General Prayut asked top CEOs to work with the government and try to avoid conflict at this time. He said cooperation between all parties was the only course right now for helping Thai people overcome the current crisis which he acknowledged had left the economy in a ‘volatile’ situation. It comes as a top Federation of Thai Industries official is warning the government that the sole remaining economic engine driving the economy, exports, is now being hampered by rising infection levels and the costs responsible employers are facing to keep testing their workforces.
The Thai Prime Minister held a video meeting on Wednesday with top business leaders across the kingdom in which he asked for their help in dealing with the current crisis but repeated his commitment to fully reopen the country to foreign tourism, a commitment he made in mid-June before the latest wave driven by the Delta variant emerged which has since overtaken Bangkok and twelve other key provinces. The online meeting occurred on a day when over 13,000 infections were reported with 108 deaths including an unfortunate man who fell in the middle of a Bangkok street on Tuesday at 10 am and whose body was left there waiting for an ambulance for five and a half hours after he died with paramedics in attendance at 5 pm. He later tested positive for COVID-19.
On Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha met leading executives from King Power and the PTT Oil Group at Government House before he moved to the Thai Khu Fah Building in the complex where he conducted an online meeting with 40 leading CEOs in the kingdom to discuss the COVID-19 crisis the country is facing.
Addressing the business leaders and while, at the same time, looking for suggestions, the PM was adamant that his government was tackling the current situation and would lead the country through it.
PM restates commitment from June that Thailand will fully reopen to foreign tourism within 120 days
During the meeting, the prime minister was particularly certain that Thailand’s plan to reopen to foreign tourism which was announced by him on June 16th last when he stated that the country would fully reopen within 120 days, was still the goal of his government.
General Prayut said that the country’s vaccination campaign, despite problems and difficulties, was proceeding with up to 14.8 million doses now administered with the pilot reopening plans having gone ahead for Phuket and Koh Samui a part of the foreign tourism reopeing plan.
Business CEOs talks of turning a crisis into an opportunity to upgrade agriculture, transport and digital services between public services and firms
The PM said his government would try to help sustain purchasing power during the latest challenge which he cautioned and accepted was a volatile situation for the economy.
The business leaders, in response, outlined plans to the PM on how the crisis could yield positive results and also a potential upside for Thailand.
They emphasised an opportunity to modernise agriculture and to improve transportation throughout the kingdom as well as building a stronger digital infrastructure both within government and the private sector.
The PM, at the same time, requested that the business leaders, who included representatives from the Thai Chamber of Commerce, work with the government in tandem.
He specifically urged them to avoid conflict at this time so that the government and industry could help the people of the country more effectively.
Vaccination efforts the key priority executives tell the PM as they proposed a plan to administer 80,000 doses a day in Bangkok from 25 centres
Mr Sanan Angubolkul, the Chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand, thanked the government leader for taking the time to address the business community.
A key request among several initiatives the business leaders called for, was more urgency in pushing forward the vaccination drive.
They outlined a plan to administer at least 80,000 doses a day in Bangkok, the epicentre of the current outbreak, at 25 key centres throughout the capital.
Prayut tells critics that his government is active but must operate both within the law and budgets
General Prayut used the meeting to indirectly address his critics outside Government House.
At the outset of the briefing, he stated that the government and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) as well as the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) were working to deal with the crisis facing the country and had not run out of ideas or steam.
However, he underlined that any action taken by officials must be within the law and the framework of government budgets.
120 days reopening of Thailand will proceed but the cabinet will have the final say on all matters
He again reiterated his pledge to reopen Thailand in 120 days but stressed that the government will listen to anyone with concerns.
He said his promise will be kept but also explained that all such measures will ultimately be a matter for the government and the cabinet to decide upon collectively.
‘I would like to confirm the 120-day opening of the country, which has already started in Phuket and Samui. This will continue to expand to other areas where the government and the private sector are determined to move forward in the country for the happiness of all Thai people. We are ready to accept and deal with concerns on every issue. This will be discussed with the Cabinet and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in the future,’ said the prime minister.
Record number of infections on Wednesdays with bodies found on the streets of Bangkok over delays
This comes as Thailand announced another record of over 13,000 cases on Wednesday, with one man dying on a public road in the Phra Nakhon district on Tuesday at 5 pm as rescuers tried to revive him.
The man, with no identification, had been found lying in the middle of a city centre road for 7 hours beforehand since 10 am.
After he expired, his body was marked with traffic cones on the road while an ambulance was awaited for another 5 and half hours until 10.30 pm approximately when the emergency vehicle finally arrived and took it away.
The man’s corpse was later tested for COVID-19 and found to be positive.
Two other bodies were also found on the streets of Bangkok on Tuesday and Wednesday as ambulances experienced excess demand for their services.
They were found at Ratchadamnoen Avenue near Democracy Monument and in Klong Toey. Both tested negative for the virus.
The body on Ratchadamnoen Avenue was identified as 59-year-old Seree Ruengroterit from Rayong.
Federation of Thai Industries warns that exports could be hampered by a deteriorating virus situation
The rising emergency and escalating lockdown measures have drawn a warning from Kriengkrai Thiennukul, the Vice Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, that the one area of the economy that has been making progress, exports, could now also be hampered by the pervasive Delta variant of COVID-19 in Bangkok and key provinces at the centre of Thailand’s industrial base.
Recently, the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking had raised its estimate for the growth of exports from Thailand this year to between 8 and 10% as the economies of both China and the United States boom after the pandemic in those countries appears to have been brought under some level of control.
‘If the government cannot control the spread of the virus, the country may miss its 8-10% export growth target,’ Mr Kriengkrai cautioned.
Employers setting up in house testing laboratories at prohibitive costs to keep production on track
He also said that large producers have now had to set up test laboratories for staff to detect and contain the disease, something which is simply unsustainable going forward.
Mr Kriengkrai said currently such tests are costing factory owners ฿1,500 per test and some workers need to be tested up to 3 times a week.
He called for the government to supply more fast testing antigen kits to the industry as a stop-gap measure.
‘Operators have to keep conducting Covid-19 tests or they cannot run their business. That’s why we badly need rapid antigen test kits.’
The Federation of Thai Industries has speculated that this current wave may not be able to be brought under control in Thailand until December and could consequently have a rising negative effect on the ability of Thai business producers and exporters to deliver the output required to drive the economy.
Top doctor says infection numbers should begin to decline in 30 to 60 days with public health controls
A top Thai epidemiologist, Dr Chakkrarat Phitthayawong-anan, was more positive.
He told the press that if the government’s lockdown measures in Bangkok and surrounding provinces are enforced properly, the surge of infection could begin to decline sometime between the end of August and the end of September.
Any way you look at it, the Thai government, Thai business, Thai economy and Thai public have a battle and a rough ride ahead.