime has little option but to raise fuel prices again, analysts say.

"The pressure must be on," said Sean Turnell of Australia’s Macquarie University and author of the Burma Economic Watch academic journal, predicting state-subsidised diesel, which doubled in August, may have to rise by as much as 40 percent.

The added burden on households already struggling to cope with inflation estimated at around 50 percent a year could well trigger another round of protests against 45 years of unbroken military rule.

Even though it is believed to have the world’s 10th largest natural gas reserves, promising $2 billion a year in sales to China for the next four decades, most of the off-shore fields are undeveloped and will not make money until 2009 at the earliest.

The only major existing client is Thailand, which paid $2.2 billion last year -- half of all Myanmar’s official foreign exchange earnings. The rest comes mainly from exports of gems and timber and tourism, a sector crippled by the latest crackdown.

Myanmar also has plenty of crude oil, but a lack of refinery investment since the British left in 1948 forces it to buy nearly all its fuel -- basically diesel, gasoline, and compressed natural gas (CNG) -- at a premium from abroad.

Turnell estimates that in August, the former Burma’s fuel bill consumed 30 percent of its gas receipts from Thailand, a proportion now likely to be well over 40 percent given crude price rises since then.

LESSONS LEARNED

In August, the doubling of diesel and five-fold rise of CNG prices came without warning, sparking chaos in a country whose once-promising economy has been crippled by disastrous attempts at home-grown socialism, corruption, and more latterly, Western sanctions.

Yangon’s CNG-powered buses ground to a halt as conductors and drivers had no idea what fare to charge, and many commuters had to walk home because they could not afford a taxi.

"I don’t think they can carry on subsidising fuel prices," said Aung Naing Oo, a student activist who fled to Thailand during a 1988 crackdown on a nationwide uprising in which an estimated 3,000 people were killed.

"But I’m sure they’ve learnt from their mistakes, and if they do raise prices, it will be slow and incremental," he said.

A dramatic drop-off in tourist arrivals since soldiers were sent in to end September’s protests, killing at least 10 people -- and probably many more -- is also likely to compound the pressure on the generals’ budget.

Two weeks after the crackdown, hotels had slashed room rates by as much as 80 percent and flights from Singapore or Bangkok were virtually empty as tourists, repulsed by television images of the violence, chose to stay away.

One rare factor in the junta’s favour is the tendency for rice prices to drop around the October-November harvest, a major pressure valve in a country where the U.N. says 10 percent of the population, or 5 million people, do not have enough to eat.

However, as 2008 progresses, food stockpiles will start to diminish, prices will go up, and the social conditions that sparked August’s anti-junta protests could start all over again.

"For now, people will have enough rice, but after a few months crunch time will come again for many families," Aung Naing Oo said.

Source: Tiscali News

Thai bourse to recover in final week of trade for 2007


BANGKOK, Dec 22 (TNA) - The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) composite index is expected to continue rising next week, the last week of trade for 2007, and institutional investors are expected to buy stocks following clarification of the country's political transparency on the back of the general election to be held tomorrow, according to a report issued by Kasikorn Research Center.

On Friday the SET index closed at 813.60 points, up 21.89 points from Thursday, after the market retreated four days in a row from Monday due to investor concerns over PTT Public Co., Ltd., Thailand's largest oil firm, after the Supreme Administrative Court on December 14 ordered it to return three natural-gas pipelines and related rights worth Bt15 billion to the Finance Ministry.

The SET will be closed on Monday, a special public holiday following Sunday's election.

The report said there were signs that the SET index would continue advancing early next week as institutional investors were expected to buy on bargain hunting while foreign investors were anticipated to stay away from the market due to Christmas holiday. Locals are expected to 'buy' as domestic political situation becomes clearer after the election.

Investors are also awaiting a release of key economic indicators by the Bank of Thailand next Friday, the report said.

Kasikorn Research Center said the support level for the SET index next week should be around 777-787 points the while resistance level will be at 830-846 points. (TNA)-E111

Business News : Last Update : 16:07:26 22 December 2550 (GMT+7:00)

Archives

Thai bourse to recover in final week of trade for 2007
Thailand, Indonesia sign energy accord
Thai baht to move in narrow range against US dollar next week
Thailand signs MoU to buy more hydro and coal-fired power from Laos
BoT plans to closely monitor inflation in 2008
SET surges in same direction with regional markets
Finance minister optimistic about economic growth next year

Thai Oil completes $218m capacity expansion

BANGKOK (Reuters) -- Thai Oil, the country's top refiner, said on Wednesday it had completed a $218 million expansion of its nameplate capacity by 22 percent to 275,000 barrels per day a week ahead of schedule.

Thai Oil, which shut its crude distillation unit 3 (CDU-3) refinery for maintenance on Oct. 6, was in the process of running tests of the CDU unit, which can produce at up to 300,000 bpd, it said in a statement.

Its Thai Paraxylene (TPX) subsidiary was on track to raise its annual capacity to 900,000 tons of aromatic products from 420,000 tons in the first quarter of 2008, it said.

At 0820 GMT, Thai Oil shares were down 1.2 percent at 82 baht, while the overall Thai stock market index .SETI was 1.18 percent lower.

($1 = 33.68 Baht)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chevron Signs Natural Gas Sales Agreement with PTT Covering Four Leases in the Gulf of Thailand

Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, Ltd. (Chevron) and its co-concessionaires today signed a Gas Sales Agreement (GSA) with PTT Public Company Limited (PTT) for blocks 10-13 in the Gulf of Thailand. The agreement is expected to boost natural gas supplies from these blocks by 500 million cubic feet of natural gas per day (mmcf/d) or from a daily contract quantity of 740 million cubic feet mmcf/d in 2007 to 1,240 mmcf/d from 2012.
The offshore blocks represent nearly 50 percent of Chevron's current operating areas in the Pattani Basin and include Erawan, Satun, Funan, Baanpot, Jakrawan, Plamuk, Yala, Pla Daeng, Trat and Platong operating areas in the Gulf of Thailand. Chevron has working interests in the operating areas within these blocks ranging from 60 percent to 80 percent.
The signing in Bangkok was presided over by His Excellency Dr. Kurujit Nakornthap, Deputy Permanent Secretary and included Tara Tiradnakorn, president of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, Ltd., Prasert Bunsunpun, president of PTT, Yoshiyuki Kagawa, president and CEO of Mitsui Oil Exploration Ltd. (MOECO), and Maroot Mrigadat president of PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited. (PTTEP).
Speaking at the signing ceremony, President of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, Khun Tara Tiradnakorn, said: "Today's signing builds on our 45-year relationship between Chevron and the Kingdom of Thailand in working together to deliver clean, competitive energy supplies to fuel the country's growing economy. We are extremely proud to have been a long term partner with the Kingdom and look forward to continuing to strengthen this relationship well into the next decade."
"This agreement paves the way for Chevron and its partners to boost production from the Gulf of Thailand and to work together to provide reliable natural gas supplies for use mainly in power generation but also in the industrial and transportation sectors and the petrochemical industry," said Tiradnakorn.
"Natural gas is one of the fastest growing segments of Chevron's portfolio," said Managing Director and CEO of Chevron Asia South Ltd., Steve Green. Adding that, "Chevron's natural gas production is currently used to produce approximately one third of Thailand's total electricity demand and this is expected to increase to 40 percent once peak production is achieved from 2012."
The main source of this increased supply is a planned 330 mmcf/d expansion of the Platong field, including a new central processing platform (CPP), as well as an additional 170 mmcf/d from existing platforms.
This agreement follows the recently announced production period extension for blocks 10-13 for an additional ten years, from 2012 to 2022. Chevron's co- concessionaires in the blocks include MOECO and PTTEP.
Chevron operates more than 180 platforms in the Gulf of Thailand with 2006 total average daily production of more than 144,000 barrels of oil and condensate (73,000 net) and 1.6 billion gross cubic feet of gas (856 million net). Historically, the company and its joint venture partners have invested more than 12 billion US dollars in Thailand's oil and gas sector and paid the cumulative royalty of nearly 3.5 billion US dollars (1981 - 2006).

Facts on PTT, Thailand’s biggest listed firm

BANGKOK: A top Thai court rejected a lawsuit by activists seeking to delist PTT PCL, but ordered the $34 billion energy giant to return its pipeline business to the state.

Here are some facts about Thailand’s biggest listed firm.

* Founded as the Petroleum Authority of Thailand in 1978 to address the country’s energy shortages, it has a natural gas pipeline monopoly and more than 30 petroleum, gas exploration, refining and petrochemical businesses.

* PTT operates 2,650 km (1,650 miles) of transmission and distribution pipelines around the country and from gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand. Capacity is 3,170 million cubic feet per day.

* PTT was partially privatised in 2001, raising $833 million in an initial public offering. The Ministry of Finance remains the biggest shareholder with a 52.17 percent stake.

* In August 2006, the Foundation for Consumers and five individuals petitioned the Supreme Administrative Court to revoke two laws, which paved the way for the privatisation of PTT.

* They argued the privatisation was marred by conflicts of interest and inadequate public hearings.

* PTT also failed to give up its right to expropriate public property as stated in its prospectus. PTT insisted the deal was legal and transparent.

* PTT has a market value of $34.3 billion and accounts for more than 16 percent of the Thai bourse. Its delisting would have dealt a serious blow to Southeast Asia’s third biggest stock market and undermined foreign investor confidence, analysts said.

* PTT’s earnings have soared along with rising oil prices since 2003. Its major units are PTT Exploration and Production PCL, PTT Chemical and Thai Oil.

* After his election in 2001, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra pushed ahead with the partial privatisation of PTT and other state-controlled firms. That policy stalled in March 2006 when a court rejected the privatisation of EGAT, the state-owned power firm. Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless coup in September.

Financing a property in Thailand

* Condominium Property

* Freehold Landed Property (Land & Villa)
* Leasehold Landed Property (Land & Villa

In Thailand, a foreigner usually purchases property in cash because under Thai law, financial institutions will generally not lend money to foreigners to buy property in the Kingdom. However, a loan for the purpose of purchasing property in Thailand may be granted to a non-Thai from the Bangkok Bank, Singapore branch. The conditions of financing property with Bangkok Bank are as follows:

1. A loan granted shall not exceed 70% of the total purchase price of property.

2. The Bank will hold legal mortgage over the property to be financed.

3. The loan tenure shall not exceed a period of ten years.

4. A loan shall be denominated in SGD (Singapore Dollar), USD, Japan Yen or EURO.

5. Interest rate varies, depending on the required currency of a loan. The current annual rates are 3.35% for Japanese Yen and 6.75% for USD; however, additional interest may be added. For instance, if a loan is agreed in USD, an annual interest shall be 6.75% plus 1.25% because a loan is paid in a currency other than that of the Singapore dollar. Please note that a loan is not available in Thai Baht.

6. Repayment of the principal, plus any interest, shall be made in monthly payments from date of the disbursement of loan.

7. Loan shall be drawdown only upon payment by the borrower of the difference between the purchase price and the loan amount, subject to completion of all documentations.

8. A flat rate of 1.5% of the approved loan shall be as the prepayment.

9. A processing fee is S$5,000 shall be paid upon acceptance of the bank’s letter of offer and S$2,000 or equivalent shall be refunded upon drawdown of the loan.

10. The borrower is to be responsible for all expenses including, but not limited to, legal and mortgage costs, valuation fee, and premium fire insurance.

Bank of Thailand further eases capital control measures

BANGKOK, Dec 18 (TNA) – The Bank of Thailand has insisted it will not end the 30 per cent reserve requirement, saying the measure helps boost the stability of the baht.

BoT assistant governor Suchada Kirakul said the baht had become more stable since the capital control measure was initiated on December 18 last year.

The range of the currency's strength was reduced from 16.6 per cent prior to the issue of the measure to 7.4 per cent, less than half the previous spread.

It had also eased the volatility of the baht and reduced the foreign capital inflow from US$13.62 billion last year to $6.96 billion during the January-September period this year.

She said the central bank will not yet call off the 30 per cent withholding measure, but it will ease the application of the measure to help reduce the cost to the private sector.

Included are an exemption of the reserve requirement and the purchase of a fully-hedged contract for an offshore loan in an amount of not exceeding $1 million with a loan repayment of one year or up, and relaxation of rules and regulations governing the deposit and transfer of foreign currencies to facilitate and boost services.

In addition, local individuals are allowed to invest directly or lend more to businesses overseas.

For instance, a parent company in Thailand is able to invest or lend to its subsidiaries and associates overseas altogether in an amount of not exceeding $100 million per annum instead of the $50 million per annum allowed previously.

Listed companies on the Stock Exchange of Thailand are allowed to make overseas investments in unlimited amounts.

Also, the amount of money permitted to buy property overseas will be increased to no more than $5 million per year from the current $1 million per year. (TNA)-E005

Thai cabinet lays out plan to transfer PTT pipelines

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand's government Tuesday laid out its plan for the court-ordered transfer of energy giant PTT's 15-billion-baht (445-million-dollar) pipeline network back to the state.

Under the arrangement, PTT will have to pay the state five percent of its revenue from gas transmission as a rental fee for using the network, the company's president Prasert Bunsumpun told reporters.

The transfer of the pipelines was ordered Friday by the Supreme Administrative Court, in a ruling that challenged the legality of PTT's privatisation in 2001.

The verdict upheld the company's listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), but acknowledged concerns brought by consumer groups who argued against leaving vital national infrastructure in private hands.

The judges ordered the Finance Ministry, which already holds a 52 percent stake in the company, to take back control of the pipelines.

"The cabinet today agreed in principle for PTT to transfer our assets back to the Finance Ministry," Prasert said as he left the cabinet meeting.

"Also, PTT will have to pay the state a five-year retroactive pipeline rental charge of at least five percent of the revenue generated from gas transmission," he told reporters.

He declined to say what impact that would have on the company's financial results.

PTT, the kingdom's biggest energy firm, is the largest stock on the Thai bourse with a market capitalisation of 1.01 trillion baht (30 billion US dollars).

Following the cabinet decision, the SET allowed shares of the company to resume trading in the afternoon session. The stock had been suspended since early Friday.

"The status of the company is not affected (by the verdict). The company is still entitled to use such assets but has to pay the rental fee at the rate specified by the ministry of finance," PTT said in its filings to the bourse.

"The company believes that there is no effect on the company's operations and there will be minor effect on its financial status," it added.

Prasert said the cabinet resolution would cost PTT up to 11 billion baht (326 million dollars) to settle the five-year pipeline rental charges and to cover the taxes on transferring the company's assets.

"We have to pay up to nine billion baht for pipeline usage since 2001, including taxes and interest payments," he told reporters.

"Another two billion baht is for taxes for transferring our pipeline assets. The total amount would be paid in the last quarter of 2007," Prasert added.

Shares of PTT closed down 10 baht, or 2.72 percent, to 358 baht Tuesday.

Thailand plans $40M bridge to Laos

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 06:55pm (Mla time) 12/18/2007

BANGKOK -- Thailand's cabinet Tuesday approved a $40-million project to build a third bridge across the Mekong River to neighboring Laos, a spokesman said.

"The cabinet approved 1.347 billion baht for the Thai highway department to build the bridge connecting the northeastern Thai province of Nakhon Phanom, 740 kilometers (460 miles) from here, and Kammuan town" in southern Laos, government spokesman Chaiya Yimwilai told reporters.

Construction is set to begin in 2008 and will take three years to complete. The project is entirely funded by Thailand, and is considered economic aid to Laos.

The first bridge linking Thailand with landlocked Laos opened in 1994, connecting Thailand's northeastern Nong Khai province and the Laotian capital Vientiane.

A second bridge opened one year ago linking Thailand's Mukdahan province and Savannakhet province in southern Laos.

Thailand grants 11 petroleum exploration rights

Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:44am GMT

BANGKOK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The Thai government approved on Tuesday 11 petroleum exploration concessions for 13 blocks -- 11 onshore and two in the Gulf of Thailand -- in the country's latest round of bidding.

London-listed Salamander Energy (E&P) Ltd (SMDR.L: Quote, Profile, Research) was given the rights to onshore block L15/50 to and Malaysia's Mitra Energy Ltd and Northern Gulf Oil (Thailand) Ltd were each allocated two onshore blocks, it said in a statement.

TPI Polene Power, a unit of Thailand's TPI Polene TPIP.BK got rights to block L29/50 and Australia's Carnarvon Petroleum Ltd. (CVN.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) and Sun Resources NL (SUR.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) jointly received rights to onshore block L20/50.

Pearl Oil (Petroleum) Ltd, an affiliate of Singapore-based Pearl Energy, received rights to the G2/50 block in the Gulf of Thailand and Pearl Oil (Resources) was also given rights to onshore block L21/50, the statement said.

Other winners included Sita Oil Exploration House Inc, Adani Welspun Exploration Ltd and Auo Siam Marine Co Ltd, wholly-owned by Premchai Karnasuta, a major shareholder in top Thai construction contractor Italian-Thai Development ITD.BK. (Reporting by Trisanat Kongkhunthian, writing by Khettiya Jittapong, editing by Michael Battye)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thailand approves nuclear power plan

Infrastructure plan for nuclear-powered plant approved

BANGKOK, Dec 8 (TNA) - A plan for infrastructure to built a nuclear-powered electricity generation plant in Thailand has been approved, a senior Energy Ministry official said.

Viraphol Jirapraditkul, Director-General of the Energy Policy and Planning Office, said an agency committee gave a green light for the scheme during a meeting Friday.

The Nuclear Power Infrastructure Preparation Committee approved an agenda of items clearing the way for Thailand's nuclear development.

Programmes to be implemented between 2008-2010 include legal and international obligation, the infrastructural framework, personnel and technology development, and environmental safeguards and controls, Mr. Viraphol said.

The Nuclear Power Infrastructure Preparation Committee also approved setting up a nuclear-powered electricity development office which will be responsible for the construction of a plant in the next 13 years, he added. (TNA)-E111

Business News : Last Update : 15:17:24 8 December 2550 (GMT+7:00)

Monday, December 10, 2007

PB AIR – Thailand has commenced operations to Mae Hong Son.


10/12/2007

Effective 01 December, PB Air, (9Q), began a twice weekly service to Mae Hong Son (HGN) in the North of Thailand.

Mae Hong Son is on the Thai border with Myanmar, North West of Lampang, another PB Air destination in the North of Thailand, and Chiang Mai.

The flights will be operated by Embraer Jet aircraft with a seating capacity of 50 economy seats.

Schedule :

Date

Flight No.

Routing

Dep.

Arr.

Tue / Sat

9Q 834

BKK - HGN

12.40

14.10

9Q 835

HGN - BKK

14.45

16.15

PB Air operates also to the following 6 cities throughout Thailand as well as DANANG in Vietnam.

Thai Stock Market to establish cross-border platform

Cross-border platform due

The Thailand Securities Depository, the country's central clearing house for the stock market, expects to facilitate cross-border transactions by the fourth quarter of 2008.

The TSD also said it would upgrade its services to meet standards set under the Group of 30, an international body promoting clearing and settlement standards.

Other development plans include expanding TSD services to serve as a centralised clearing house for equity, debt and derivative instruments, cutting the clearing-and-settlement cycle to two business days from three, and reducing default risk and costs.

Sopawadee Lertmanaschai, the TSD chief executive, said that all clearing operations would be centralised with the Thailand Clearing House, a TSD subsidiary, starting in 2008.

She said services for annual shareholders' meetings would be expanded to allow electronic management of registration, voting, vote-counting, display and proxy voting.

The TSD also plans to boost the number of e-dividend users by 110,000 to 770,000 by the end of 2008, covering 70% of all shareholders.

The service allows shareholders to receive dividend payments from listed companies through direct fund transfers.

''TSD will achieve service excellence through rapid, integrated and proactive customer service,'' Ms Sopawadee said. ''We will be ready for cross-border transactions and international linkages, thus contributing to the Thai market's overall competitiveness.''

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A short profile of Thailand

Thailand Profile

Map of ThailandThe Kingdom of Thailand, covering an area of 514,000 square kilometers, lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, roughly equidistant between India and China. It shares borders with Myanmar to the west and north, Laos to the northeast, Kampuchea to the east and Malaysia to the south. Topographically the country is divided into four distinct areas: the mountainous North, the fertile Central Plains, the semi-arid plateau of the Northeast, and the peninsula South distinguished by its many beautiful tropical beaches and offshore islands.


Overview


Climate
Thailand has a tropical climate with three distinct seasons: Hot (March-May), Rainy (June-October) and Cool (November-February). Average temperatures are around 27° c.

People

Thailand has a population of about 60 million. Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroads, and thus strains of Mon, Khmer, Burmese, Lao, Malay, Indian and, most strongly, Chinese stock produce a degree of ethnic diversity.

Religion
The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, practised by more than 90 percent of all Thais. The remainder of the population adheres to Muslim, Christian, Hindu and other faiths, all of which are allowed full freedom of expression. Buddhism continues to cast a strong influences on daily life.

History
The Thai people originated in Southeastern China where, in 650 AD they founded the independent kingdom of Nanchao which thrived for 600 years. However, invasions and an unwillingness to be incorporated into mainstream Chinese society led to waves of migrations southward into what is now Thailand. Eventually several groups of Thai migrants united and established Sukhothai as their capital in the mid 13th century.

Grand Palace_2Although other civilizations had existed on Thai soil much earlier,Sukhothai was the first sovereign kingdom of Thailand. It flourished for over 100 years during which time the distinctive forms of Thai art, architecture and culture were firmly implanted.

At approximately the same time, King Mengrai, an ally of Sukhothai, was establishing the northern Lannathai Kingdom, centered on Chiang Mai which was founded in 1296.

In the mid 14th century a new and more powerful dynasty arose at Ayutthaya, an island city in the Chao Phraya River 85 kilometers north of present day Bangkok.

Quickly gaining in wealth, military might and prestige, Ayutthaya absorbed the former kingdom of Sukhothai and remained Thailand's capital for 417 years, holding sway over most of the country except the North.

Sanam LuangAyutthaya prospered steadily, reaching the height of its power in the 17th century when diplomatic relations with the West were established and trade agreements made with the leading European powers of the day. Weakened by internal conflicts, Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767.

After fleeing south, the survivors of Ayutthaya were rallied under king Taksin who founded a new capital at Thonburi and eventually succeeded in expelling the Burmese from Thai soil.

On the death of Taksin in 1782 Chao Phraya Chakri was proclaimed king and as Rama I was founder of the present Chakri dynasty. For strategic purposes, he moved his capital across the Chao Phraya River to Bangkok.

Wat MahathatUnder the Chakri Kings the borders of Thailand were consolidated and other parts of the country were gradually brought under the full control of the central government. Rama VI (King Mongkut, 18511868), secured ties with the West, especially with France and Britain, while at the same time, assuring his country's independence and avoiding the colonial fate of all Thailand's neighbours.

King Mongkut's successor, Rama V (King Chulalongkorn, 1868-1910), brought about many social and political reforms that firmly guided Thailand into the 20th century.

The absolute monarchy was to continue through the reign of Rama IV (1910-1925) and into that of Rama VII (1925-1934). But in 1932 a coup d'etat succeeded in bringing about a change to a constitutional monarchy. Rama VII accepted the situation although he abdicated two years after the coup.

The throne passed to the young King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) who was succeeded by his brother King Bhumipol (Rama IX), the present monarch.

Customs

Wat RatchanuddaOne litre of alcoholic beverage and 200 cigarettes, plus reasonable personal effects(such as one still camera, one movie or video camera, personal jewellery etc) may be brought in duty free and taken out on departure.

Narcotics, drugs, pornographic material and firearms are strictly prohibited. Unlimited foreign currency, traveller's cheques, money orders etc may be brought into the country, but any amount over US$10,000 must be declared on entry. Amount taken out of the country may never exceed that declared upon entry.

Visas

Most nationalities do not require a visa for a stay of up to 30 days provided they have a ticket for onward travel. Longer visits require a visa obtainable from Thai embassies and consulates. Tourists visas permit stays up to 90 days. For full details, contact your nearest Thai embassy or consulate.


Activities

Travel to Thailand

Most visitors arrive through Bangkok's Don Muang International Airport which is connected by daily flights to Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Flights, from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Hong Kong, land on a regular basis at Chiangmai, Koh Samui, Phuket and Hat Yai. Charter flights sometimes land in Bangkok, Phuket, and at U-Taphao for Pattaya.

Wat RatchanuddaRegular rail services link Singapore and Bangkok intermediary stops include Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth, Penang and major southern Thai towns.

Overland entry to Thailand is restricted to three road crossings on the Thai- Malaysian border, and the bridge spanning the Mekong River between Laos and Thailand at Nong Kai.

There are no regular steamship connection with Thailand. Cargo ships calling at Bangkok's Khlong Toei port sometimes have passenger cabin facilities. Cruise ships, such as Cunard's Queen Elizabeth II, periodically visit Pattaya.

Travel within Thailand Thai Airways International (THAI) operates a wide domestic network with daily flights linking virtually all major towns with Bangkok. Ground transportation is extremely comprehensive and comparatively inexpensive. There are convenient rail connections with the North, Northeast and South, while air conditioned coach and government bus services are operated from Bangkok to all town throughout the country. Rental cars are also readily available.

Recreation

TakrawThe Thais have adopted a number of modern forms of recreation such as golf, tennis, ice skating, and bowling. But the local sports of boxing and kite fighting are still very much the preferred spectator sport in Thailand.

Thai Boxing is the most popular and exciting spectator sport in Thailand, as well as a means of self-defense for the Thai people. It also holds the prestige of being the largest spectator "ring sport" in the world. Unlike the Western-style of boxing, Thai Boxers are allowed to use their feet, elbows, legs and shoulders. Bouts are held at the Ratchadamnoen Stadium and Lumpini Stadium. Thai Boxing may also be seen on television every day, usually in the evening. This is truly an unbelievable sport to see in person, yet the squeamish probably should not attend, as it is quite violent.

Wat SaketAn ancient local sport played and patronized by the Kings of Thailand for centuries is kite fighting, a contest which is held from March to April at the Sanam Luang in Bangkok. The Thais make kites in hundreds of different forms and colors. Each kite is huge in size and requires a number of people to fly it. Kites are classified as "chulas" (male) or "pukpaos" (female). The object of the contest is to force the opposition's kite to land in your half of the field while thousands of people cheer.

Takraw is another traditional Thai game. It involves the use of a takraw ball, five to six inches in diameter, made of rattan. Using their head, feet, knees or elbows, players hit the ball over a net to another team.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand



One of the more important public lectures of the year takes place in Bangkok this Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Sure to be a sellout, so if you plan on attending, get your tickets in advance.

Coup, Capital, and Crown
Two Books on Thailand Today

Thursday, December 13 at 8:00 pm
Cover charge for non-members: 300 Baht


With Thailand’s upcoming election looking ever more like a retreat into the past, two new books look at the legacy of the 1997 financial crisis, the Thaksin years, the 2006 military coup, and the resurgence of royalism. The FCCT is delighted to provide members and guests with an opportunity to hear the authors speak and to buy advance copies of their books at a discount.

The first book on the 2006 coup, edited by Kevin Hewison and Michael Connors, contains ten articles by Thai and foreign scholars. Published as a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Asia, it addresses several critical questions: How did the anti-Thaksin movement develop? What did Thaksin’s populism mean? How does the rural voter think? How did a royalist army develop? What was the impact of the Asian crisis on crown finances? Why was there rivalry between monarchy and Thaksin? And what should we conclude from Thailand’s on-off romance with democracy?

Thai Capital after the 1997 Crisis, edited by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, two veteran analysts of contemporary Thailand, will be published early next year by Silkworm Books. It examines the impact of the 19997 financial crash on Thailand’s business, society, and politics, tackling such issues as the survival of Thai conglomerates, how the Crown Property Bureau bucked the trend, and what happened to business and politics in Thailand’s provinces. Other chapters explore the auto industry, retail megastores, and mobile communications, as well as the new pattern of business, politics, and corruption.

The panel of speakers will include the following prominent academics and authors:

- Professor Kevin Hewison, University of North Carolina;

- Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit of Chulalongkorn University;

- Dr Porphant Ouyyanont of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University;

- Ukrist Pathmanand of Chulalongkorn University.

Both books will be on sale during this event at a discount to their retail price.

FCCT Newsletter Link

reposted from FriskoDude

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Four groups win Thai electricity tender

By Wilawan Pongpitak

BANGKOK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Four groups, including a joint venture between Glow Energy GLOW.BK and Hemaraj Land & Development HEMR.BK, offered the lowest bids for the right to produce 4,400 megawatts of power in Thailand, the Energy Ministry said on Friday.

The four beat 13 other groups, including Japan's Sumitomo Corp (8053.T: Quote, Profile, Research), Kansai Electric Power (9503.T: Quote, Profile, Research), Ratchaburi Electricity Generating RATC.BK, Thailand's largest power firm, and top oil refiner Thai Oil TOP.BK.

The winners, which will supply power between 2012 and 2014, were required to get government environmental clearance before September 2008.

Other bidders were non-listed Siam Energy, Power Generation Supply and National Power Supply, the statement said.

Gheco-one Co Ltd -- in which Glow Energy holds a majority 65 percent stake -- bid for a 660 MW coal-fired power plant in Thailand's eastern province of Rayong.

The remaining bids were National Power Supply's 540 MW coal-fired plant, a 1,600 MW natural gas plant by Siam Energy and a 1,600 gas plant of Power Generation Supply.

The tender is part of a 15-year power development plan ending in 2021 which calls for new capacity of 39,676 MW from natural gas, coal, nuclear power and dams in neighbouring countries.

Under the plan, Thailand needs the independent power producers (IPPs) to supply 12,600 MW during the 2011-2021 period.

The bidding, the first since 1994, attracted foreign investors eyeing Thailand's long-term demand for power and the government's lucrative power purchasing agreements.

About 50 bidders took part in the 1994 IPP licensing round and only seven were chosen, a Stanford University June report on IPPs showed.

Thai electricity demand was expected to rise an average 6.4 percent over the next 15 years and gross domestic product was forecast to grow at an average 5.0 percent a year, an Energy Ministry official said.

At 0926 GMT, Glow Energy shares were up 2.82 percent at a seven-week high of 36.25 baht and Hemaraj Land and Development shares were unchanged at 1.40 baht. ($1 = 33.72 Baht) (Writing by Ploy Chitsomboon; Editing by Michael Battye)

Thai October fuel demand up 7.4 pct year to year

BANGKOK, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Thai demand for oil products, excluding bitumen and liquefied petroleum gas, rose 7.4 percent in October from a year earlier to 599,815 barrels per day, a Reuters calculation based on government data showed on Thursday.

High world oil prices, reflected in domestic retail prices, continued to cause a decline in sales of premium gasoline, but demand for jet fuel continued to rise, Energy Ministry data showed.

Demand for 95-Octane gasoline fell 24 percent in October from a year earlier as more drivers switched to gasohol, which is subsidised, the data showed.

Sales of gasohol -- a 9:1 mix of 91-Octane gasoline and ethanol -- rose nearly 64 percent from a year earlier, according to the data on the Department of Energy Business Web site (www.doeb.go.th).

Demand for high-speed diesel rose 0.3 percent from a year ago, jet fuel demand up 7.5 percent and fuel oil demand 28.2 percent higher.

The government ended subsidies on gasoline in October 2004 and on diesel in July 2005 after spending 92 billion baht ($2.7 billion) over 19 months. UNIT: MILLION LITRES MONTH RON91 RON95 GASOHOL JPI HSDIESEL FUELOIL TOTAL OCT07 358.5 82.4 179.4 393.2 1,429.5 434.4 2,956.3 OCT06 388.9 108.7 109.6 365.8 1,425.7 338.8 2,752.9 %CHG -7.8 -24.2 63.7 7.5 0.3 28.2 7.4 (1 barrel = 158.99 litres) ($1 = 33.79 Baht) (Reporting by Ploy Chitsomboon; Editing by Michael Battye)

Suzuki to Build Thai Plant on Small-Car Tax Breaks

By Kiyori Ueno and Rattaphol Onsanit

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Suzuki Motor Corp., Japan's second- largest minicar maker, will build a 31.4 billion yen ($282 million) plant in Thailand as the government offers tax breaks to boost production of fuel-efficient cars.

The factory, due to begin operations in 2010, will make more than 100,000 cars a year by 2015, Hamamatsu, Japan-based Suzuki said in a statement on its Web site today.

Thailand has won more than $1.1 billion of investment from automakers including Suzuki, Nissan Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. since it pledged to cut taxes on small cars from 2009. Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy wants to make more fuel-efficient vehicles to limit oil imports and boost exports.

``The Thai government is seeking to create a center of minicar production in Southeast Asia as demand for small cars is rapidly growing,'' said Hirofumi Yokoi, a Tokyo-based industry analyst for CSM Worldwide. ``It's an extremely important project for Thailand.''

Suzuki's factory, to be built in the eastern province of Rayong, will produce cars for the local market and for export. The automaker already has a plant in Thailand making motorcycles.

Tax Cuts

Thailand plans to cut the excise tax on small cars to 17 percent compared with 30 percent for regular vehicles, Finance Minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn said on June 5. To qualify, vehicles must have engines of no more than 1.3 liters and be able to travel more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) on a liter of fuel, he added.

Suzuki will receive tax breaks on its investment plan, the Thai Board of Investment said in e-mailed statement today, without providing more details. Nissan will also get support for a plan to invest 5.55 billion baht ($165 million) to expand capacity at its Siam Nissan Automobile Ltd. unit, the state agency added. The plant will have a capacity of 120,000 vehicles a year, the board said, without providing a timeframe.

Ford and its Japanese affiliate Mazda Motor Corp. announced a plan for a $500 million small-car factory in October. Honda Motor Co. won approval for the small-car tax break the same month. The company and its suppliers plan to spend 6.7 billion baht on a new auto factory and on parts-making facilities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kiyori Ueno in Tokyo at kueno2@bloomberg.net ; Rattaphol Onsanit in Bangkok at ronsanit@bloomberg.net

WiMAX World Asia Conference coming to Bangkok Thailand

WiMAX World Asia Conference and Exposition


ImageDate: 18th - 20th March 2008

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Organiser: Beacon Events & Trendsmedia

15% discount for Developing Telecoms users to join WiMAX World Asia 2008

Beacon Events and Trendsmedia have joined forces to organize WiMAX World Asia Conference and Exposition on 18-20 March 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. This event will gather all the top key telecom players in Asia’s WiMAX ecosystem to share their strategic business and technical insights.

Over 80 speakers across multi-track conference will be featured, together with senior level plenary sessions, operator case studies, technical workshops, business planning and more! WiMAX World Asia will showcase the very latest applications and devices – come and meet the entire ecosystem only at WiMAX World Asia 2008!

Topics to be covered include:

  • Broadband Wireless Technologies to Bridge the Digital Divide in Asia Pacific
  • WiMAX Market Outlook for Asia Pacific Region
  • WiMAX Strategy for Expanding Broadband in Emerging Markets In Asia
  • Mobile WiMAX for Broadband Deployment Strategies
  • Mobile WiMAX Deployments Business Case Analysis
  • Delivering ROI from a WiMAX Deployment
  • User Experience Panel: How to Ensure WiMAX Delivers on Its Promise?
  • WiMAX Ecosystem Roundtable: Will the WiMAX Ecosystem Change the Game Forever?
  • Regulatory Roundtable: WiMAX Policy for Digital Inclusion & Economic Development

PLUS: Two afternoons of special interest tracks devoted to the high-growth Asia Pacific Markets:

  • Track 1: Emerging Market Deployments: Updates from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand
  • Track 2: Mature Market Deployments: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan

To provide the best learning opportunities to delegates, WiMAX World Asia will host two interactive Post Congress Worskhops:

  • Workshop 1: Business Models and Implementation. Asia Wireless Broadband and Mobile Internet Executive Summit. Led by the Yankee Group, this workshop will delve indepth into the key issues facing operators and vendors alike as they look to make technology choices and deploy in the high growth Asia market.
  • Workshop 2: Planning a Successful WiMAX Network Strategy to Achieve Optimum ROI. Led by the Yankee Group and select network integrators and optimization experts, this workshop will help delegates determine the best way to deploy WiMAX in their environment and benchmark with leading operators around the world.

For registration, please visit www.WiMAXWorldAsia.com, or contact customer service of Beacon Events on +852 2219 0111 or email info@BeaconEvents.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Please quote 487DEVTELEL to enjoy 15% discount when registering.

Thais seize 100 stolen luxury vehicles

BUKIT KAYU HITAM: Thai authorities have seized around 100 luxury vehicles worth RM4 million reported stolen in Malaysia since January.

Malaysian Consul to Thailand Sarifudin Abdullah said: “Based on the investigations of the Royal Thai Customs Department, we believe there is a gang stealing cars and smuggling them across the border.”

He received two stolen vehicles from the Thai Regional Customs Bureau 4 director Rakop Sirsupaat at the border entry point here yesterday.

Sarifudin said five vehicles, including a Honda CRV, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Harrier and two Toyota Innova, were handed to the Customs Department in August.

“The vehicles will be handed back to the owners, unless their insurance claims have been paid out,” he said.

The Thai Customs Department had agreed to hand over all the stolen vehicles during 10th Malaysia-Thai Joint Commission Meeting last June. Another 65 cars will be handed over in stages.

Donors provide $165.5 mln for Vietnam, Cambodia road repair

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), South Korea and Australia will provide US$165.5 million in loans and grants to Vietnam and Cambodia to improve the road system between the countries.

The move is aimed to “rehabilitate transport infrastructure to promote cross-border trade and support economic development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region,” an ADB press release says.

Of the total, Vietnam will receive $125 million in loans and $25.5 million in grants.

Vietnam will contribute $58.2 mil-lion and Cambodia will provide $3.7 million to complete funding for the road improvement, which is part of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Southern Coastal Corridor Project.

The GMS is composed of countries sharing the Mekong RiverCambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Southern Coastal Corridor runs for 924 kilometers along the Gulf of Thailand coast from Bangkok through Cambodia and ends at Nam Can in the south of Vietnam.

The project specifically involves the rehabilitation of 15 km of national road in Cambodia that links to the border of Vietnam and the improvement of 96.1 km of national highway in Vietnam, which includes the construction of two bridges across the Cai Be and Cai Lon rivers.

New cross-border facilities will also be developed.

The Cambodian section of the project is expected to be completed in June 2012 and the Vietnam section in December 2014.

Tata foresees Thailand as pickup hub

SANTAN SANTIVIMOLNAT

Tata Motors, India's largest and most fully integrated automobile company, is confident it can succeed in Thailand's pickup truck market, the world's second largest after the United States, despite tough competition from Japanese and American brands and the slow automotive market.

The company also pledged to make Thailand its manufacturing hub to serve the Asean market as many projects are in the pipeline, including an eco-car.

Tata Motors (Thailand) Co, a 70:30 joint venture between Tata Motors and Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant Co, would introduce a range of one-ton pickup trucks carrying the Tata name in the Thai market next March.

The Tata pickup trucks would be produced at Thonburi's assembly plant in Samut Prakan at full capacity of 35,000 units per year and generate at least 500 jobs.

The project represents about 1.3 billion baht in investment.

Tata Motors may expand into local production of other vehicles in the future.

The pickup trucks would come with 2.2-litre and 3.0 litre diesel common-rail engines, the second generation common-rail technology that saves fuel while delivering high performance.

The company hopes to sell at least 5,000 pickup trucks in the first year of operation and capture at least a 5% share in the pickup truck market over the next five years, said Ajit Venkataraman, the chief executive of Tata's Thai unit.

The Thai pickup truck market is dominated by Japanese brands, nearly 90% by Isuzu and Toyota, with the remainder by American companies.

Mr Venkataraman said he was confident that Tata's products would be well received in Thailand even though the company was a newcomer.

The company is also confident in its Thai partner, Thonburi, which has experience in assembling world class vehicles including Mercedes-Benzes and has a countrywide marketing network.

As well, Mr Venkataraman said the Thai government pledged to lend support to Tata Motors' automobile production, especially after the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Kosit Panpiemras to the Tata assembly plant in India.

''We studied and observed the markets in this region for several years. Thailand is a large auto market, and has high-quality suppliers, a very competent workforce and a suitable environment to nurture investment with good support from the government, '' he said

To instill confidence in Tata products, the company is trying to maximise localisation of components.

Initially, pickup truck production would use 45% local content and at least 55% from local suppliers, mostly Thai-owned and Indian companies.

''Thailand has an excellent supplier base. We have over 40 Thai suppliers who are partnering with us and they now have the opportunity to become Tier 1 suppliers to Tata Motors India as well,'' said Mr Venkataraman.

He said the company was working toward preparing the dealer network for launch in March.

''We will start with 20-25 outlets at the time of launch. We are careful about selecting our dealers.''

Friday, December 7, 2007

Suzuki to build 9.5 billion baht car plant in Thailand

TOKYO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Friday it would invest 9.5 billion baht ($280 million) to build a 100,000 vehicles-a-year "eco" car factory in Thailand that will start production in the summer of 2010.

The factory, to be located in the eastern province of Rayong, will build fuel-efficient cars being promoted by the Thai government to attract investment in export-oriented factories for small cars.

Bangkok this year revived the so-called eco car project, offering tax breaks, duty exemptions and other incentives if manufacturers invested a minimum 5 billion baht and produce 100,000 vehicles annually by the fifth year of operations.

At full capacity, Suzuki's new factory would have about 1,200 employees, it said in a statement. It plans to produce 5,000 cars in the first year, a spokesman said.

Suzuki has virtually no presence in Thailand, the world's biggest maker of one-tonne trucks, selling just 1,000 cars last year.

Most other Japanese automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote, Profile, Research) have also announced plans to build eco cars in Thailand.

Pinks and pastels: All the rage in Thailand

Thailand%20Dressing%20Like%20the2

The Thais love their leader so much, they're willing to wear bright acid colors for him.

Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej (the world's longest serving monarch) has made a fashion statement that resonates around his country -- he loves pinks and pastels.

Pink shirts have instantly become the must-have item in Thailand and apparently crowds have been spotted mobbing shops for pink and pastel-colored shirts.

Click here to read more about the pink craze in Thailand!

Honor thy king by wearing pink!

Thailand%20Dressing%20Like%20the.JPG

(Photos: AP)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Thailand's gas price rise impacts LPG use in vehicles

SUKHOTHAI - An increase in the ex-refinery price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by Bt1.20 per kilogramme which takes effect today will lower the use of LPG by motorists and simultaneously follow the market mechanism, Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amaranand said Saturday.

Mr. Piyasvasti said the increase in the ex-refinery price for LPG would automatically halt the financial contributions to the State Oil Fund, but would only affect each household by Bt9 per month on buying cooking gas, which he said was not much compared to the burden faced by the Oil Fund as it collected 40 satang per litre from diesel and gasoline consumers every time prices increased in the past.

Halting the LPG subsidy will also lower the use of LPG in cars, which rose 51 per cent in 2006 and another 29 per cent this year. If the rising trend continues, Thailand will have to import LPG at a higher price in the next two years.

Touching on the current falling oil prices in the world market, Mr. Piyasvasti said his ministry would closely monitor prices during the coming next week before deciding whether to lower retail oil prices in the Thai market.

He said one risk factor which continued to be watched was whether the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would honour its pledge to boost output in order to bring prices down.

The 12 members of OPEC are expected to decide next week on increasing oil production. (TNA)

Auto production in Thailand to jump to 2.1 million units in 2011

BANGKOK, Dec 1 (TNA) - A five-year master plan in Thailand's Automotive Industry Development, beginning in 2007, is designed to make Thailand an automotive production and distribution hub for Asia, according to a senior Thai official.

Thailand Automotive Institute president of Vallop Tiasiri said the draft master plan is now awaiting consideration of Kosit Panpiemras, deputy prime minister and industry minister.

Under the plan, Thailand's auto production will be increased from this year's 1.6 million units to 2.1 million units in 2011, said Mr. Vallop.

Thailand will also manufacture and export one-ton pickup trucks to oversea along with eco-cars.

Car manufacturers are also expected to invest several hundreds billions of baht on automotive spare parts production, and are believed to boost personnel efficiency and technology.

The continued appreciation of Thailand's baht currency against the US dollar has impacted local competitiveness and, according to Mr. Vallop, this country needs to further develop and boost production efficiency.

Plans to encourage auto spare parts manufacturers to invest overseas, including Vietnam, Indonesia and India, are being considered seriously as they could be used as Thai spare parts hubs and to boost competitiveness, he added. (TNA)-E111

Thailand to use old airport for international flights

AoT: more international flights at Don Mueang

(BangkokPost.com) - The Airports of Thailand (AoT) has announced plans to resume international flights from Don Mueang Airport to relieve air traffic congestion at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Former senator Jermsak Pinthong, spokesman of the AoT board, revealed that a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of reopenig Don Mueang to international service and it was agreed that airlines will be allowed to decide for themselves whether they wish to use the old airport.

Also discussed at the meeting were plans to construct a second phase of Suvarnabhumi Airport as well as the second phase of Phuket international airport. AoT has claimed that traffic is heavily congested at both these ports.

Issues touched upon at the meeting will be discussed again with Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen, who is expected to raise these issues before the weekly cabinet meeting.

Thailand's new gold exploration licences on hold due to green concerns

YUTHANA PRAIWAN

The government has suspended consideration of all 60 applications for gold exploration and production licences in Phichit and Phetchabun provinces amid concern about the environment, according to Anusorn Nuangpolmark, director-general of the Primary Industries and Mines Department.

He said the decision was supported by Industry Minister Kosit Panpiemras, and authorities would now seek in-depth environmental impact assessments of the prospective gold fields.

In addition, he said, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) wanted a detailed study of the economic benefits of gold mining for the country before approving further exploration. Mr Anusorn said the decision would delay related activities of other state agencies, such as awarding land rights for mine activities.

The 60 licence applications involve land totalling 400,000 rai. Fifty-three of the applications are from Akara Mining Co, an Australia-based mining company, which has reportedly encountered some protests from local communities.

Akara Mining has been carrying out commercial production at its gold mine straddling Phichit and Phitsanulok provinces since 2002, and is seeking more gold reserves to support production.

Mr Anusorn met last week with Australian Ambassador William Paterson to discuss the lengthy delays in processing the licence applications.

He said the Industry Ministry was responding to concerns expressed by communities as well as local activists that the environmental impact of gold mining could outweigh the economic benefits to communities and the country.

Another senior official from the ministry said other mining licence applications would likely to be delayed as well, including proposals for potash and diamond mines in the country's northern and northeastern regions. He noted that these mining operators still needed to resolve conflicts with local communities.

In any case, the final say on new mining licences is now likely to rest with the next government since the NESDB study is expected to take several months.