AMCHAM Briefing: October week 2-3, 2020

Andrew J Wood

BANGKOK : Last week’s cabinet meeting approved the extension of the state of emergency to October 31 to control the Covid-19 outbreak, as proposed by the National Security Council. Here is an update on new developments and proposals in Thailand. 

💠Myanmar’s Covid-19 at the Thai Border

Dr. Tanarak Plipat, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, said that the Covid-19 situation in Myanmar directly affects Thailand’s efforts to contain the pandemic.  

He also said that if illegal migrants were allowed in, Thailand might see its coronavirus cases rise to 6,000 cases in total.

According to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Myanmar’s death toll is the third highest in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia and the Philippines.
The CCSA outlined 5 groups of foreign visitors who will be allowed to enter the country:
•Foreign athletes for specified international events. 
•Non-Immigrant Visa holders.
•Long-stay tourists on the Special Tourist Visa (STV).
•APEC Card holders.
•People who wish to have short and long-term stay in Thailand.
The CCSA also set quarantine guideline for THAI Airways pilots and crews, working on repatriation flights.

Please note that foreigners seeking short and long-term stay in Thailand must prove that they possess at least 500,000 Baht in their bank accounts for the past 6 consecutive months.

💠Thailand to Further Reopen for Investors

The Thai Government announced its plan to relax travel restrictions for potential investors, who enter the country for short-term stays and business deals, as the groups have a high potential to help stimulate the ailing economy.  Given their short-term stays, special measures are needed for the group of travelers.

The relevant government agencies are mapping out their immigration plans for potential visitors and will submit them to the Prime Minister.

The announcement came after foreigners with work permits and some groups of tourists are allowed to enter the country under strict disease control measures. 

The CCSA has approved visas for 11,000 businesspeople and foreigners with work permits thus far. 

Initially, the investors must have passed a Covid 19-test, conducted within 72 hours prior to their arrival, and are required to have at least 100,000 U.S.Dollars worth of Covid-19 health insurance.

💠Four Ambassadors Outline Ten Measures to Boost Thailand’s Business Competitiveness

Four Ambassadors to Thailand; H.E. Mr. Michael George DeSombre of the United States, H.E. Mr. Allan McKinnon of Australia, H.E. Mr. Georg Schmidt of Germany, and H.E. Mr. Brian Davidson of the United Kingdom; jointly wrote an op-ed proposing ten measures to increase Thailand’s business competitiveness, help its economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and, if fully implemented, possibly lift Thailand into the top ten of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index. 

💠Phuket Postpones Reopening to Foreign Tourists

Phuket has postponed its reopening to foreign tourists until the end of the Vegetarian Festival. 

The postponement came after a meeting between local officials and tourism operators, who decided that the delay will create confidence in the island’s safety measures among Thai tourists who will visit Phuket for the festival during October 17-25.

According to Deputy Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, Dr. Kajornsak Kaewcharat, the first group of 150 Chinese tourists will arrive on the island after October 25 instead of October 8.

The CCSA will later determine when the island will be fully ready for the return of foreign tourists, based on a proposal by Phuket provincial authorities.

💠Medical Hub Board to Propose 4 Destinations for Medical Tourists

The Medical Hub Board meeting, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, will propose to the Cabinet to allow direct international flights for tourists who will stay in quarantine spa and resort locations, in a move seen to facilitate medical tourists.

Per the Board’s suggestion, Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai and U-Tapao airports should be included in a list of direct destinations for medical tourists, joining the likes of Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports.

A CCSA sub-committee approved in principle the use of spas, resorts, and wellness centers as alternative quarantine locations.
Phuket is to be developed as a medical hub for the south.

💠Covid-19 Vaccines

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Panprapa Yongtrakul, announced that the National Vaccine Committee has approved the reservation of Covid-19 vaccines, which will cover half of the country’s population and costing the government 2.93 billion Baht.

Out of the total amount of reservation supply, 20 percent will be done via COVAX; a global mechanism designed to guarantee a rapid, fair, and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines; and 30 percent of the supply will be directly sealed with vaccine manufacturers.

Each person will need two doses of a vaccine.

Medical personnel will be the first group of people to get vaccinated, and the next recipients will be prioritized based on their immediate need for the vaccines.

💠Public Health Ministry to Ask CCSA To Reduce Mandatory Quarantine

The Ministry of Public Health plans to propose to the CCSA a gradual reduction in the mandatory quarantine period for foreign tourists, from 14 to 10 days, and then 7 days, respectively. 

The reduction criteria will be in line with the Covid-19 situation in the visitors’ home countries.
According to Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Kiartiphum Wongrachit, the Diseases Control Department will implement the proposed reduction, by taking national public safety into consideration.

Meanwhile, Dr. Thares Karatnairaveewong, Director-General of the Health Service Support Department, announced that Koh Samui in Surat Thani, Phuket, Buri Ram, and Chon Buri are chosen as alternative local state quarantine centers for long-staying tourists. 

Altogether, there are 84 state quarantine locations to accommodate foreign tourists.

💠The Government Encourages Vendors to Join Co-pay Scheme

The government announced that its co-pay scheme, intended to cut the public’s cost of living, has received applications from more than 160,000 shops and vendors.

According to Deputy Government Spokesperson, Trisulee Trisaranakul, Krungthai Bank will deploy its staff to assist local and street vendors to register for the co-pay campaign, allowing their shops to receive government subsidies on eligible purchases made via the g-Wallet application. 
However, participating shops must not belong to a convenient store franchise.

The government’s co-pay campaign will be opened for public registration on October 16.Successful applicants will each receive a total of 3,000-Baht allowance for the entire campaign.

💠 Full economic recovery in 2 years

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy, Supattanapong Punmeechao predicted that the Thai economy will fully recover from the Covid-19 crisis in 2 years, largely due to government measures, and a low debt-to-GDP ratio.

The government measures include the various assistance measures for 33 million people, the provision of soft loans for the general public and businesses, and a debt restructuring campaign. Also, a new economic stimulus package will be revealed before the year’s end.

Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary General of NESDC, Danucha Pichayanan, assured the public that the new stimulus package will not cause Thailand’s public debt to GDP ratio to exceed the 60 percent threshold.  

💠 Southern Economic Corridor

According to Deputy Government Spokesperson, Ratchada Thanadirek, the government is forging ahead with the development of the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC), that covers the 4 upper southern provinces of Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Si Thammarat. The project commences in parallel with the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

The SEC’s development framework consists of 1) Western Gateway; 2) Royal Coast and Andaman Route; 3) Bio-Based and processed agricultural products; and 4) Green and Culture.

The government also approved the Ministry of Transport’s plan to conduct preliminary assessment, an EIA study, and a model analysis of the “Land Bridge” development project. The project connects the Gulf of Thailand (under EEC) with the Andaman Coast (under SEC), thereby increasing Thailand’s import/export capacity and connectivity with BIMSTEC nations, the Middle East, and Europe.

💠Migrant Workers Already In Thailand Get Grace Period

According to Minister of Labor, Suchart Chomklin, migrant workers, whose employment contract expires from next month onwards, can remain in the country, without having to return to their country of origin and re-apply for employment.
The newly announced grace period comes in response to a fear of a possible Covid-19 outbreak from migrants who might contract the disease from their home country.

The duration of the grace period will be considered and approved by the Cabinet in due course.

And according to the latest announcement of the Immigration Bureau, foreigners stranded in Thailand can apply to extend their visa anytime from now until October 31.

The permission date of all visa types will start counting from November 1.

💠Teachers’ Group – Schools Must Be Safe for Students

A group of teachers gathered at the Ministry of Education to explain their stance on the safety of pupils on school premises, demanding that all relevant government units seriously take the issue into consideration. 

💠Thailand to Be ASEAN’s Biggest Herbal Exporter

The Ministries of Public Health, Agriculture and Commerce will cooperate to promote Thailand as the biggest herbal exporter of ASEAN, with a targeted sales worth 360-billion-baht next year.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Thai herbal exports are rising, especially to the US, China, and Vietnam.

💠 Deadline for Submission of Claims in THAI Bankruptcy Reorganization Case

A deadline of November 2, 2020 has been set for the submission of creditors’ claims in the bankruptcy reorganization case of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited.

💠 Thailand Supports the U.N. in Facing Challenges

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered a speech, via a video call, to the 75th United Nations General Assembly, whose theme this year is  “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting Covid-19 through effective multilateral action”.

In the call, General Prayut affirmed Thailand’s support for the U.N. in coping with challenges and to achieving sustainable development. 

Moreover, the Prime Minister also promised assistance for the development of Covid-19 vaccines and encouraged the U.N. to take the lead in ensuring that all countries have equal access to Covid-19 vaccines and medicines.

Sources: Thai News Agency, National News Bureau of Thailand, Royal Thai Government, Thai PBS World, ASEAN Secretariat.