BANGKOK, 19 May 2014,  - The government is ready to discuss fresh poll plans with the Election Commission (EC) this week, while admitting that the fresh election might not be held on July 20th as planned. 

BANGKOK, 19 May 2014,  -The Pheu Thai Party is skeptical about the claim of the People’ Democratic Reform Committee Secretary General Suthep Thugsuban to surrender on Tuesday May 27th, if his planned 1-week-long mass rally fails to fulfill his group’s objective. 

The Bangkok of Thailand (BoT) says Thailand has a very strong economic foundation despite the heavy costs of political unrest.

Talking about the recent economic developments and outlook of the Thai economy, Governor of the Bank of Thailand Prasarn Trairatvorakul said that, in 2013, Thailand did not benefit from exports as much as expected, thanks to the weak global economic recovery and domestic supply constraints. Furthermore, tourism was seriously affected by the political crisis. Economic performance in the first quarter of 2014 was also unsatisfactory.

However, Dr. Prasarn pointed out that a second quarter of negative growth is unlikely to occur, as the latest economic data for March 2014 suggests that growth may have reached the lowest point. Furthermore, a so-called “technical recession” would occur only if economic fundamentals simultaneously deteriorated, which is a lengthy process. To date, this situation does not apply to Thailand.

He further explained that the country’s financial volatility is well-contained amidst the economic slowdown. Exchange rates have been relatively stable and international reserves have remained high, reflecting certain degree of confidence among foreign investors and appropriate exchange rate management. Inflation expectations are firmly anchored, allowing monetary policy some room to address the downside. Thailand benefits from this stability because consistent macroeconomic policy commands credibility from the public.

He added that the unemployment rate in Thailand is low and stable, leaving households with enough purchasing power to start spending again when the economy rebounds. Greatly adding to the strength of domestic purchasing power is the export sector. Global recovery has become firmer, as recent economic indicators reflect the more resilient recovery in advanced economies.

The overall impact for Thailand is that exports are still expected to be the country’s main engine of growth in 2014. The risk to watch out for concerning exports stems again from the monetary policy changes of advanced economies. These policy changes could cause an economic slowdown in ASEAN and China, further affecting Thai exports to these countries. However, this type of risk is still remote. Dr. Prasarn stated that other fundamentals included Thailand’s location and workforce advantages. Thailand is located in the center of ASEAN and has well-developed logistics. It serves as a hub for trade with the CLMV countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam. This presents an opportunity to access fast-growing markets.

As for the workforce, Thailand’s semi-skilled labor fills an important niche in the world market. The return to net inflow of foreign investment since the beginning of April 2014 indicates the return of foreign interest in Thailand. However, Thailand’s structural improvement has a long way to go. Furthermore, economic fundamentals may be eroded if political uncertainty and global risks intensify.

BANGKOK, 17 May 2014  – The political situation weighed on the economy and resulted in a slowdown in banks' lending in the first quarter of the year, according to the Bank of Thailand.

Anupap Kuvinichkul, senior director of the BOT's Financial Institutions Strategy Department, disclosed that lending by commercial banks expanded 9.8% in the first quarter. This was less than the 11% expansion during the same period of the previous year. Business loans grew 9.4%, whereas lending to SMEs expanded 11.7%. This was the first quarter of reduced growth, after a period of continued expansion over the last 2-3 years.

Consumer loans grew 10.7%, which was a lower than the 12.9% growth experienced in the fourth quarter of last year. At the same time, the quality of loans was trending lower – non-performing loans have increased to 279.8 billion baht, or 2.3%.

Mr. Anupap, however, indicated the 9.8% expansion of bank loans still exceeded the country's GDP expansion, and should not prove to be an obstacle toward the recovery of the economy.

BANGKOK, 16 May 2014  – The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) Index went up today, closing at 1,405.26. 

BANGKOK, 17 May 2014, - The Industry Ministry is planning to position Thailand as the production hub for medical equipment and health products in the ASEAN region, by 2020. 

SURIN, 17 May 2014,  - The truth seeking committee investigating the case of the rooftop collapse of Siam Global House in Surin Province, has indicated that the building's lack of structural integrity may have been the cause of the incident on May 13th that killed six people.

Deputy Governor of the province Thaworn Kusonchat told the media of progress in the case after leading the committee to investigate the site, saying that the length of the collapsed canopy was 70 meters. He said the first 20 meters was supported by poles welded to the wall, but the remaining 50 meters was only supported by blocks of bricks without any other concrete structure to hold the canopy more firmly.

The committee also discovered that the structure had been used to display a large billboard, the weight of which may have contributed to the collapse. Surin Police officials in charge of the case revealed that the department is currently examining the evidence, adding that the building owner could be subjected to legal action for causing deaths resulting from a neglect of safety measures, if there is substantial proof that the building didn't conform with structural standards.

Representative of Siam Global House Public Company Limited however claim that the incident was an accident caused by a raging storm on the day.

BANGKOK, 17 May 2014  – The court has approved bail for Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, one of the 30 leaders of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) wanted for insurrection, under the condition that he remain inside Thailand and refrain from instigating turmoil.

BANGKOK, 16 May 2014  – The Senate has encouraged the government to cooperate in solving political problems and finding a new Prime Minister who has full authority to administer the country.

After days of discussions with various sides about possible exit strategies for Thai politics, Deputy Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai today issued an official statement, urging the government to help tackle the political problems by allowing reformation to take place in all aspects. He stressed that there must be a new Prime Minister and Cabinet members who had full power to run the country while hoping to receive more concrete cooperation from the current interim Cabinet without any conditions set.

Mr Surachai said the Senate would take into account all the suggestions collected so far in its decision making. He also hinted that, if necessary, the Senate might have to convene a special meeting to find the new premier based on principles of constitutional monarchy and democracy.

Meanwhile, Mr Surachai explained that the Senate needed to step in as the Election Commission and the government had not been able to settle their disagreement over issues surrounding the upcoming general election. With such political uncertainty, he said the Senate could not remain idle.

The Deputy Senate Speaker revealed that all sides participating in the recent talks shared the same view that urgent actions were needed as economic and social impacts would be substantial if the political crisis was left unattended.

BANGKOK, 17 May 2014 – The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority's (BMTA) new regulation calling for all buses to keep to the left lane and for them to stop at all bus stops came into effect on Friday, and many instances of violation were observed. 

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