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Thailand promises peace “within a year” in Muslim south

Thailand’s military government vowed to bring peace to the Muslim-dominated south within a year, despite stalled peace talks aimed at ending an fighting that has cost thousands of lives in the past decade.

Bahar Karaman

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Thailand’s military government vowed to bring peace to the Muslim-dominated south within a year, despite stalled peace talks aimed at ending an fighting that has cost thousands of lives in the past decade.

Sporadic violence has killed more than 5,700 people in Thailand’s Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia, where resistance to Buddhist rule has existed for decades and resurfaced in January 2004.

Despite alarming levels of bloodshed, the insurgency has been under-reported and under-researched, barely registering on the international community’s radar screen

In the latest violence last Friday, one woman was killed and at least two injured in separate bomb attacks launched by suspected militants at three restaurants in Pattani province, police said.

“We are doing all that we can. We will try to bring peace within a year,” Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

He blamed the attacks on fighters retaliating for recent arrests by the authorities.

“The attacks happened because we managed to catch many people, including leaders, of groups involved in instigating acts of violence,” Prawit added.

The violence comes as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seeks to present an image of greater effectiveness in containing the resistance, based in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces in Thailand’s so-called “Deep South”.

According to counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen, the violence in Thailand’s deep South – which has now claimed more than 5,700 lives – was some of the most intense in the world between 2004 and 2007, “second only to Iraq and Afghanistan during this period.”

Yet, despite such alarming levels of bloodshed, the insurgency has been under-reported and under-researched, barely registering on the international community’s radar screen, largely because the conflict cannot be reduced to a sound bite-friendly narrative of identifiable bad guys and good guys.

Narathiwat in the Deep South to Be Developed as a Special Economic Zone

The southern border province of Narathiwat will launch many projects to promote trade, investment, and tourism, in response to the Government’s policy to develop Narathiwat into a special economic zone.

Narathiwat Governor Nattapong Sirichana said that the Committee on the Special Economic Development Zone Policy had listed Narathiwat in the second phase of the plan to establish Thailand’s special economic zones.

Under the plan, Narathiwat will become a special economic zone in 2016. The Governor said that the province was preparing projects to link local transportation routes with Malaysia and Indonesia. The projects include the development of a railway line from Su-ngai Kolok district in Narathiwat to Parsemus Station in Kelantan, road construction along the railway line, and the construction of the second bridge across the Kolok River, connecting Su-ngai Kolok with Rantau Panjang town in Kelantan.

A product distribution center will be set up in Tak Bai district. Narathiwat also plans to launch a project to develop a central agriculture market for southern exports in Yi-ngo district. Some investors have shown interest in developing a “rubber city,” a halal park industry, and alternative energy in this province.

Regarding border tourism promotion, the Governor said that the idea of establishing a duty-free zone had been raised for discussion. The distinctive local culture will be emphasized in boosting tourism. There are about 800,000 people in Narathiwat, 82 percent of whom are Muslim, 17 percent Buddhist, and one percent other religions. More Muslim tourists, especially those from other ASEAN countries, will be urged to visit Narathiwat, which boasts not only natural beauty, but also cultural attractions.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Narathiwat Office, the tourism marketing in Narathiwat in the 2014 fiscal year was satisfactory, as the province attracted more tourist arrivals. In 2015, Narathiwat will celebrate the 100th anniversary of being granted its present name. Many activities will be organized to mark this special occasion, when the province expects to welcome more visitors.

TAT will launch a program to promote Narathiwat as a “Must Visit City,” since it has a special story that visitors should know about. One of Thailand’s southernmost provinces, sharing a border with Kelantan in Malaysia, Narathiwat is well-known for its border town of Su-ngai Kolok, which welcomes a great number of Malaysian and Singaporean visitors coming for trade and tourism each year.

The plan to develop Narathiwat as a special economic zone is expected to help stimulate the local economy, which has been affected by unrest in the deep South. It will also provide more job opportunities and generate more income, so that local residents do not have to leave their hometown for employment overseas. More importantly, the plan will help ease the security problem and it is hoped to bring lasting peace to the southern border provinces.

 

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Economics

Sluggish vaccine campaign threatens Thailand’s economic recovery

The latest baseline scenario issued by the bank of Thailand predicts a GDP growth of 2%, assuming that vaccine procurement and distribution reaches 100 million doses this year and leads to herd immunity in the first quarter of 2022.

Olivier Languepin

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The Bank of Thailand (BoT) slashed again Thailand’s economic growth forecast for 2021 for the second time this year targeting a mere 1 to 2% growth, depending mainly on the procurement and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

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Asean

COVID-19 Vaccine Roll Outs in ASEAN Live Updates by Country

Thailand is currently expecting vaccines to be delivered in mid-2021. The doses would cover 13 million people in a population of about 69 million. Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute signed a non-refundable advance market commitment contract worth 2.38 billion baht (US$79 million) with AstraZeneca to reserve the supplies

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ASEAN coronavirus Covid-19 live updates by country

Brunei

Brunei has joined the global Covax scheme and is expecting to have the COVID-19 vaccine in Q1 2021, having sourced enough supplies to cover 50% of the population. Discussions are on-going with other suppliers.   

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  • Brunei recorded one new case on May 8, bringing the total to 330 cases amid three deaths.
  • Brunei saw one new case on May 7, taking the total to 229 cases amid three deaths.
  • Brunei recorded one new case on May 4, taking the total to 228 amid three deaths.

Cambodia

Cambodia is expected to import vaccines from both China and Russia. China’s vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials while Russia has already commenced production. Australia has offered financial support to aid vaccine coverage in several southeast Asia countries including Cambodia.  

  • Cambodia recorded 538 new cases on May 8, bringing the total to 18,717 cases amid 114 deaths.
  • Cambodia recorded 558 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 18,179 cases and 114 deaths.
  • Cambodia reported 650 new cases and four deaths on May 6, bringing the tallies to 17,621 cases and 114 deaths.

Indonesia

Indonesia has commenced vaccinations with just over nine million doses being given to front line workers from last month. China’s Sinovac is in discussions with Indonesia to provide supplies, however, the Government faces difficulties with a large population of 268 million and price sensitivity at Sinovac’s estimated costs at 200,000 rupiah (US$20) a dose.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry’s Disease Control and Prevention Director-General Achmad Yurianto said that vaccinations would only be provided to citizens aged 18-59. The vaccine has also been required to pass halal certification prior to use and it is uncertain how the country can source enough vaccines to reach a sizeable part of its population.  Australia has stated it will also provide financial support to solve these issues.  

  • Indonesia recorded 6,130 new cases and 179 deaths on May 8, bringing the totals to 1,709,762 cases and 46,842 deaths.
  • Indonesia saw 6,327 new cases and 167 deaths on May 7, bringing the tallies to 1,703,632 cases and 46,663 deaths.
  • Indonesia reported 5,647 new cases and 147 deaths on May 6, bringing the totals to 1,697,305 cases and 46,496 deaths.

Laos

Laos has been trialing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and is also in discussions with China about acquiring supplies. 

  • Laos recorded 28 new cases on May 8, bringing the total to 1,233.
  • Laos saw 28 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 1,205.
  • Laos saw 105 new cases on May 6, taking the total to 1,177.

Malaysia

Malaysia is to provide vaccines free of charge to its nationals, but foreigners will need to pay for the treatment, according to the Malaysian Minister of Health, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who has signed a deal with Pfizer for 12.8 million doses.

These will be administered in two stages of 6.4 million people each, with the program to commence in Q1 2021. The country aims to inoculate between 80-100% of its citizens. 

  • Malaysia reported 4,519 new cases and 25 deaths on May 8, taking the tallies to 436,944 cases and 1,657 deaths.
  • Malaysia saw 4,498 new cases and 22 deaths on May 7, bringing the tallies to 432,425 cases and 1,632 deaths.
  • Malaysia recorded 3,551 new cases and 19 deaths on May 6, taking the totals to 427,927 cases and 1,610 deaths.

Myanmar

Myanmar is seeking assistance from the Gavi and Covax programs to acquire vaccines, while Australia is also providing financial relief. At present, the Government aims to treat 20 percent of the ‘most at risk’ in the country with vaccines. The Government is struggling with finances and logistics and is also under US sanctions, while cases are surging. The Government has banned the celebration of Christmas and other seasonal celebrations.   

  • Myanmar recorded 31 new cases on May 8, taking the total to 142,934 amid 3,210 deaths.
  • Myanmar saw 29 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 142,903 amid 3,210 deaths.
  • Myanmar recorded 16 new cases and one death on May 5, bringing the total to 142,874 amid 3,210 deaths.

Philippines

The Philippines aims to commence vaccinations from June 2021 and expects to inoculate about 25 million people (about 25 percent of its population) over the course of the year. The country has been badly affected by the virus and has the second-highest rate in Southeast Asia.

The business community has reacted, more than 30 local companies signed an agreement to purchase at least 2.6 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca in the country’s first such deal to secure coronavirus vaccines, ten days ago. They plan to donate a large part of the doses to the government for its planned vaccination program and use the rest to inoculate their employees. 

  • The country saw 6,979 new cases and 170 deaths on May 8, taking the totals to 1,094,849 cases and 18,269 deaths.
  • The Philippines reported 7,733 new cases and 108 deaths on May 7, bringing the tallies to 1,087,885 cases and 18,099 deaths.
  • The Philippines saw 6,637 new cases and 191 deaths on May 6, bringing the totals to 1,080,172 cases and 17,991 deaths.

Singapore

Singapore has been working on producing its own ‘Lunar’ vaccine, in a joint venture between the US company Arcturus together with the Duke-NUS medical school. It is a single dose, mRNA shot, developed from genetically engineering COVID-19 genes into an otherwise harmless virus. This technique is marginally safer than other vaccines which rely on dead Covid-19 material to provoke an immune response. The vaccine is expected to be available from Q1 2021. High-risk personnel will receive the vaccine first in a process to be determined by the government.     

  • Singapore recorded 20 new cases on May 8, taking the total to 61,331 cases amid 31 deaths.
  • Singapore saw 25 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 61,311 cases amid 31 deaths.
  • Singapore saw 18 new cases on May 6, bringing the total to 61,286 cases amid 31 deaths.

Thailand

Thailand is currently expecting vaccines to be delivered in mid-2021. The doses would cover 13 million people in a population of about 69 million.

Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute signed a non-refundable advance market commitment contract worth 2.38 billion baht (US$79 million) with AstraZeneca to reserve the supplies. Discussions are also on-going with Oxford University in the UK to secure a vaccine that could be available in Q1 if trials are completed in time.   

  • Thailand reported 2,419 new cases and 19 deaths on May 8, taking the tallies to 81,274 cases and 382 deaths.
  • Thailand recorded 2,044 new cases and 27 deaths on May 7, taking the totals to 78,855 cases and 363 deaths.
  • Thailand reported 1,911 new cases and 18 deaths on May 6, taking the tallies to 76,811 cases and 336 deaths.

Vietnam

Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), a division of Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, has signed an agreement with Medigen Vaccine, a Taipei, Taiwan-based vaccine company to secure the supply of 3 million to 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021. Medigen is currently conducting Phase II studies of the vaccine, co-developed with the USA’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Taiwan and Vietnam with a view to a Q1 2021 rollout.  

Vietnam is also working on producing its own vaccine, with the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC) in Nha Trang City, partnering with New York City-based Icahn School of Medicine and the global health non-profit organization PATH. Phase 1 trials are already underway in Vietnam, while Phases 2 & 3 will be conducted at the beginning of 2021. The institute plans to submit documents for approval to the health ministry as early as April next year and claims to be capable of producing 30 million doses a year, expecting that a national vaccine could be distributed to the general population in October 2021.

  • Vietnam saw 15 new cases on May 8, taking the total to 3,152 cases amid 35 deaths.
  • As of May 7, 2021, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health confirmed a total of 3,091 cases of COVID-19. However, 2,560 of the affected patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Vietnam has also recorded 35 deaths due to the pandemic. The latest community transmission cases have been reported from Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, Thai Binh, Bac Ninh, and Da Nang among others. 16 local cases are linked to the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi’s Dong Anh district.
  • As of May 6, 2021, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health confirmed a total of 3,030 cases of COVID-19. However, 2,560 of the affected patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Vietnam has also recorded 35 deaths due to the pandemic. The latest community transmission cases have been reported from Hanoi’s outskirts district of Dong Anh.

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Economics

Thailand’s Consumer Confidence Drops to Record Low in April

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTTC) estimated an economic loss of 400-600 billion baht if the outbreak continues beyond this month

National News Bureau of Thailand and Headline Editor

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BANGKOK (NNT) – The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTTC) said consumer confidence hit a record low in April, dropping to 46.0 from 48.5 in March, dented by a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

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