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Thai Govt Blames Predecessor For Bad Ties With Myanmar

BANGKOK (AP)--Thailand`s new government on Tuesday blamed its predecessor for unfriendly relations with Myanmar, and expressed the hope that an upcoming bilateral meeting would help mend fences.

Thailand and Myanmar have been exchanging hot words during the last month after their troops clashed at the border. The verbal war has grown with Thailand`s protests that Myanmar is doing little to stop ethnic drug armies in its territory from flooding Thailand with methamphetamine drugs.

Defense Minster Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said age-old rivalries between Thailand and Myanmar increased after the previous government of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai criticized Myanmar`s ruling military junta for suppressing democracy.

Chavalit, known to be close to Myanmar`s generals, said relations remained sour because of the "policy of not talking" adopted by Chuan`s government.

"Myanmar had invited Chuan to talk, but he turned it down," Chavalit said. "I don`t know the reason ... but the attitude added to the problems, which resulted in deterioration of relations," Chavalit said.

The new government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra took office last month after defeating Chuan`s party in the Jan. 6 elections.

Thailand reopened its northern border with Myanmar Monday after a monthlong closure following border clashes, but Myanmar kept its gates closed in an apparent rebuff to the Thai olive branch.

Chavalit said he hoped that a meeting of their regional border committees scheduled for April would help improve ties. The talks have been suspended since 1998 when Myanmar refused to participate.

Chavalit said Myanmar has confirmed that it will host the meeting this year in Kentung town.

The border disputes are only part of the problems between the two countries. Thailand`s main frustration is over the rising use of methamphetamines, which officials say are largely being produced by the United Wa State Army.

A former Myanmar rebel group, the Wa army signed a cease-fire with Yangon in exchange for virtual autonomy in a border area with Thailand where it is known to operate amphetamine laboratories.

Thai and U.S. narcotics officials say Myanmar authorities are turning a blind eye to the United Wa State Army.

On Monday, the Myanmar junta said Thailand was making the Wa army a "scapegoat" for its problems and asked it to clean its own house first by cracking down on crime syndicates that buy the drugs.

Thaksin said in response Tuesday: "We are sweeping our own house but our effort must be harder because the dust keeps coming from our neighbor."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires 13-03-01
Floods in southern Thailand expected to persist

2001-03-13 04:14:57 GMT+00:00 (Reuters)

BANGKOK, March 13 (Reuters) - Flooding in Thailand`s southern provinces is expected to persist in coming days due to further heavy rains, weather oficials said on Tuesday.

"Scattered showers with isolated heavy rain and flash floods are expected in eastern and upper southern Thailand," the Meteorological Department said in a statement.

Officials said at least one person had died as a result of flooding this month.

Transport from Bangkok to southern provinces has been partially disrupted, with some rail links severed.

But flights to major cities and resort provinces such as Krabi and Koh Samui in southern Thailand were not disrupted by the flooding, an airline spokesman said.
Thailand Newspaper Highlights March 13, 2001
BANGKOK, March 13 Asia Pulse - Highlights of today`s newspapers:

- Banpu, the country`s largest coal producer and distributor, is expanding its coal-mining business in Indonesia in anticipation of surging demand in the region.

- Thai equities and currency markets slipped yesterday largely on regional concerns, with the baht trading as low as 43.73 against the US dollar in line with decline of the yen.

- Banking regulations are expected to be relaxed later this month to encourage banks to lend more to small and medium-sized enterprises.

- Malaysia`s trade and industry minister has defended her country`s decision to protect its domestic auto industry until 2005, two years later than its partners in the Asean Free Trade Area.

- The Securities and Exchange Commission has formally approved a framework for retirement mutual funds, touted as a new savings alternative for employees.

- Two research vessels owned by the Fisheries Department, Chulabhorn and Mahidol, will team up with Mukmanee, the only deep-sea tuna vessel in Thailand, to make trawling the Indian Ocean more viable.

- Bangkok Aviation Fuel Services has received approval to list on the Thai share market, according to SET president Vicharat Vichit-vadakan.

- The new national holding company will have sweeping powers to appoint managers and directors of state enterprises, according to a draft law being finalised by the Finance Ministry.

- The Consumer Confidence Index in February fell slightly to 80.7 points from 81.6 in January, according to the Centre for Economic and Business Forecasting of the Thai Chamber of Commerce University.

- Thailand has won a contract to sell 150,000 tons of 25 per cent grade rice to the Philippines under a government-to-government contract. The volume is half the total import quota set by Manila for this year, according to the Foreign Trade Department.

- Krungthai Thanakit Finance said the annual shareholders` meeting would be held on April 12. The meeting would review and approve the company`s delisting plan. Its board on March 9 approved no dividend for 2000.

- While European consumers shun red meat fearing mad cow and foot and mouth diseases, Siam Steak Group says it`s business as usual in Thailand.

- Despite the proliferation of Internet cafes around the country, progress on public Internet services run by state agencies has been slow, prompting managers to seek ideas to make them more competitive.

- Golden Harvest Entertainment Co, a major Hong Kong-based film distributor, yesterday urged Thai film producers to cash in on Asia`s growing media channels as programme suppliers.

- Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc may cancel its tender offer if it does not acquire at least 50 per cent control of Royal Orchid Hotel Plc, owner of the five-star Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Bangkok.


Reform on The Rocks

Resistance to the dissolution of one of the country`s most lucrative monopolies, whisky distilling, is symptomatic of the entrenched power of vested interests both in business and the bureaucracy


By Shawn W. Crispin/BANGKOK

FEER - Issue cover-dated March 15, 2001


CHAROEN SIRIVADHANABHAKDI is not Thailand`s most celebrated monopolist because he gives Thai consumers a good deal. Rather, until recently, it`s because Charoen`s Sura Maharas company held the only government-granted concession to produce downmarket white whisky, the spirit of choice for most provincial Thai revellers. And though Charoen definitely delivers what the people demand--Thais guzzled over 55 billion baht ($1.3 billion) worth of his product last year--the whisky baron`s brand of business conduct is not necessarily what`s best for the country`s future economic health.

Charoen`s 15-year monopoly over white-whisky production is a product of Thailand`s past development model, where politicians hand-picked concessionaires who dutifully lined their pockets for the privilege. But when Thailand`s economic crisis hit in 1997, the many market distortions and skewed investment incentives that grew from such patronage politics came to light. Still in the reform spirit, in 1999 new competition laws were passed in an attempt to level Thailand`s tilted playing fields. It was hoped that freer competition would make Thailand`s markets more efficient and spread business opportunities more liberally across the less-politically-connected small and medium-sized enterprises while giving Thai consumers a better deal.

Nice in theory, difficult in practice. Charoen has launched a campaign of resistance to liberalizing the local whisky market. Because of high new barriers to entry imposed by the bureaucracy and Charoen`s flooding the market with his whisky, nobody has dared challenge the whisky baron`s dominance. His resistance is the most glaring example yet of a broader backlash against proposed liberalization measures for many of Thailand`s still-captive domestic markets. Judging by the vested business interests lined up behind the new government, that process will likely slow further. Hopes that the economic crisis would lead to greater economic democracy are fading.

"The macro-view is that Thailand is moving backwards," says Bob Broadfoot, managing director of the Economic and Political Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong. "Since the crisis, Thailand had only a brief experiment with opening its markets--it announced a lot of opening measures but really only implemented a few."

That`s because money and political power still trump the law. Of the few Sino-Thai tycoons still financially sound, Charoen probably still has the most of both. Charoen is plowing his monopoly profits into an empire of properties and industrial holdings of pre-crisis proportions. He has expanded his Imperial Group of hotels, most recently opening the posh Athenee Hotel in central Bangkok in addition to his recent purchase of the five-star Plaza Hotel in New York. His acquisition of the financially troubled Pantip Plaza, Thailand`s leading computer retail and software centre, has given Charoen a low-risk foothold into Thailand`s new economy. Hedging his liquor business, Charoen has expanded aggressively into beer, launching his own low-grade Chang beer while holding a major stake in the local distribution of Carlsberg. He successfully won the bidding for all 12 of the previously government-held whisky distilleries.

Charoen uses his wealth wisely. His influence and patronage flow to the very apex of Thailand`s power pyramid. For example, former Prime Minister and chief Privy Councillor Prem Tinsulanonda sits on the company`s board. Charoen has been known to make grants to foreign universities on behalf of the royal family. When the nation mourned the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej`s mother in 1996, Charoen contributed to the funeral ceremonies. That loyalty has won Charoen bureaucratic protection. When a local commentator from Puujatgahn, a daily Thai newspaper, aired an unflattering radio report about Charoen, including allegations of tax evasion, the military-controlled station pulled the plug on the programme.

Tullaya Sirikulpipat, managing editor of Puujatgahn, says Charoen`s clout has grown immensely since the crisis because he has rescued hundreds of politically connected debt-ridden Thai companies and projects. Most notably Charoen bought the financially troubled Pantip Plaza from his former tax collector and liquor-industry regulator, Chalermchai Vaseenont, former director general of the Ministry of Finance`s excise department. "These deals are patronage in exchange for returned favours," says Tullaya.

There are indications of bureaucratic paybacks. After the official announcement of liberalizing the market, a string of tough new environmental regulations for constructing new plants was passed by the industry and finance ministries, making it prohibitively expensive for new players to enter the market. Sura Maharas won the bidding for all 12 of the previously government-held distilleries it ran on concession, allowing it to avoid the new regulations.

The minutes of a January 11 meeting of the Senate`s Economic, Commercial and Industrial Committee seen by the REVIEW say "[Excise Department officials] have received allowances and special rewards from the monopolistic firm [Sura Maharas]" and that "the new regulations are clearly meant to help and protect" Charoen`s interests. Incoming Industry Minister Suriya Juengrungruangkij has promised a review of the new regulations.

Potential competitors are crying foul. "We cannot build a new factory with these conditions," says Chutchai Wiratyosin, senior deputy manager of Boon Rawd Brewery in Bangkok. "The bureaucracy has tried to stop us at every step," says Kasemsant Weerakun, managing director of United Winery and Distillery, who hopes to enter the white-whisky market later this year.

The barriers are high. Charoen has pulled out all his old-style, anti-competitive stops, jamming the provincial liquor-distribution network with his products to deter new entrants. In the third quarter of 2000, Charoen`s ramped-up whisky production bumped the national manufacturing production index by nearly 6%, making enough whisky to supply and, if necessary, to drive away new competition by dumping his product on the market at below cost for the next four years. Thanit Thamsukati, principal adviser to Sura Maharas, admits as much: "Everyone knows we have a large stock and so newcomers are scared to come into the market."

After Charoen tied sales of his whisky products to his new Chang beer--distributors were required to take eight cases of beer for every case of whisky--potential competitor Boon Rawd cried foul and took their plea to the untested Fair Trade Commission last October. And though the commission found that Sura Maharas` actions were "inappropriate," it ruled in favour of Charoen on a legal technicality. Insiders say outgoing Commerce Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, future head of the WTO, remained silent during the closed-door deliberations in which there was neither a vote nor consensus on the decision. Boon Rawd has filed an appeal, alleging political interference in the decision. Sura Maharas denies the charges. "We have no political influence at all," retorts adviser Thanit. "They know they cannot win the market--that`s why they are crying."

Analysts point to a structural flaw in that the commission is overseen by the Commerce Ministry, not the Justice Ministry and that many of the commissioners represent major industrial groups that have vested interests in protecting their own market dominance. For instance, the commission`s chairman at the time, Suchai Jaovisidha, worked closely with the food-processing giant CP Group. Meanwhile Federation of Thai Industries President Tawee Butsuntorn worked for years as former executive vice-president of Siam Cement, another market-dominating Thai conglomerate.

That seemingly collusive precedent worries pro-reformers. "Many business interests are already trying to abolish the law because it will interrupt their old business practices," says Sutee Supanit, a professor of economic law at Thammasat University who was instrumental in drafting the 1999 free-competition law. "The Sura Maharas case was sensitive because so many Thai companies maintain their monopoly power through their distribution systems." Thanit insists Sura Maharas is "helping the nation" through its annual 20 billion baht tax payment.

Local economists beg to differ, claiming the bureaucracy`s emphasis on protecting big business abandoned the interests of the average consumer and entrepreneur decades ago. "Who really advocates free competition in this country? I can`t think of anyone," says Deunden Nikomborirak, an economist at Thailand`s Development Research Institute, a Bangkok-based think-tank. "People are afraid to be pro-liberalization as though it were some kind of moral issue," she adds.

That moral misses the economic point. "If the domestic Thai economy is not based on principles of free competition, then we won`t be able to compete in the future in international markets," says Thammasat`s Sutee. "Many of our industries are not improving because they expect to be protected by the government." Without a fundamental change in bureaucratic culture, the playing field in Thailand will remain tilted in favour of tycoons like Charoen. So long as that`s true, the rich will get richer, while the country`s future economic prospects just get poorer and poorer
Retirement Mutual Fund to Boost Thailand`s Stock Market
March 13, 2001

Thailand`s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has agreed to allow the setting up of a Retirement Mutual Fund (RMF) that attracts long-term investors with tax incentives, which in turn would boost the flagging stock market.

One difference between the RMF and the existing mutual fund is that the trust holders-- employees of companies-- will be allowed to withdraw money and receive all dividends after they turn 55 years of age.

In the event of the trust holder`s death, his or her family would receive the money.

Individual income of up to 3,000 baht (US$ 6,867) annually in RMFs will be exempt from tax.

Tax Waiver

Only the unit trust holders who invest in the fund for five years or more receive the tax waiver. RMF`s unit trust holders will start enjoying the tax exemption for income earned in 2001.

An RMF can be set up with a minimum of 10 members.

The Retirement Mutual Fund plan is one of the SEC`s 11 proposed measures to increase liquidity in the beleaguered stock market.

Local asset management companies are expected to start working on the setup for the first RMFs soon after the announcement of the regulation in the official Royal Gazette, which is due within a month.

And that should give the retirees funds to invest in the stock market.

Big Banks ready to sell NPLs

staff writer bday.net 13.3.01

TWO major banks plan to sell a total of 125-billion-baht worth of non-performing loans (NPLs) to the government-run Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC).

Thai Military Bank (TMB) plans to sell NPLs worth 25 billion baht to the TAMC, the bank`s president Somchai Sakulsurarat said yesterday.

TMB currently has about 63-billion-baht worth of NPLs, or 21 percent of total lending, Somchai said. About 25-billion-baht worth meet the government`s eligibility criteria for purchase by its TAMC, he said.

However, Thai Military Bank will wait several months before reaching a final decision on how much it will actually sell to the government, he added.

"Effective bad-loan management by the TAMC will help strengthen the debtors, most of which are manufacturers. If we help return these manufacturers back to normal business levels following debt restructuring, demand for new loans should increase. This will boost bank lending," Somchai said.

"We also want to see the qualifications of the debt-management team at the TAMC. A capable team will ensure the best possible gains from bad-loan management," he said.

Meanwhile, a source at Bangkok Bank said it has about 100-billionbaht worth of its total NPLs of 250 billion baht set aside for the TAMC. The reason the amount of NPLs at BBL was so high was because the bank had been active in issuing syndicated loans, the source said.

Kavee Chukitkasem, an analyst with Capital Normura, said the bank`s NPL sale will allow it to retrieve its loan-loss provision and use it as capital, freeing it from raising fresh capital.

The three-week-old government has said it will establish a national asset management company to acquire 250 billion baht-worth of bad loans from private banks and another 1.1 trillion baht of bad loans from Krung Thai and other state-owned banks.

"I`m confident that this will comprehensively solve Thailand`s bad loan problem," said Thanong Bidaya, the former finance minister who heads the committee set up to advise the government on its NPL plan.

The 250 billion baht that the government will pay to private banks equals the value of the bad loans on their balance sheets, after loan-loss provisions were set aside by the banks for their problem loans.

Under the new program, banks are expected to bear the first 20 percent of all losses. The government has agreed to share the following 20 percent of losses with the banks equally. Subsequent losses are to be borne by the TAMC.

However, Thai Rak Thai MP Rungruen Pitayasiri said that although the TAMC is now in place, foreign investor confidence in Thai banks will remain shaky, owing to the fact that losses have been accumulating since 1999.

"The TAMC may help clean up bad loans, but it can`t bring banks back to profitability" he said.
Thailand to host talks on global food fight

staff writer bday.net 13.3.01

THAILAND is set to host a meeting of agricultural ministers that aims to end the price-dumping of agricultural products on the world market, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday.

The plan was unveiled after a meeting between relevant agencies seeking measures to resolve the agricultural issue. The meeting was attended by executives and specialists from the Charoen Pokpand conglomerate.

"It gives a chance for Thai ministers to meet with their counterparts. Thailand is ready to host the first round of these meetings in order to avoid price-dumping of each other`s products to stay more competitive" Thaksin said, adding the problem causes farmers in the country to suffer.

Thai ambassadors and commercial attaches from various countries are assigned to prepare a database of each country`s agricultural products, both exported and imported.

The plan includes bartering for products, and the formulation of strategies for tapping new markets, while introducing Thai agricultural products to world markets.

So far a defensive approach used to solve the issue has resulted in state intervention in a pricing-support scheme, Thaksin said, adding those measures failed to help the farmers.

As a result, the concerned authorities became committed to formulate an aggressive approach to meet challenges in the future.

"We will form the strategic committee on agricultural products comprised of the Commerce Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Agricultural Ministry, and Finance Ministry. They will meet in advance at least 10 weeks before specific agricultural products enter into the markets," Thaksin said.

"The committee will find ways to control the market`s mechanism so farmers will be able to sell their products at a price not less than production costs. The surplus products from household consumption will be earmarked for export in order to draw excess agricultural products out into the market system. After a while, every thing would enter into the system, providing more benefits to farmers," he added.

Currently, agricultural products such as rice and tapioca require government support to help with the agricultural price-dumping problem, Thaksin said.

According to Suvarn Valaisathien, Deputy Commerce Minister, the state will seek more export markets for its agricultural products.
Asean firms `must merge to compete globally`

Tavivoot Chulavachana

editor at large bday.net 13.3.01

ASEAN companies should form conglomerates to compete with global corporations, Dato Seri Rafidah Aziz, the Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry said in Bangkok yesterday.

"For Asean firms to realize collective strength," she said. "Asean firms should combine to create Asean conglomerates for synergy, and to collaborate in identifying common opportunities on the global market."

She said Asean governments can only do so much to steady the platform for trade, but the private sector must spearhead efforts to utilise opportunities Asean creates.

"There is no point talking about globalisation if Asean small to medium enterprises aren`t big enough to go global. Discussions at the government level regarding Asean can only create a framework for the private sector," she said.

Aziz said Asean economies have begun "part of the recovery," and said Malaysia`s strong GDP growth of over 8 percent in 2000 was based on the country`s currency pegging system, which left Malaysian firms, "breathing space and no currency risks." Unlike Thailand, Malaysia kept its currency pegged after the Asian financial crisis, and didn`t enter the International Monetary Fund`s rescue scheme.

The country currently has no limit on foreign ownership for investment projects, but said the policy may change in the future. That, according to Aziz, has meant an influx of investment into the country. In 2000, Malaysia attracted about US$12 billion of investments, mostly from the US.

On bilateral trade with Thailand, Aziz said Malaysia`s trade regime is one of the most liberal in Asean.
Es ist schon erstaunlich, der SET hat sich fast behauptet. Es gab nur einen leichten Rueckgang um 2.11 Punkte auf 302.76. Und das nach den Vorgaben aus den USA.

MfG BodyG
Foreigners Sold Net THB400.8 Mln Of Thai Stocks Tuesday

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Foreign investors were net sellers of 400.8 million baht ($1=THB43.712) worth of Thai stocks Tuesday, out of a total of THB6.43 billion traded, the Stock Exchange of Thailand said.

Figures are in baht; some are rounded; percentages are calculated from unrounded numbers:

Bought % Total Sold % Total
Foreign 1,411.5 mln 21.95 1,812.3 mln 28.18
Local Retail 4,851.2 mln 75.44 4,380.5 mln 68.12
Institutional 168.2 mln 2.62 238.1 mln 3.70

Note: Foreign activity represents transactions by both institutions and individuals, local retail activity is by Thai nationals only, and institutional activity is by domestic institutions, SET member-brokers and sub-brokers.

Im Bankbereich hatte die geringsten Verluste BBL. Die Locals - 0.62%, die Foreigns -0.88%. Groesster Verlierer bei den Locals war BOA mit -2.44% gefolgt von TFB mit -2.04%.
Bei den Foreigns war es TMB-F mit -3.61%, gefolgt von SCB-F mit 2.54%.
Was mal wieder das Ganze Analystengesuelze in Frage stellt.

MfG BodyG
Dow Jones Newswires 13-03-01

$250M Trade Deficit In January

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand is expected to post a trade surplus of $92 million in February compared with a deficit of $250 million in January, government spokesman Yongyut Tiyapairat said Tuesday.

Yongyut told reporters that the figure was given by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawtra during Tuesday`s cabinet meeting. The figure must be based on finance ministry data and is slightly below earlier estimates for a $150 million surplus in February.

Yongyut said that Thaksin told the cabinet that even though the trade data have improved since January, the situation is still not very good and more efforts are necessary to boost exports. Thaksin assigned Deputy Prime Minister Pitak Intrawitayanunt to look into ways to encourage investment and promote the use of locally produced goods to reduce import needs.

Thai exports fell 3.9% on year in January as a result of lower external demand for Thai products due to the global economic slowdown. At the same time, imports surged 31.3% leading to the country`s first trade deficit in 11 months.
BOT: Thailand faces higher external risk

Filed at 02 : 56 pm (THLD time)

BANGKOK, March 13 (The Nation) -- Thailand is facing a greater risk from external financial turbulence, driven by a sharp decline on Dow Jones and Nasdaq, according to the Bank of Thailand.

Such decline is expected to take a heavy toll on Thailand`s ongoing economic recovery, which has not been broad-based yet, said BOT`s head of economic research department Atchana Waiquamdee.

However, despite greater risks seen hanging on the horizon, she is optimistic that the baht would remain stable against the US dollar. She did not elaborate further.
New clue shows C-4 bomb planted in VIP cabin of THAI plane
BANGKOK, Mar. 13 (TNA) – An investigation team of the National Police Office has found a new clue indicating that a C-4 bomb was plotted in VIP cabin of a Thai Airways International (THAI) plane which blew up on March 3, according to TNA reporter.
Gen. Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, who heads a government special panel on following up the Boeing 737-400 aircraft explosion case, told reporters last night after a nearly two-hour meeting with other members of the panel and authorities concerned that the police investigation panel found new evidences in the plane wrecks, indicating that there were two swift blasts—one was triggered by a C-4 bomb that was planted in the VIP cabin, and the other was triggered by a leak in an oil tank beneath the VIP section.
“The C-4 bomb appears to be planted in the VIP cabin. It triggered the first blast that caused a leak in an oil tank beneath the VIP cabin, leading to the second explosion which took place swiftly. The two blasts took place nearly simultaneously”, he elaborated.
The two blasts were followed by the last one which was triggered by leaked fuel from the aircraft’s two wings, and took place about 8-12 minutes later, he stated.
“The police investigation team now focuses on a half-hour period before the explosions took place, or between 02:15-02:40 p.m., which are considered the most likely timeframe for culprits to plot the C-4 bomb”, he noted.
All people entering the plane during the period would be questioned, and all related events during the period would also be scrutinized, he said.
The new findings were the result of the police investigation team’s thorough checks of remains of the aircraft, and discovered RDX substance, which is a key chemical component of a C-4 bomb, just only inside passengers’ cabin, Gen. Chaovalit disclosed.
RDX substance that was found beneath the passengers’ cabin came from the explosions above, and none of the chemical substance was found in plane parts beneath the VIP cabin, he pointed out.
Earlier, the police investigation team announced that the C-4 explosive was planted in either a compartment, or a space near an air-conditioner beneath the VIP cabin.
Gen. Chaovalit said that the new clue led the police investigation panel to a clearer picture but narrower scope.
“Now, the police team can focus its work on only the half-an-hour period and those who involved in events during the period”, he stressed.
Gen. Chaovalit said, however, that the investigators had not cut out all possible motives behind the failed sabotage act, and had yet dropped out all other traces that could be causes of the incident.
“I still cannot say when the investigation will be concluded and whether it will be wrapped up by March 15, but Premier Thaksin will be informed of the latest development of the case on March 15”, he stated.
The Boeing 737-400 plane, flight TG 114, which was bound for the northern province of Chiang Mai with 149 passengers, including Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his 11-member VIP team, exploded and swiftly caught fire around 02:40 p.m. on March 3
. The aircraft was burnt up to the extent that the fuselage collapsed, killing a THAI male steward and injuring seven other crews. (TNA)
Last Update : 3/13/01 : 8:22:00 AM(GMT+7)
Cabinet endorses in principle debt suspension for farmers
BANGKOK, Mar. 13 (TNA) – The cabinet has approved in principle a proposed plan of the Ministry of Finance to implement a three-year debt suspension for local small-scaled farmers who owe Bt100,000 each to Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).
Deputy Prime Minister Pongpol Adireksarn, told TNA that the endorsement was made at a weekly cabinet meeting today.
He said, however, that details and procedures of the scheme would be discussed at a meeting of a government panel in charge of overseeing the debt suspension policy, which is headed by him, on Thursday before the plan would be presented to the cabinet again next week.
“I’ll call for a meeting of all parties concerned, including representatives of the Finance Ministry, the Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives Ministry, and BAAC, on Thursday to discuss details and procedures of the scheme before presenting it to the cabinet for further consideration next week”, he stated.
The discussion would include issues on whether the project should be expanded to cover small-scaled farmers who owe to local cooperatives, not to BAAC, and on whether farmers who owe to BAAC more than Bt100,000 could be allowed to enter the scheme, he disclosed.
Deputy Finance Minister Varathep Ratanakorn told TNA that a total budget of around Bt7.7 billion annually would be used to support the plan, based on the original objective of assisting only small-scaled clients of BAAC with no more than Bt100,000 debts each, but if the new proposals were included, the earmarked budget would be increased to Bt14 billion.
Based on the original objective, there would be about two million farmers entering the scheme, but the number would rise to around 2.8 million if the new proposals were approved, he stated.
A separate budget of around Br380 million would be used to manage the project, he noted.
Varathep said that he believed the new scheme could be launched on April 1 as earlier planned.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Somkid Jatusipitak said that the government wanted to maintain the original objective of the scheme, as the proposed expansion could consume too much budget. (TNA) .
Last Update : 3/13/01 : 6:35:08 PM
PM:Thai-Myanmar relations remain sound at national level
BANGKOK, Mar. 13 (TNA) – Bilateral relations between Thailand and Myanmar remain sound at the national level, although some problems may exist at the local level, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said here on Tuesday.
Thaksin told TNA that Thailand would treat Myanmar as an allied nation with sound relations because bilateral ties between the two countries at the national level had remained normal.
“We have no problems with Rangoon at the national level, though some problems may exist at the local level due to suspects on drugs problems along the border”, he said.
“ We have evidences that the ethnic Red Wah group has involved in drugs problems in Thailand. We will not let the issue be prolonged, but the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs will seek clarification and guarantee from Rangoon that it gives no support to the Red Wah group”, he elaborated.
Thailand wanted cooperation from Rangoon in dealing with drugs problems, said the Thai leader.
Thaksin made the remarks in response to reporters’ question on the Thai government’s position after Myanmar has failed to re-open its Tachilek check point as agreed, though local Thai authorities have re-opened Mae Sai check point since yesterday.
The Thai leader said, however, that it could be possible that Myanmar’s delay in reopening its Tachilek check point was due to the Thai military’s reveal on the construction of a new town in Yon, a border town of Myanmar just across the Thai border in the North, by the Red Wah group to produce narcotics for sale to agents in Thailand.
The issue was disclosed at a landmark conference on drugs problems by government leaders and all parties concerned at the northern province of Chiang Rai during the weekend.
After the disclosure, Rangoon has denied that its Yon town is a drugs production hub, and hit back that Thailand should “sweep it home clean first” before accusing others.
“We have already cleaned our home, but there has still some dust flowing in from nearby areas”, Thaksin argued.
He said, however, that misunderstanding could occur, and leaders of the two countries would have to hold talks to discuss the problems, as the relations between the two nations have remained sound.
Meanwhile, Gen. Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister said that he expected situations would improve after a fresh round of talks of the Thai-Myanmar joint border commission at local level in April; if not, he would pay a visit to Rangoon to hold talks with Myanmar military top leaders, according to a news report of T.V. Channel 3.
“Leaders of the two countries have not met and talked to each other for a long time. This may lead to the problems”, he indicated.
Gen. Chaovalit reportedly has good personal relations with the Myanmar junta’s top leaders.
Thai Foreign Minister Surakiat Sathirathai then told TNA that he would discuss the problems with Myanmar at an ASEAN meeting next month so that the problems would be addressed, and confidence could be built up with enhanced bilateral cooperation, particularly in narcotics prevention and suppression. (TNA)
Profits fail to help out e-stocks

THE rapid change in the fortunes of the US high-tech sector has prompted local stock analysts to recommend selling or holding off on most Thai electronic stocks, despite the impressive 2000 results announced in recent weeks.

The Thai electronic-sector index has dropped more than 20 per cent since January 25. Yesterday the electronic index shrank to 549.52, down from 569.88 on Monday, as it continued to fall victim to the US Nasdaq composite index, which on Monday fell below 2000 for the first time since December 1998.

"We have recommended selling for the entire sector for many months," said Rapeeporn Womgwikrai, an analyst at ABN-Amro Asia Securities Plc.

The weakened baht will be of little help as long as demand for the goods continues to fall, she said.

The stocks have fallen despite most Thai electronic companies reporting spectacular improvements in their 2000 results over the previous year. Hana Micro Electronics doubled its profit to Bt2 billion from Bt1.1 billion during the year, as did Circuit Electronics Industries, which saw profit rise to Bt562 million from Bt259.8 million. Semiconductor Ventures International (SVI) turned its Bt25.8-million loss around to post a Bt142-million profit.

Delta Electronics (Thailand) reported a whopping Bt4.04-billion net profit for 2000, a 46.3-per-cent increase from a year earlier, making it one of the most profitable companies on the local bourse. KCE Electronics` net income jumped 48.7 per cent to Bt620.5 million.

Analysts said they could not recommend electronic stocks despite the good earning reports as the stock prices could dip further in the coming months, depending on the US market situation.

"Investors should adopt a wait-and-see attitude. [Electronic] stock prices could fall another 10 to 20 per cent," said an analyst at a leading brokerage house.

The US, which buys around one-fourth of Thailand`s overall exports, is the biggest market for electronics exports from Thailand. Thai electronics manufacturers depend on exports for most of their business.

"Clearly there is some slowing in the US economy. This is across most sectors of the electronics industry, although different sectors are affected to different degrees. In our sector, components for digital-data storage, we are seeing a mixed impact. The biggest market for digital-data storage is the PC industry, so clearly the slowdown in PCs will have a direct impact on disk drives," said Jake Vigoda, chief financial officer of KR Precision Plc (KRP).

Vigoda said, however, that KRP was still seeing strong demand growth for data storage as people stored increasing numbers of audio and video files. Nevertheless, this growth does not necessarily lead to sales of more "boxes", as it is offset to an extent by increased data density, he said.

"In addition, we are starting to see small but growing use of digital data storage in non-PC applications, for example consumer electronics. These applications include gaming machines, MP3 players [and] television set-top boxes," said the KRP executive.

Analysts are more optimistic about KRP than other stocks, saying the firm`s financial and business restructuring had begun to bear fruit in the fourth quarter of last year.

ABN-Amro expected KRP to register a profit of Bt25 million for the first quarter of 2001, up from Bt16 million in the previous quarter and compared to a Bt150-million loss in the first quarter of 2000.

Rapeeporn said KRP had been trading below its book value of Bt7.5 per share. KRP closed at Bt4.9 yesterday, down from Bt5.2 on Monday.

Another stock analyst was impressed with KRP`s improved performance but cautious about whether internal restructuring would offset the IT market slowdown.

KRP`s Vigoda seemed to agree. "No company can `go against the market trend`. That`s not possible, and I would have a tough time believing any businessman who told me that. We just have to make sure that the rate of change internally always exceeds the rate of change externally. That means we have to move faster in restructuring and in increasing productivity."

Meanwhile ABN-Amro projected Hana`s first-quarter net income would fall 30 to 35 per cent year on -year and 40 to 45 per cent against the last quarter of 2000. The projections were based on zero income likely to be contributed by Hana`s integrated circuit (IC) operations in Indonesia and Hong Kong.

The IC industry has been seriously affected by the US slowdown. Official figures have shown capacity utilisation at IC factories in Thailand falling to 50 per cent from 80 per cent last year.


The Nation 14.3.01
ICC chief spells out the issues

LABOUR and environmental issues must be separated from trade policy or powerful countries will use them as protectionist trade weapons, Richard McCormick, president of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), said yesterday.

McCormick, in Bangkok on a two-day visit to attend a general council of the ICC and to network with ICC Thailand members, said his organisation supports the call to resist any effort to entrench labour issues in trade policy.

The policy question, raised by Thailand`s national committee, is largely consistent with the ICC`s stance.

Despite the ICC`s concern for the importance of labour and environmental issues, McCormick said, there is a perception that the developed world is preparing to use these issues as a protectionist trade weapon.

The US and Japan in particular appear ready to use labour relations and environmental standards to give themselves an advantage in the trading arena.

"We don`t like what`s going on and it is considered a very, very fearful position,`` said McCormick.

"The developing world in general doesn`t want these two items linking inside the WTO (World Trade Organisation). Thai representatives to the WTO don`t want labour and environmental ties to trade,`` he said.

Regarding the labour issue, McCormick said Thailand is a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and has representatives. That agency can deal with labour issues without the need to link with trade and market access.

The same approach must be adopted with regard to the environment, he added.

Along with the concern over the linkage of trade and labour issues, the national ICC committee raised its goal of pursuing the liberalisation of agricultural trade, tax exemptions for e-commerce, and coordinated measures to help developing countries build their economic capacity and access to the market.

"E-commerce is a virtual exploration tool for the developing world. It opens new markets at lower cost, has the ability to reduce inventory, and offers better linkages with suppliers and customers. No tax should be involved in these transactions,`` McCormick said.

Pointing to the need for a new round of world trade negotiations, McCormick said the next round would not be about "business`` but about "people``.

"In my view, [a global free market] is not a threat to governments but their one best hope of meeting the needs of their people and enjoying economic growth and political stability,`` he said.

He also cited the importance of further reducing trade barriers to open up markets for free trade. Not only would the business community enjoy the benefits of such openness, he said, but nations as a whole would also enjoy new economic growth, higher incomes, a better standard of living, and more alternatives for companies, consumers, and societies.


The Nation 14.3.01
Spending on public works scaled down

THE Cabinet yesterday moved to scale back infrastructure spending approved by the previous Chuan administration by reallocating Bt10.7 billion from the Bt910-billion budget for the fiscal year ending in September.

Further budget reallocations may bring the total to Bt30 billion or Bt40 billion, Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said.

The Cabinet`s decision, however, will have negative implications for the growth of the Thai economy since infrastructure spending is part of public-sector investment, which is crucial to stimulate the economy.

Already big construction companies from Ch Karnchang to Italian-Thai Development Corp have been feeling the squeeze from the government budget cutbacks.

Plew Trivisavavej, president of Ch Karnchang, said: "Our earnings are likely to be adjusted downward from the budget cutback. We are trying to bid for construction projects elsewhere than in the public sector."

A spokesman for Italian-Thai Development said: "The government`s cutback on infrastructure spending has led the company to delay its debt-restructuring owing to falling cash flow from government projects."

Chaturon Chaisang, PM`s Office Minister overseeing the Budget Bureau, said the freed-up funds would be used to finance projects planned by the new government.

He did not say where the cuts would come from, but the Budget Bureau earlier indicated that some construction projects planned by the previous administration would be scrapped.

During a debate on the government`s policy statement last month, Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda, a Democrat MP and ex-finance minister, warned of the economic risks associated with scaling back infrastructure spending.

At a time of weakening demand at home and abroad, the government should either proceed with infrastructure spending to stimulate the domestic economy or come up with additional stimulus measures, Tarrin suggested.

With the bumpy landing of the US economy and the recession in Japan, there are fears that economic growth in Thailand would be drastically curtailed in the absence of an effective stimulus package.

However, the government of Thaksin Shinawatra apparently has a different angle on stimulating the economy by reallocating infrastructure spending to grass-roots spending, a direction that reflects Thai Rak Thai`s policy platform.

Somkid said that during yesterday`s Cabinet meeting Prime Minister Thaksin had urged ministers to cut unnecessary spending to secure funds to boost economic growth.

He added that the US and Japanese slowdowns would have slight impact on Thailand`s economic growth if the country prepared itself well enough. He did not elaborate.

He said the next fiscal year`s budget would focus on the country`s economic development, with emphasis on revenue-generating sectors such as exports and tourism.

Somkid said the government would also restructure spending in the 2002 budget to ensure that the budget deficit was not higher than this year`s. The government has said the public deficit is not expected to exceed 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product.

Deputy Finance Minister Varathep Ratanakorn said the budget for the fiscal year starting in October would be discussed at next week`s Cabinet meeting and a draft document should be ready for Cabinet approval in May.

The Nation, Agencies 14.3.01
Local investors to take priority in TOT sell-off

NEWLY appointed Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT) Chairman Suphachai Pisitvanich said yesterday he would revise the firm`s share offering to give priority to local investors, a scheme that analysts believe would mostly benefit the country`s biggest telecom company, Shin Corps, which is owned by the family of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Under the current privatisation plan, approved by the administration of former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, 25 per cent of the TOT`s shares would be sold to foreign strategic partners.

However, Suphachai said yesterday the TOT was not bound to abide by this plan.

"Local investors should be given priority in the sale of shares," he said.

One telecom analyst said Shin Corps would undoubtedly be among the first to take advantage of this privilege due to its strong financial standing.

The appointment of Suphachai was approved yesterday by the Cabinet. His remark was in line with the policies of Thaksin`s government, which is currently considering similar moves with the privatisation plans of several other state enterprises, including Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) and the Airport Authority of Thailand (AAT).

On Monday, Transport and Communications Minister Wan Mohammad Noor Matha said he would propose that the Finance Ministry allow AAT to stop paying revenue to the state for four years and instead divert the sum, totalling about Bt12 billion, to the construction of the new international airport, named Suvarnnabhumi.

Wan Noor said this would represent a viable alternative to previous plans to raise capital by selling shares in four major provincial airports to foreign investors.

Deputy New Aspiration Party leader Veera Musigapong was also confirmed yesterday as chairman of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), which is also currently undergoing a privatisation programme.

Veera succeeded Sompop Amatayakul, who was recently confirmed as chairman of the nationalised Bangkok Metropolitan Bank, an appointment that was seen as a reward for the veteran politician, who failed in his bid to be elected January 6.

Transport industry sources said Veera had no previous experience in the management of SRT.


The Nation 14.3.01
STREET WISE: How to Manipulate Financial Reporters, by A. Greenspan

NO matter how independent they may be as private enterprises, media all over the world are frequently used by government authorities to achieve particular policy objectives.

This is especially true in the United States, where the central bank`s sophisticated chief is always ambiguous in his remarks to the media - lest his decisions on future monetary policy management be leaked before they are fully developed and spun the `wrong` way.

According to Reuters, Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan is scheduled to speak to former vice president Al Gore`s journalism class at Columbia University next Wednesday, March 21, a day after the US central bank`s policy making Federal Open Market Committee meets.

Interestingly, the discussion is expected to touch upon how the Fed "utilises the media to help accomplish its goal of managing its monetary policy goals", according to the school`s Website (www.jrn.columbia.edu/faculty/adjunct/gore.asp).

Greenspan, who took the helm at the Fed in 1987 and is currently in his fourth term (due to expire in 2004), is renowned for his ability to speak at length in terminology so opaque that listeners often derive completely different meanings from the same statement.

Some years ago, following a Greenspan speech on the US economy, two of the country`s largest newspapers summarised the speech with completely opposite conclusions in the next morning`s headlines. One said the Fed would hike the rate; the other said a rise in the rate was unlikely.

According to Reuters, it is expected that Greenspan will avoid speaking about the state of the economy or inter-estate policy, and instead have an informal exchange with students about how the news media reports on the economy and financial markets.

On that topic, he is surely an expert.


A good idea, long overdue

SIGNALLING its growing recognition of the capital markets` role in the global financial structure, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has established a new department to assess systemic risks in capital markets in member countries.

The International Capital Markets Department was set up recently to gather, assess and disseminate information on developments in international capital markets, as well as the analysis of related systemic issues.

The new department was established to provide support to country teams responsible for IMF crisis-prevention and crisis-management work with member countries.

The department is set to commence operations by July 1, when the IMF expects to finish its search for a department director. (The organisation is still accepting applications from interested persons worldwide).

It is worth noting that, at present, there is no system in place to prevent a crisis from igniting in capital markets. Many times, capital market-sparked problems are as damaging in their scope as those originating in other areas of the global financial market. It is also worth noting that the global equity market is becoming riskier, even for fund managers.

It is normal procedure that, when extending loans to a member country, a group of IMF experts with knowledge in macroeconomics is dispatched to the `problem` country

When Thailand started borrowing from the IMF, many representatives wandered around the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Thailand.

If this department were in place before 1997, representatives would also have been seen at the Stock Exchange of Thailand`s premises. Then the high-level executives of the exchange could have had a good consulting team.

But now they`re coming along just fine, aren`t they?


`Good governance` a tall order

JAMAL uddin Kassum, the World Bank`s vice president for East Asia and the Pacific, will visit Thailand later this week for discussions with the new Thai government and private sector.

Kassum, who is on his way to Mongolia and China, is responsible for the World Bank programme in the region, covering 15 countries where 30 to 40 development projects worth a combined US$34 billion (Bt1.47 trillion) are under way. Kassum, who succeeded Jean Michel Severino as vice president last year, is also head of the World Bank`s advisory council founded in 1999 to address the corruption issue and promote "good governance" in the region following the 1997 economic and financial crisis.

But crony capitalism and the lack of good corporate governance have been widely blamed for contributing to the regional crisis.

The Nation. 14.3.01
Govt to stimulate slowing economy

Filed at 02 : 40 pm (THLD time)

Bangkok Mar 14 (The Nation) -- The government is planning to announce short-term measures to stimulate the economy which is being hit by the slowing export sector.

Lower export earnings will hurt the country`s GDP growth which is projected at 4 per cent for this year. Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said his ministry, commerce ministry and National Economic and Social Development Board will jointly come up with the economic-stimulas measures for consideration by the prime minister.

The export growth target is being revised downward from 11 per cent to 6-7 per cent due to the slowing US economy, Thailand`s major export market.

Somchaineuk Eng-trakul, permanent secretary for finance, said the lower export target will certainly affect Thai economic growth since exports account for 40 per cent of GDP. As a result, Thailand will have to prepare for the situation by controlling imports. He said the trade surplus had narrowed to only $92 million in February due to the slowing export sector.

Der SET scheint ins Minus abzudriften. Haette ich nach den aeusseren Umstaenden nicht erwartet.

MfG BodyG
Baht likely to touch 44 against dollar
Source : The Nation, Dow Jones Newswires
Date : 14 March 2001
TIGHT swap liquidity in overseas markets as well as a rebounding yen saved the baht from plummeting yesterday, though dealers said the unit was likely to test the Bt44-a-dollar level by this weekend.

The weak yen and the US economic retrenchment were two main negative factors pushing the Thai currency to hit bottom at Bt43.82 yesterday, while the proposed Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC) failed to cushion the unit.

The baht fell to its lowest point from the opening level of between Bt43.69 and Bt43.74 in the morning session before heading up to between Bt43.55 and Bt43.65 in the afternoon. The strengthening yen had sapped the falling momentum of the Thai unit, which finally closed at between Bt43.55 and Bt43.59. The yen saw a correction from between ?120.61 and 120.71 on Monday against the dollar to between ?120.20 and ?120.30 yesterday morning before closing at ?120.06 at the end of the day.

A dealer from Citibank`s Bangkok branch said the short-term interbank rate of the baht in offshore markets yesterday had shot up sharply from 3 per cent in the morning to 25 per cent in the afternoon as speculators turned to the spot market to buy the baht they needed to cover long-dollar positions.

"That why the baht was stronger. And we don`t see any new factor in the domestic market to boost the unit, so we expect the currency to hover in the range of Bt43.45 to Bt43.85 by this weekend, while the yen may be around ?121 to ?122 a dollar," the dealer said.

He added that considering the negative sentiment towards Japan`s politics and economy the yen could deteriorate further to ?123 or ?124 in the next two months and the Thai currency would not be able to avoid the plunge.

A dealer from Bank of Ayudhya said the baht was expected to reach Bt44 this week, owing mainly to a lack of positive news. The news about TAMC, which will carve out non-performing loans from the Thai banking system, had been discounted by the market and failed to boost positive sentiment for the currency, the dealer said.

However, a dealer from Bangkok Bank said that if the yen stabilises around ?120 to ?120.2 by this weekend the baht was not likely to drop to Bt44 this week. But he agreed that negative factors involving Japan could cause further yen deterioration.

He believed that the baht would be quoted in a wide range of Bt43.40 to Bt43.80 by the end of this week.

Earlier, Anusorn Tamajai, vice president of US-based Citibank`s Bangkok branch, said the Thai unit was expected to be traded around Bt44 to Bt45 within six months.

The Bank of Thailand yesterday said the weakening baht was in line with other regional currencies, led by the yen`s bearish trend.

"The baht weakening is on external factors only, and the baht is also more stabilised than other regional currencies. We have no need to intervene in the market," said Atchana Waiquamdee, central-bank senior director.

Atchana said risky factors for the Thai economy were still largely external, especially the US economic slowdown, which had an impact on other Asian countries as well.

Atchana said the US stock market had been hit by heavy selling in high-technology stocks, which had had a negative impact on Thai stocks.

Yesterday afternoon the Stock Exchange of Thailand Index was down 4.53 points, or 1.5 per cent, at 300.34 points. The index rebounded to close at 302.76 points, dipping 2.11 points for the day.

Foreigners Sold Net THB563.1 Mln Thai Stocks Wednesday

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Foreign investors were net sellers of 563.1 million baht ($1=THB43.668) worth of Thai stocks Wednesday out of a total of THB5.87 billion traded, the Stock Exchange of Thailand said.

Figures are in baht; some are rounded; percentages are calculated from unrounded numbers:

Bought % Total Sold % Total
Foreign 975.4 mln 16.62 1,538.5 mln 26.22
Local Retail 4,715.0 mln 80.35 4,180.6 mln 71.25
Institutional 177.4 mln 3.02 148.7 mln 2.53

Note: Foreign activity represents transactions by both institutions and individuals, local retail activity is by Thai nationals only, and institutional activity is by domestic institutions, SET member-brokers and sub-brokers

Die Negativmeldungen aus Japan, haben heute auch krasse Spuren bei den Bank- und Finanzwerten am SET hinterlassen. Groesster Verlierer war sowohl bei den Locals als auch bei den Foreings BBL. Interessant ist ein Vergleich der BBL-F Notierung Bangkok = - 7.96% gegenueber Muenchen = - 16% z.Zt.

MfG BodyG
TAMC `will not drain budget`

staff writer bday.net 14.3.01

ONLY three billion baht will be required to set up the Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC), an amount that won`t have a significant impact on the state budget, Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said yesterday.

Somkid also said commercial banks will participate in the TAMC by overseeing the accounts of their debtors.

"The planned set up of the TAMC will not affect the state budget significantly as only three billion baht will be required initially É Meanwhile, banks will have to participate, following up on the relatively large amounts of their own customers` non-performing loans (NPLs)," he said.

The TAMC will buy more than 200 billion baht in NPLs at book value, its planning committee has said.

At present the banking system`s NPLs total an estimated 1.2 trillion baht, with 900 billion baht on the books of state-owned banks and the rest at private banks.

The government has argued that the TAMC is vital for stimulating the economy. By unburdening banks it will enable them to start lending again, the government says.

However, the president of Thai Military Bank said that even if large amounts of NPLs are transferred to the TAMC, commercial banks will have a hard time issuing new loans since there is minimal demand for them.

"Currently, banks have a high level of liquidity, but the problem is there are few customers seeking loans for business expansion," Somchai Sakunsurarat said.

"The country`s economic recovery has been slow, resulting in bearish business growth," Somchai said.

The state should first help restructure private debts and after that turn its efforts to stimulating the overall credit system, Somchai said.

Both borrowers and lenders have to focus on solving problem loans, he said.

The president of Bangkok Bank said that its new lending would grow by only 2 percent after its NPL problem had been tackled.

Chartsiri Soponphanich added, however, that the TAMC would not spur new lending by banks since the credit problem did not originate with banks but was caused by the low productivity of manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Somkid said that the slowdown of the US and Japan economies would not necessarily lead to slower economic growth in Thailand.

"There may be some impact on the economy. But it will not necessarily be significant as long as we are well prepared É The premier has also expressed concern about the slowing global economy," he said.

Somkid added that the global slowdown will have an impact on the Stock Exchange of Thailand but policies and other measures can be adjusted to cope with the challenge.
WIRE: 03/14/2001 3:06 am ET

Myanmar general vows to keep Thai border closed

YANGON, March 14 (Reuters) - A top Myanmar military official accused the Thai army on Wednesday of treating his country like a "subordinate state" after a border skirmish last month, and vowed Myanmar would respond by keeping a key border checkpoint closed.
Major General Kyaw Win, Deputy Director of Defence Services Intelligence, said the Thai military unilaterally shut a busy border checkpoint last month and tried to reopen it this week without consulting its counterpart in Myanmar.

The Thai army had also laid down six conditions for re-opening the checkpoint, he said.

"They behaved as if Myanmar were a subordinate state, under their influence," he told a news conference.

"They failed to abide by international norms set for promoting good neighbourly relations."

Thai officials closed a bridge linking Mae Sai in Thailand with Tachilek in Myanmar after a series of skirmishes last month.

Bangkok says Myanmar troops crossed into Thai territory on February 10, seizing an outpost which was later recaptured.

A day later, shells hit Mae Sai as Myanmar soldiers and their allies in the United Wa State Army clashed with ethnic Shan rebels in Thailand.

Mae Sai and Tachileck are major trading towns through which large shipments of consumer goods flow from Thailand into Myanmar. Thailand and Myanmar also accuse each other of fostering a brisk drug trade along the border.

The Myanmar general said the border closure had not hurt his country, and said the bridge would stay closed until the two countries hold formal talks.

Sorry, der letzte Beitrag war schon von Watcher publiziert worden, hatte ich leider uebersehen. Aber es freut mich, dass er jetzt auch beginnt, Meldungen und Berichte in der, von ihm doch so geschmaehten englischen Sprache, per paste and copy, den Lesern zum Nachlesen zur Verfuegung stellt.

MfG BodyG
Thai Senator Accused Of Sex Offenses Resigns Parliament

BANGKOK (AP)--A Thai senator accused of sex crimes including rape of a minor announced his resignation from the nation`s Parliament late Wednesday, clearing the way for his prosecution.

The accusation against Chalerm Promlert - and the Senate`s vote last week against a waiver of his parliamentary immunity - had caused public outrage. The scandal was one of several to shake the Senate recently, along with bribery allegations and the expulsion of ten members - including the senate speaker - for committing poll fraud.

"To ease public tension and in order to uphold public faith in the upper house, I am announcing my resignation and ending my activity in the public sphere from now on," Chalerm said at a news conference.

Under Thai law, the Senate must approve the trial of a member, who otherwise has parliamentary immunity while the house is in session.

Chalerm, 63, would have been forced to face trial anyway when the Senate went into a scheduled recess from June 3 to Aug. 1, but the Senate`s vote granting him even limited immunity outraged many people, including a minority of senators.

Chalerm, who had already resigned his position as deputy senate speaker, earlier Wednesday said he was giving up his parliamentary immunity, and told prosecutors he was ready to face trial, police said.

He made an unannounced visit to the office of the public prosecutor to acknowledge the charges against him, police Lt. Gen. Pichit Kruanthechakupt told reporters.

A first court hearing for Chalerm was scheduled for April 25, Pichit said.

Court registrar Somporn Babprasert said Chalerm was charged with statutory rape of minors, luring girls under the age of 15 years for sex and luring girls aged 15 to 18 years for sex. If convicted he faces up to 15 years in prison.

"He neither denied nor accepted the charges," Somporn said. Chalerm was freed on a 1 million baht ($1=THB43.565) bail.

Chalerm was arrested in January after allegedly having sex with five teen-age girls aged 14 to 17 years at a hotel in a Bangkok suburb, for which he paid THB4,000 baht to each of them. Having sex with a girl 15 years or younger is statutory rape in Thailand.

The sex scandal, followed by other embarrassing allegations of bribery and poll fraud against other senators, has severely hurt the credibility of the house, the first elected upper chamber of Parliament

"To say that the country`s first elected Senate is in deep trouble would be a gross understatement," the Nation newspaper said Wednesday in an editorial.

"The Senate, with its credibility in tatters, must engage itself in soul-searching to find a new way to not only contain the damage but also to make a positive contribution to the country`s ongoing political reforms," it said.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires 14-03-01
From Our Correspondent: Those Rowdy Neighbors
The problems of having Myanmar next door

Wednesday, March 14, 2001 AsiaWeek
Web posted at 12:30 p.m. Hong Kong time, 12:30 a.m. GMT

My friend could scarcely contain his amusement at the perfect crime, Thai style. He lives in a pleasant middle-class housing estate in the eastern suburbs of Bangkok. His neighbor, like many Thais, has an illegal-immigrant Burmese maid. She seldom ventures out in case the local police harass her and challenge her to sing the Thai national anthem. At night, she and other illegal servants emerge like moths to play badminton beneath the estate`s fluorescent street lamps. One day, with only the maid at home, three "electricians" turned up unexpectedly. They told the maid to stand by the fuse box with her finger poised over the master switch ready to throw it in an emergency. As the electricians moved around the house checking the wiring in every room, they kept calling down to ensure she was in place and alert. After 15 minutes, the job was done. The trio bade the maid a cheery farewell and marched off. The house had, of course, been comprehensively burgled. And the owner knew full well that this was where the matter ended. He could hardly ask his illegal maid to make a statement at the local police station.

Burmese maids in Thailand are a phenomenon of the 1990s. They started to come in when young Thai women from the provinces began to shun appallingly paid jobs in domestic service in favor of shift work in the factories, offices and hotels that sprouted during the bubble-economy years. By some estimates, as many as 700,000 Burmese have worked as domestics, builders, fishermen, sex workers - indeed in any underpaid (or unpaid) job that Thais prefer to avoid. Labor regulations have often been relaxed or openly flouted to accommodate this cheap and exploitable influx. They don`t just come from Myanmar. Child beggars from Bangladesh occasionally surprise tourists with their impressive English. In Cambodia, I once met a former Khmer Rouge who had been building Bangkok skyscrapers until the economy collapsed in 1997. In one luxury Bangkok housing estate, the only non-Cambodian security guard stands at the front entrance.

But it is the Burmese who are by far the most numerous. Apart from "economic migrants," over 120,000 Karen, Mon, Shan and Karenni refugees shelter in crude camps along the porous 2,000-km border Thailand shares uncomfortably with Myanmar. These people have fled not for economic gain but in fear of their lives before brutal dry-season military pacification campaigns that are often a prelude to forced resettlement. The junta in Yangon calls these displaced people "alleged refugees" who support ethnic insurgency. Unfortunately for this claim, the junta also insists it has signed ceasefire agreements with most of the same ethnic minorities. Who to believe?

A recent Burmese military push against Shan insurgents spilled into Thailand. A key border town, Mae Sai, had to be evacuated after two civilians were killed in shelling. Tachilek, on the Myanmar side, was also shelled, but most of the casualties there appear to have been military. It was probably the most serious incident involving the armies of two ASEAN member states in the regional groupings three-decade-old history. What did ASEAN have to say? Not a word. Tensions have yet to be defused.

It isn`t only the minorities on the Myanmar-Thai border who are deeply unhappy and mistrustful. In 1991, a quarter of a million Muslims in Myanmar`s Arakan state fled into Bangladesh in a similar state of terror. (An almost identical exodus occurred in the late 1970s.) It took the UNHCR until mid-1997 to repatriate the Rohingyas, as they are called, though about 20,000 still shelter in Cox`s Bazaar in Bangladesh. India, which was deeply critical of the military repression in Myanmar in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has normalized relations as far as possible. It decided it simply could not afford to close dialogue channels with an immediate neighbor.

The flood of Burmese maids is of no concern to most Thais. What does worry them is the fact that their country is awash with methamphetamine tablets produced by syndicates protected by the allegedly pro-Yangon United Wa State Army. The factories in the Mong Yawn area (newly established as a kind of methamphetamine enterprise zone) are so close to the Thai border they can be seen from it. Thai authorities estimate that over 800 million of these speed tablets flow each year into Thailand to be used by everyone from the lowliest stevedores to the children of cabinet ministers. It is often said that methamphetamine addiction is the single most serious social problem facing the country. Certainly it has become far more serious than traditional narcotic abuse.

Even so, Myanmar is still the second-largest opium-producing country in the world, after the so-called Golden Crescent in West Asia/Afghanistan, generating 80% of Southeast Asia`s deadly harvest. "On balance, the United State`s government remains concerned that Burma`s efforts are not commensurate with the extent of the illicit drug problem within its borders," was the dry assessment of a recent U.S. State Department report. Money laundering and harboring internationally recognized criminals were two other gripes about Myanmar that the Americans repeated.

Where there`s drugs, there`s usually another misery-seeking missile: AIDS. China today has an estimated 500,000 HIV-positive citizens. The lethal contagion spread in large part through Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar. The AIDS crisis is a worldwide phenomenon in which apportioning blame is a pretty pointless endeavor. But both Myanmar and China have suppressed AIDS information and education in the past, living in a fool`s paradise of denial. Had the situation in northeastern Myanmar been handled differently, it`s a fair bet that China today would have less of an AIDS crisis on its hands.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper has plenty to say about neighborly relations. The state organ has been sermonizing endlessly on the "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence" that purportedly govern official Burmese foreign policy. They are: mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty; non-aggression; non-interference in one another`s affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence. "Though Myanmar lives in accord with these principles, Thailand among the neighbors has failed to follow the code of conduct of a good neighbor," journalist Chit Kyiyay Kyi Nyunt wrote in the New Light.

If Myanmar seriously imagines its present regional conduct is that of a good neighbor, try to imagine what it might get up to if it decided to be a "bad" one. A chilling thought.
Speedy Thaksin gets things moving
Thailand`s new premier, barely a month in office, has been moving at breakneck speed to keep election promises he made to his countrymen

By Edward Tang The Straits Times 14.3.01

BANGKOK - He has pushed through a banking bail-out plan and has declared an all-out war on drug traffickers.

Next, he is putting together a financing scheme for small companies and a programme to boost farmers` earnings.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is moving at breakneck speed to keep his election promises. Barely a month in office, he has already initiated several policies that could have a major impact on the country.

His pace has left even his Cabinet ministers breathless.

The telecom tycoon-turned premier is going all out to differentiate himself from his predecessor, Mr Chuan Leekpai, who was criticised as being indecisive.

If there is any complaint about the new premier, it is that he is moving a tad too fast for the liking of some officials.

But Mr Thaksin`s no-nonsense, get-it-done-now attitude may prove to be just what his country needs.

In his short time as prime minister, he has reinforced the perception others have had of him being an impatient but effective taskmaster.

He is fond of attaching a two-week deadline to any piece of work, and has set such a deadline for investigations into the explosion which took place on an aircraft earlier this month in which he was due to fly.

He also chaired a meeting with bankers and businessmen in his first weekend as premier and after the meeting gave his officials a two-week ultimatum to reach an agreement with local banks on how to tackle the 1.2 trillion baht (S$47.7 billion) of bad debt in the Thai financial system.

The deal was struck last Friday, 24 hours before the deadline.

The agreement paves the way for the setting up of a state-managed asset company to buy non-performing loans from the banks at book value so that banks can resume lending.

Said a foreign banker: `We don`t know if it`ll work, but something is better than nothing.`

Mr Thaksin has also given the Finance Ministry two weeks to put up a proposal on forming a development bank to help thousands of small companies secure loans.

Last weekend, at a meeting he chaired on fighting drug trafficking, he impressed his audience with his grasp of technology by showing satellite pictures of factories which were allegedly producing the drugs at the Thai-Myanmar border.

So focused on the job is he that it seems he has got over the explosion of the airplane last week which nearly killed him. The incident has won him a lot of public sympathy.

His management style, which is similar to that of a corporate chief, is gradually endearing him to the public.

He has also cut down time wasted on meetings. Ministers now spend more time at their offices than in Cabinet meetings. Decisions are made faster and there seems to be greater urgency among officials, noted an analyst.

Said the Bangkok Post: `Mr Thaksin`s style is sending a clear signal to government officials that they must change their ways. This is something which is surely welcome.`

Wenn er nicht von "aeusseren Kraeften" daran gehindert wird, kann er durchaus einen Strukturwandel herbeifuehren. Und Thailand wird davon mit Sicherheit profitieren. Ich habe ausnahmsweise schon mal bei der Wahl die Prognose gestellt, dass wir an ihm wohl viel Freude haben werden.

MfG BodyG
STREET WISE: Making them an offer they can`t refuse

MEMO to debtors from Krung Thai Bank: Be not afraid, even if you haven`t serviced your debts for longer than a year - the bank is there to help.

KTB, the country`s largest state-owned bank, yesterday circulated a press release in a bid to reassure its non-performing loan (NPL) debtors with a bit of sweetness and light.

"So far, several customers have been discouraged from negotiating for debt restructuring with the bank, leaving their debts unpaid for a long time," KTB president Singh Tangtatswas` conciliatory message began.

"If they contact and consult the bank for a business and repayment plan, they will be able to service their debts," the president continued. "They will also be able to receive additional loans from the bank. So don`t be afraid to contact us as soon as possible - we can settle a solution together."

Singh added that debtors could negotiate with the bank at any time - even though their cases are currently under legal proceedings.

"We are willing to compromise with every debtor, but they must have the financial discipline to make business viable," the bank said. Singh said it is KTB`s policy to help every customer with an NPL but the customer must take the initiative to contact the bank`s staff for the negotiation.

With several centres of debt restructuring nationwide, KTB provides well-trained staff that can provide the advice debtors need for the best solution, he said.

According to Bank of Thailand rules, debtors who fail to service debts for more than 12 months are subject to legal action by the banks.

By KTB`s reckoning, however, that shouldn`t prevent customers from keeping in touch with the bank`s staff.

Isn`t that reassuring? - The Nation.

* * *
Let`s sleep on that one, honey

WHILE investors around the world hold their collective breath in anticipation of a US economic slowdown, the man who has the most to say about these developments is feeling the pressure.

Federal Reserve (Fed) chairman Alan Greenspan would, after all, be on the hot seat if the slowing US economy failed to pick up. However, not even this serious matter can diminish Greenspan`s sense of humour.

During a recent session of the US Senate Budget Committee, the fed chairman was asked what he thought of reports of the US economic slowdown by the American media - was the coverage too pessimistic about the US economy?

Greenspan said he could not answer the question due to a conflict of interest.

The conflict was not between he and the country but between he and the reporter asking the question, NBC newswoman Andrea Mitchell.

Mitchell is Greenspan`s wife. - The Nation.

* * *
Creativity needed to escape NPL mire

COMMERCIAL banks have been under pressure from social activists as well as politicians to narrow the gap between lending and deposit rates.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra himself has urged banks to squeeze the interest rate spread down to 3 per cent from the current 5 per cent.

However, the needed shift is constrained by the enormous amount of non-performing loans in the banking system, which currently stand at 18 per cent, down from the peak of 47 per cent a few years ago.

Such mushrooming bad loans would likely prompt the resignations of bank presidents from developed markets, as no First World bank could remain viable with such high problem loans.

But Thai bank chiefs remain in their chairs, as all of them are caught in the same gloomy mire.

The state-backed Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC) might be one solution, but all are in consensus that the central AMC is not a panacea. But with a sweet enough deal, banks might once again be asked to lower lending rates and hike deposit rates.

Whether they do it or not, some of them - including DBS Thai Danu Bank, Krung Thai Bank, and Bank Thai - have finally done something to relieve the pressure.

Some banks, mostly state-owned ones, recently introduced a special deposit account program for customers aged 55 years and older. The senior depositors, subject to a minimum deposit requirement, will be offered 25 to 50 basis points in addition to normal time deposit rates.

Siam City Bank, a nationalised bank, recently offered a 3.75 per cent interest rate plus free health insurance for long term deposits, and 24-month deposits on a 4 per cent interest rate.

Many are suspicious of this campaign by the banks, as such programmes are not being offered for everyone. Bankers, of course, would say it`s better than nothing. - The Nation 15.3.01 -

THAI MILITARY BANK is proposing to shareholders that no dividend payment should be made for last year as the bank is still mired in loss.

The resolution will be voted on at a shareholders` meeting on April 24.

SAHA PATHANAPIBUL has approved a dividend of Bt2 a share for last year.

The payment, which would be made on May 22, is subject to approval from shareholders, who meet on April 23.

SAHA PATHANA INTER-HOLDING has agreed to report a series of investments and disposals in its affiliated firms to shareholders.

The company announced that it has shut down the Thai Le Jour Co garment business, in which a 10-per-cent stake was owned by SPI, due to losses.

It has sold 12 per cent, or 24,000 shares, in Thai Poron Co to Poron (France) at Bt158.75 per share.

The company has bought a 10 per cent interest in Thai Sol-Plus Asia Co Ltd, a plastic mould, products and enamel manufacturer.

The board also approved a dividend of Bt1.50 per share for 2000`s operations.

Shareholders will meet on April 23 to acknowledge the investments and disposals and consider dividends.

BANGKOK FIRST INVESTMENT AND TRUST has recommended no dividend payment for last year`s operations as the company remained in losses.

The resolution will be forwarded to shareholders, who meet on April 25.

NAVAKIJ INSURANCE plans a dividend of Bt2 a share for last year.

A shareholders` meeting to consider the payment will be held on April 30.

PATKOL affiliate Siam Patkol Co will write down paid-up capital from Bt217 million to Bt130 million as part of its financial restructuring.

As a result, the number of shares of Siam Patkol Co will be reduced to 1.3 million shares at a par value of Bt100 from 2.17 million.

CHUMPORN PLAM OIL INDUSTRY has approved a dividend of Bt0.50 a share for last year.

The payment must be approved by shareholders, who meet on April 27.

VANACHAI GROUP`S board of directors has suggested no dividend for last year.

Shareholders will meet on April 25 to consider the suggestion.
The Nation - 15.3.01 -
Lee side of Thaksin exposed

PRIME Minister Thaksin Shinawatra`s management style is reminiscent of Singapore`s elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew - and that`s a compliment, according to Saha Group chairman Boonsithi Chokwatana.

Boonsithi, one of 10 advisers to Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, gives a high score to Thaksin for his merchant-minded, results-oriented approach.

"I think Thaksin`s style is very similar to Singapore`s former prime minister Lee," Boonsithi said yesterday.

Like Thaksin, he said, Lee "applied pragmatic solutions and quick decision-making to lead Singapore out of severe economic problems 30 years ago".

Thaksin has won the praise of the local business community because, unlike his predecessors, he relies on a merchant`s way of thinking to formulate the government`s policy.

"Thailand needs to stimulate our economy as the first priority. And all of the Thaksin government`s campaigns - from debt suspension for the farmers to the Bt1-million village fund - are aimed at stimulating the economy at the grass-roots level by increasing the spending power of consumers," said Boonsithi.

He added that Thaksin has applied good marketing ideas to his campaigns to stimulate the economy.

"I`m quite confident that the Bt1-million village fund has been designed to stimulate the domestic economy. This programme is much better than the Miyazawa Fund, which literally handed money to the people through the former government without achieving any clear results," said Boonsithi.

He added that while the former government used traditional means to solve economic problems, Thailand needs newer, more innovative solutions to tackle problems and overcome the cycle of economic difficulty.

He said that Thailand needs to take priority by stimulating the economy rather than over-concerning itself with inflation,

"With the current situation of only a 1-to-2 per cent interest rate, I see no way that inflation could become a threat," said Boonsithi.

He said the Saha Group, which is a local leading consumer product conglomerate, recorded a slight business growth in the first two months of this year, compared with the same period last year, particularly in food products and fashion apparel. The group is not feeling the heat from the economic lowdown in the United States.

"Thaksin is still a young man and very serious about his job. He also knows what the priorities are in solving the country`s economic problems," said Boonsithi.

He added Thailand needs to focus on domestic solutions and stand on its own rather than depending on other countries. This would increase the country`s capability to withstand any negative impacts from external economic developments.

"The key thing to consider is how the country can create good domestic cash flow and build spending power to the main people, particularly the farmers," said Boonsithi.

Finance Minister Somkid, who used to work under the Saha Group, is taking Boonsithi`s advice on measures to revive business from retailer`s point of view.

Dhanin Chearavanont, chief of the CP Group, has been enlisted to provide the wholesalers` viewpoint.


The Nation - 15.3.01 -
Steps being taken to pep up economy

THE government is drawing up three quick-fix action plans to rev up key industries and curtail luxury imports as a rapidly deteriorating global economic environment threatens to send the economy into a tailspin even before the government`s populist policies have a chance to spin their magic.

"We are worried about the economic situation," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra admitted yesterday, adding that the weakening state of the world economy presented another major stumbling block for Thailand`s hopes of recovery.

"The government is administering the country from a restricted position. We are trying to delay imports as long as we can in order to make the baht stable and at the same time we are also speeding up exports," Thaksin said as he announced plans for a deficit budget of about Bt200 billion for 2002.

Realising the need to take immediate measures to stimulate the economy, the government would take three steps in the next three to four months to support the export, tourism and real-estate industries, Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said yesterday. He added that taxes on luxury goods would be increased to reduce discretionary imports.

Somkid`s announcement marks the first time that the Thaksin administration has to come to grips with the potentially sharp downturn of the Thai economy. So far, the government has been repeatedly arguing that its populist policies - mostly social spending that does not add new money into the economy - are good enough to stimulate growth.

Somkid did not specify the measures to boost exports and tourism, but said they could be implemented after Thaksin had a chance to discuss them.

Economists are worried that growth might slow to 2.5 to 4 per cent, given the economic slowdowns in the United States and Japan which are already reflected in profit warnings, the sharp tumble in stock markets and sluggish exports.

The export slowdown is leading the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) to adjust downward its forecast of economic growth this year from the current 4 to 4.5 per cent.

"We`re still working on the data to determine the basis for our forecast this year," NESDB secretary-general Sansern Wonchaum said. He added that he was worried over the trade balance following a deficit in January of US$282 million (Bt12.3 billion).

Since exports account for 40 per cent of gross domestic product, measures would be needed to stimulate domestic consumption to offset the falling growth in export revenue.

But instead of accelerating public spending on infrastructure projects to create a powerful multiplier effect on the domestic economy, the Thaksin administration has done the reverse by scaling back budget spending to divert funds for its populist policies.

The 4M policies - moratorium on farmers` debt, million baht fund for each village, medical visits for Bt30 and management company for banks` bad assets - are sound social spending in the long term but they cannot be pushed out timely enough to spur domestic consumption.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet decided to scale back infrastructure spending by Bt10.7 billion for the time being and the administration has in mind to reverse some Bt30 billion to Bt40 billion of public spending in total in the fiscal 2001 budget ending September.

Meanwhile, Somkid said that instead of establishing a new bank aimed at promoting small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), the government would use expanded versions of the state-owned Small Industrial Financial Corp (SIFC) and Small Industrial Credit Guarantee Corp (SICGC).

Funnelling funds to liquidity-strapped SMEs, which are seen as the backbone of the Thai economy in the long term, is one of the government`s key economic policies.

The finance minister said following a meeting with bank executives and Bank of Thailand Governor Chatu Mongol Sonakul late yesterday evening that the permanent secretaries of the finance and industry ministries would further work on the plan today.

The SIFC was expected to step up lending to SMEs, while the SICGC would issue more guarantees of loans to SMEs including those in the construction and gas station businesses, Somkid said.

The government would also urge private as well as state-owned venture capital funds to invest more in SMEs.

The administration`s proposal to relax central bank regulations so that banks could extend more loans, particularly to SMEs, was also taken up at the meeting.

Chulakorn Singhakowin, chairman of the Thai Bankers Association, said bankers generally agreed that current regulations were not obstacles for private banks to extend loans to SMEs. Banthoon Lamsam, president of Thai Farmers Bank, added that the central bank`s rules conform to international standards, so changing them would not help boost lending.

The Nation, Agencies - 15.3.01 -
Skirting Bangkok Scams

by Wink Dulles
Worldroom.com - 15.3.01 -

died that night in a Soi Nana gutter. My chest had locked -- like a seized tractor engine -- and I drowned in a visceral cavity of cardio-vascular cement. You fight it at first; real hard. Then you let go. No out-of-body experience. No bright lights at the end of some tunnel. A Bangkok cab jockey scraped my near-corpse off a garbage-strewn back alley and slalomed his taxi against an onslaught of veering, oncoming one-way traffic to a Bumrungrad Hospital. After a few million cc`s of epinephrine and salbutamo -- and some guy in a white coat who knew how to do a drum solo on my sternum -- I was back among the living.

The poison was Scopolamine, though the doctors also could not rule out Rohypnol or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) -- "date rape" and knockout drugs that have become ubiquitous at Thailand`s rave parties and are now part of the arsenals of the country`s crooks and con artists.

In a bar, someone had seen my wallet and decided to discreetly freshen my drink with a lethal dose of the knockout drug. Scopolamine is what bad guys (and girls) use to incapacitate tourists and business folks. It`s spiked into drinks or cigarettes as a powder, or is used as an aerosol. In Thailand, prostitutes spread knockout drugs on their breasts like paraffin on a surfboard.

But hookers don`t have degrees in anesthesiology, and sometimes the "mark" pays a high price. In the Thai resort town of Pattaya alone, some 50 foreign punters died during a recent one-year period of cardiac arrest after allegedly smooching with spiked mammaries, according to the Bangkok Post.

The use of knockout drugs is a popular scam used against foreign visitors, but hardly the only one.

Gem of a Scam

The most common, successful and perhaps ingenious rip-offs in Thailand are gem scams. The latest gem scam to hit Bangkok involves a tuk-tuk driver luring an unsuspecting visitor to a local temple, where the victim is befriended by a well-dressed local "worshipper." The "worshipper" just happens to be an off-duty Tourist Policeman or an official with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. ID is even shown. The con man then explains to the would-be victim(s) how the Thai government subsidizes Thailand`s overseas students by allowing them to purchase high-quality gems at reduced rates and untaxed for sales overseas. The good news? Tourists can now also take advantage of the program and make a wad of cash. The mark is then driven to a "registered" jeweler where the stones are bought.

The hitch? The stones can only leave Thailand through the postal service, in accordance with the "integrity" of the government program. No worries - until the delighted victims arrive home to a parcel of cute little marbles.

Knockout drugs have become ubiquitous at Thailand`s rave parties and are now part of the arsenals of the country`s crooks and con artists.

Innovative Schemes

Also in vogue are e-mail scams. Last July, a German resident of Bangkok was collared by the Royal Thai Police Central Investigation Bureau as the brains behind the "Thaee" matchmaking scam. Thaee was invented as a beautiful young Thai office secretary of modest means looking for the good life abroad and soliciting donations over the Internet. One American sent the German US$1500 to arrange for "Thaee" to visit him in the U.S. He showed up at the gate; she didn`t.

Another rip-off in vogue these days is the "mustard scam," which occurs in fast-food shops. A member of a ring of crooks targets a diner and "accidentally" squirts mustard on the victim`s shirt. A second thief , pretending to aid the victim, rubs the stain in with a napkin. Now the guy`s mad, and distracted enough to get pickpocketed.

The "magnetometer heist" takes place at airport security check-ins, again perpetrated by a gang. Just before stepping through the magnetometer after placing your belongings on the belt, a con artist alerts you to a ticket envelope on the floor. You pick it up, but by the time you discover it`s not yours and finally step through the magnetometer, your stuff is gone.

Taxicab schemes in Bangkok are infamous, and many of them are quite legal, actually. Newcomers to Bangkok will often be whisked away toward downtown from the airport on the elevated toll way (an additional 40 baht) rather than the often uncongested lower expressway. Drivers often take longer routes to destinations. And you should never enter a taxi if there`s anyone else except the driver inside. And don`t be surprised if the taxi driver has a breakdown and asks you to get out and help push-start the car. Say "bye-bye" to your luggage.

Getting Help

Luckily, unlike some other countries in the region, the Thais are quick to act upon misfortunes of foreign visitors. The Tourist Police (hotline: 1155, ext. 1; 24 hours) are very effective in handling most incidents.

If you`ve been had by fraud in Thailand and don`t discover it until you`re back home, go to http://www.mfa.go.th/foreign/default.htm. This will permit your embassy in Bangkok to represent your interests. The Royal Thai Police web site is http://www.police.go.th. Or write: Operation Center, Central Investigation Bureau, Royal Thai Police Headquarters, Building 8, Room 304/1, Unridunant Rd., Patumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand. The Central Investigation Bureau can also be contacted by e-mail (cib@police.go.th).

To avoid being a victim of scams, heed the following tips:

Carry only a few hundred dollars in cash. Carry traveler`s checks, instead.
Do not change money on the street.
Never accept food or drink from strangers.
Never play the role of Good Samaritan. If you come upon an accident scene, real or otherwise, do not stop nor offer assistance.
If someone stops you for directions or for change, keep right on walking.
To reduce the risk of street scams, walk with a cane or umbrella. Innocuous, perhaps, but the message is clear to the bad guys.
Do not discuss plans, accommodations, finances or politics with strangers.
Wear a cheap watch and no jewelry.
In bars, always watch your drink being poured, and don`t leave it unattended. Don`t drink alone.
REPEAT: Report Confirms Bomb Blew Up Thai Premier`s Plane

BANGKOK (AP)--A preliminary investigation has confirmed that a bomb caused the explosion of an airplane that Thailand`s prime minister was about to board, the defense minister said Thursday.

Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the deputy prime minister and defense minister, gave a copy of the investigation report to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Thursday.

The investigation, however, has not concluded whether Thaksin was the target in the March 3 bombing of the Thai Airways International PCL (H.TAI) Boeing 737 at Bangkok`s domestic airport.

"This report does not mark the end of investigation. The culprit will have to be arrested and punished but we have not set a timeframe for that. Let the authorities do their job," Chavalit told reporters.

The parked plane blew up 35 minutes before its scheduled departure when crew members were preparing it for a flight to the northern city of Chiang Mai. A flight attendant was killed and seven airline staff were injured.

"The contents of the report are confined to the area of investigators` conclusion that the explosion was caused by a planted bomb. It was sabotage," Chavalit said.

The report also gives an outline of the further investigations needed to find out the identity of the bomber and the mastermind, said Chavalit, who heads a committee coordinating the various simultaneous investigations.

Officials have put forward various theories for the motive - business rivalry between contractors at the airport, disgruntled employees, spillover of a drug war and an attempt on Thaksin`s life, which now appears least likely.

Chavalit said the common view of the police, military and airline investigators is that the bomb consisted of C-4 plastic explosive, which caused the first blast followed by the explosion of the fuel tank.

Police Lt. Gen. Sant Sarutanond, the chief police investigator into the bombing, said police have narrowed down the list of bombing suspects to three groups of people who had access to the plane.

They are Thai Airways staff, employees of the Airports Authority of Thailand and passengers who flew on the plane from Pitsnulok to Bangkok, the last journey the plane performed before its explosion, he said.

Sant said a piece of wire found in the fuselage of the plane could have been part of a mechanism that detonated the bomb.

"Scientific test of the found wire was underway. If it is proved that the wire does not belong to the aircraft, then we will know what detonated the explosives," Sant said.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires 15-03-01
PM: sliding baht not a major concern

Filed at 03 : 02 pm (THLD time)

BANGKOK, March 15 (The Nation) -- The weakening of the baht against major currencies is no cause for concern as Thailand`s economic fundamentals remain stable, Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra said after meeting with the Bank of Thailand`s governor, MR Chatu Mongkol Sonakul today.

However, he said the Bank of Thailand was keeping an eye on rising imports trend to avoid a current account deficit as Thai exports growth is expected to decline this year.
Shin Satellite forecasts sky-high growth in Indochina this year

SHIN SATELLITE said yesterday it expected strong growth from its Internet and foreign operations, especially in Laos and Cambodia, with continued progress in its new broadband satellite project.

The company forecast 50 to 100 percent growth in its subscriber base for its Internet and telecommunications services in its infant markets in Indochina.

Dumrong Kasemset, executive chairman of Shin Sat, said the number of Internet subscribers was expected to increase to more than 300,000 by the end of this year from about 200,000 now.

"The Internet is performing very well. Businesses in Laos grew significantly after our expansion projects for both mobile and fixed lines. But Cambodia should outperform the Laotian market," Dumrong said in an interview.

Shin Satellite, one of Asia`s leading satellite operators, operates three conventional satellites called Thaicom I, II and III.

The US$350-million iPSTAR-1 satellite, to be launched commercially in mid-2003, will be cost-efficient with high data communication capacity for global applications, the company said.

Shin Sat is 51 percent owned by Thailand`s biggest telecom conglomerate, Shin Corp, majority owned by members of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra`s family.

Shin Satellite shares were up 0.8 percent compared with a 0.12 percent fall in the overall Thai stock market yesterday.

The company recorded a 170 percent surge in 2000 net profit due to robust growth in its core transponder rental and Internet businesses. Its wholly owned unit, CS Internet, serves about 21 percent of Thai Internet users.

Dumrong said a 49 percent owned unit, Lao Telecoms, could yield about $1.5 million in profit contribution for Shin Satellite this year from $1.0 million last year.

The Laotian unit posted an average annual revenue of $25 million and he expected the turnover to increase further on anticipation that subscribers for both fixed-line and mobile phones there could jump by about 66 percent to 100,000 at the end of this year from 60,000.

For its Cambodian mobile unit, Dumrong said the number of subscribers were expected to double to 40,000 at the end of this year and there were plans to invest about $5.0 million this year.

Dumrong said uncertainty in Thailand over fees for telecom licences, which are under review, could affect the company`s competitiveness against regional satellite operators due to relatively high costs.

The firm now pays 10.5 percent of gross revenues to a state agency in exchange for the right to operate its satellites.

Dumrong said it was negotiating with the government over the issue and it might consider issuing bonds to finance future payments for its licences if needed. He gave no further details.

He said Shin Sat revenues would rely more on international revenue after a soft launch of its iPSTAR later this year.

"The proportion between domestic and international revenues will change to 50:50 for this year from 60:40 currently.

"I believe that after the new satellite goes into orbit, our international revenues will increase to 90 percent from 50 percent expected for this year," he said.

Dumrong said the firm would establish ground terminals for the first phase of the project in April and plan to make a soft launch in Thailand and Malaysia in the third quarter of this year.
bday.net - 15.3.01 -

Die Anleger honorieren das aber nicht: Z.Zt. SHIN - 2.99% SHIN-F - 3.51%
Foreigners Sold Net THB416 Mln Thai Stocks Thursday

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Foreign investors were net sellers of 416 million baht ($1=THB43.554) worth of Thai stocks Thursday out of a total of THB5.51 billion traded, the Stock Exchange of Thailand said.

Figures are in baht; some are rounded; percentages are calculated from unrounded numbers:

Bought % Total Sold % Total
Foreign 1,011.8 mln 18.37 1,427.8 mln 25.92
Local Retail 4,361.5 mln 79.17 3,825.2 mln 69.44
Institutional 135.6 mln 2.46 255.9 mln 4.64

Note: Foreign activity represents transactions by both institutions and individuals, local retail activity is by Thai nationals only, and institutional activity is by domestic institutions, SET member-brokers and sub-brokers.
-By Dow Jones Newswires Bangkok bureau; 662 266 0745; djn.bangkok@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires 15-03-01
Thai Power Privatization Plan May Change To Add Govt Role
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)15.3.01--Thailand`s power privatization plan is likely to be adjusted to boost the government`s role in the process, Chaturon Chaisang, Minister to the Prime Minister`s Office said Thursday.
Chaturon told reporters during a visit to the National Energy Policy Office that the power sector is a key sector in public utilities. The privatization of this sector will affect the public substantially, so it couldn`t be solely based on market mechanisms.

"We want to privatize this sector, but we also have to look for a way the government can take part in this to support the poor," Chaturon said.

Under the current power privatization plan, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, or EGAT, would split off all its power plants into privatized entities by 2003, when a free market would be established to allow power generation companies to sell to a power pool in the national grid, which would remain under EGAT`s control as a state agency.

Prices of electricity and liquified petroleum gas, which now are under government control, will be determined by the market.

However, Chaturon said the government will seek the opinion of the public and related state agencies before it makes a final decision.

"We are collecting as much information as possible. The decision is expected to be made in April as any further delay will create more damage," he said.

He said the first meeting of the National Energy Policy Board under the new government will be held Friday to look through plans for the entire energy sector`s reorganization.
Thursday, March 15 3:16 PM SGT

Thailand Mulls GMO Labeling To Protect Consumers - Report
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand`s Commerce Ministry plans to introduce compulsory labeling of all edible goods sold in the domestic market having contents linked to genetically modified organisms, a local Thai-language newspaper, the Manager, said in its Thursday edition.
Labeling the GMO status on products is a measure to safeguard domestic consumers from consuming GMO food unknowingly, the report said, quoting Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik.

Adisai said, however, that the Commerce Ministry will discuss the issue further with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives before officially introducing the measure, the report said.

Adisai had Wednesday appointed former Bangkok governor Pichit Rattakul as his adviser for consumer protection affairs.

Pichit will also oversee issues related to GMOs, the report said.

The country`s related authorities have issued certificates upon request to exporters who want to ensure clients that the exported products are GMO-free.

Responding to international and local concerns, the government in October last year outlined the country`s policy toward GMOs.

Under the policy, GMO seeds aren`t allowed into the country on a commercial basis and aren`t allowed for cultivation but are permitted to be brought in for research and experimental proposes.

GMO grains are allowed as raw materials in industries but under close monitoring. -0- 15/03/01 07-16G
Thursday, March 15 5:20 PM SGT

Thai Ctrl Bk-Acct -2: Able To Pay Back IMF Loans
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thai Central Bank Governor Chatu Mongol Sonakul said Thursday that the government was free to decide whether to push ahead with draft legislation submitted by the previous government to consolidate central bank accounts, but there was no immediate need to do so.
Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Chatu Mongol said that in most developed countries, central bank accounts are consolidated for efficient management.

If Thailand wants to maintain separate accounts to back baht notes and to support financial institutions, however, that will be fine for now. The final decision is up to the government, he said.

Opposition to the draft bill has been intense and emotional among many of Thaksin`s supporters, however, due to a clause which would have allowed contribution of about 140 billion baht ($1=THB43.554) from reserves to the state Financial Institutions Development Fund.

Chatu Mongol said FIDF has begun issuing government-guaranteed bonds, so it can get along without the funds.

Those opposed to the draft bill accused the former government of robbing reserves to bail out rich banks, although the intention of the bill was to reduce issuance of government and state-backed bonds to cover cumulative FIDF losses on financial sector support and restructuring since the 1997 crisis.

Cumulative FIDF losses and bond issuance are expected to reach around THB1.3 trillion within five years. More than THB700 billion in losses have been realized, and bonds worth a combined THB570 billion have been issued by the government and FIDF. - - 15/03/01 09-17G
Thursday, March 15 5:37 PM SGT

Thai Revenue Dept Tax Collection 6.4% Below Target In Feb
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand`s revenue department said Thursday its tax collections in February totaled 32.99 billion baht ($1=THB43.554), 6.4% below target.
However, collections were 1.5% more than the amount of tax collected in February of last year, said Suparut Kawatkul the department`s director general.

Value-added tax collection in February was at THB15.60 billion, 15.6% below target and down 2.3% over the same period of the previous year.

February personal income tax collection totaled THB8.01 billion, 2.8% above target and up 3.6% on year, he said.

Corporate income tax collection totaled THB6.42 billion, 10.2% above target and up 16.3% on year.

During the first five months of the 2001 fiscal year, tax collected by the Revenue Department totaled THB171.47 billion, 1.3% above target and up 0.7% from the same period a year earlier.

In view of the figures, Suparut said he was confident the department will be able to reach its tax collection target of THB490.21 billion for the 2001 fiscal year. Thailand`s fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, 2000.

The finance ministry`s Permanent Secretary Somchainuk Engtrakul said he will meet with the Excise Department, Customs Department and Revenue Department next week to discuss measures to increase efficiency in tax collection.

The Thai government`s budget for the year set spending at THB910 billion, with a THB105 billion deficit to be funded by government bonds and other debt paper. The revenue department accounts for only part of the government`s total revenues.
Thursday, March 15 6:09 PM SGT

Thai Govt To Raise Small Indus Fin Corp Capital By THB5B
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--The Thai Finance Ministry said Thursday it plans to increase the capital of state-run Small Industrial Finance Corp. by 5 billion baht (1$=THB43.554) to support the bank`s new role in lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Somchainuek Engtragul told reporters that the ministry will soon raise the THB5 billion capital for SIFC, but didn`t provide a timeframe.

Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told reporters late Wednesday that the government will upgrade SIFC to extend more loans to support small and medium enterprises instead of setting up a new bank as previously planned.

Somchainuek added that the ministry will also transfer SIFC`s nonperforming loans worth THB900 million to Thai Asset Management Corp., the government`s new asset management company, to reduce the current debt burden of SIFC. -0- 15/03/01 10-09G
Thursday, March 15 7:54 PM SGT

PREVIEW: Thai 4Q GDP To Show Improvement That Won`t Last

By Tom Fox

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand`s economic growth data for the fourth quarter of 2000 is expected to reflect an improvement in performance, but isn`t expected to be robust enough to survive a global slowdown in demand for exports this year, economists said.

The data is scheduled to be released Monday.

A consensus of economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires forecast a slightly higher gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter, of 3.1% over the same period last year, and up from the 2.6% growth in the third quarter.

Seasonally-adjusted growth from the previous quarter is expected to improve to 1.2%, from 0.2% quarter-on-quarter GDP growth in third quarter of 2000.

The consensus forecast for the full year of 2000, is at 4.3% and is in line with the Bank of Thailand`s forecast range of 4.0% to 4.5%.

However, Standard & Poor`s/MMS economist David Cohen said the limited improvement which will be reflected in fourth quarter data may have already faltered.

"Monthly data indicated a pick-up in manufacturing activity during the fourth quarter," Cohen said.

"Mirroring the pattern across the region, however, January-February data point to slippage in exports, which represents a threat to economic growth this year," he said.

IFR economist George Worthington said that due to the slowdown in the U.S. and in global demand, his 2001 GDP growth forecast is at the bottom of both the consensus range of 3.0%-4.3% and the central bank`s forecast range of 3.0%-4.5%.

Bank of Thailand has said it will soon review its forecasts, based on the National Economic & Social Development Board`s fourth quarter growth data and based on the more worrisome indicators from early this year.

Cohen said Thailand is less vulnerable to falling demand for electronics exports than some other regional exporters.

But declining growth in regional economies will mean a third major market for Thai exports is slowing, along with the U.S. and Japan.

Most research houses see Thai GDP growth recovering in 2002, in line with expectations that a recovery in the U.S. economy will commence in the second half of the year.

4Q Data Boosted By Exports, Low Base Of Comparison

Merrill Lynch said in a report this week that fourth quarter exports to Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, showed double-digit growth over the third quarter in baht terms.

Growth in exports to Europe was in the high single digits quarter-on-quarter, while exports to the U.S. declined marginally.

Part of the improvement expected in fourth quarter GDP data will be due to a comparison with a low base the previous year. Even exports to the U.S. were 22% on a year-on-year basis.

Merrill Lynch said peak electricity demand was flat between the third and fourth quarters of 2000, but in the fourth quarter of 1999 it had slumped sharply from the third quarter.

Manufacturing output was up a meager 0.4% on year in the fourth quarter of 2000, compared with a 0.7% contraction in the third quarter, the report said.

Fortunes in agricultural production were mixed in last year`s fourth quarter, with some of the country`s rice producers benefitting in quantity from flooding, but losing in quality as rice grains with higher moisture content fetch a lower price.

The extra rain decreased sugarcane production by improving the environment for pests and disease. Rubber production wasn`t greatly affected, but some stocks in southern Thailand were damaged by flooding.

Agricultural exports in the fourth quarter of 2000 were up 10.1% in baht terms from the same quarter a year earlier, compared with a 7.4% growth in the third quarter, Merrill Lynch said.

4Q 4Q Adj FY 2000 FY 2001
Research House % On Year % On Qtr % On Year % On Year
ABN Amro 3.0 - 4.3 3.7
Citigroup/SSB 4.3 - 4.6 4.3
ING Barings 2.0 0.3 4.0 3.4
IFR 3.7 2.2 4.4 3.0
Merrill Lynch 3.0 1.3 4.2 3.5
S&P/MMS 2.5 0.9 4.1 3.5
Average 3.1 1.2 4.3 3.6

-0- 15/03/01 11-54G
Big 3 banks better off with TAMC: report

BANGKOK Bank (BBL), Thai Farmers Bank (TFB) and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) will likely benefit the most among private banks from the formation of Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC), as they will get some breathing room to undertake internal recapitalisations, according to a report by an investment bank.

Thai banks also stand to see the valuations of their shares boosted as the dilution risk will be lessened because of the TAMC, said Fox-Pitt, Kelton (FPK), which specialises in the global financial services sector.

FPK is a wholly owned subsidiary of the world`s second largest health and life reinsurance firm, Switzerland-based Swiss Re.

"Despite the fact that this is an insolvent sector and that risks remain high, we believe that the risk-reward ratio favours investment," FPK said.

It plans to continue maintaining a "buy" recommendation for TFB and a "hold" for SCB, but will likely upgrade Bangkok Bank to "buy" from "attractive" later this week.

FPK expected about 30-40 per cent of private banks` non-performing loans (NPLs) will be bought at net book value, with banks taking on about 50 per cent of any long-term loss.

"Our 12-scenario analysis suggests that, even under fairly stringent conditions, it will be in the banks` interests to participate in an NPL sale," the investment bank said.

FPK noted that although BBL, TFB and SCB suffer from weak capitalisation and are overburdened with poor quality assets, they can make such a sale without needing to raise external regulatory capital.

"This is not to say that they [banks] will participate or that they won`t raise capital, merely that there is no major dilution threat to the banks from the range of deals currently being touted," the report added.

According to FPK`s base-case scenario, which is the most likely, BBL`s valuation will fall by 6 per cent, TFB`s will improve by 12 per cent, while SCB`s will see a 20-per-cent deterioration, as a result of the impact of the TAMC.

The base-case scenario assumed a sale of 30 per cent of NPLs at a 10-per-cent discount to book value, paid for with a 2.5-per-cent coupon bond and subject to a 50:50 loss-sharing arrangement.

Even under a 25-per-cent discount to book value scenario, Thai banks can essentially afford to sell off more than 40 per cent of their NPLs and not seek external regulatory capital.

Following the NPL sale, BBL, TFB and SCB would still be left with about a 20-per-cent NPLs-to-total loans ratio on average. However, banks are required to acquire capital to make up for continued low reserve coverage of their remaining NPLs.

The plan for the TAMC concluded that it would buy only those loans having more than two creditors, which will total about Bt250 billion out of about Bt630 billion in bad debt at private banks, of which Bt150 billion is with banks` subsidiary AMCs.

The Nation - 16.3.01 -
STREET WISE: What put the smile back on governor`s face?

REPORTERS at Bank of Thailand headquarters yesterday were caught off guard when BOT governor MR Chatu Mongol Sonakul showed up for his press conference grinning from ear to ear.

Given that the central bank chief has been something of a sourpuss in public recently, this sudden lift in his spirits surprised many. What could have prompted such good vibrations?

Surely not a visit from the prime minister, you say? But indeed it was.

Yesterday Thaksin Shinawatra, along with Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and assorted bureaucrats, visited the BOT headquarters to receive a briefing on the Thai economy from central bank executives.

Some might wonder why the prime minister himself needed to attend the central bank offices for something so "micro" as an economic brief. The usual protocol in this instance is for a group of BOT executives to visit Government House.

But things were different this time.

Apparently, some market watchers believe that Thaksin`s decision to show his presence at the BOT was a face-saving gesture in honour of Chatu Mongol, whose role was recently said to have been diminished by the current government.

During the seminar that produced the Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC) in Cha-Am three weeks ago, many were left wondering whether the central bank governor had been left in the dust by the premier.

Some even suggested that Chatu Mongol`s chair was shaking by the end of the seminar. After all, his views had not been sought, he was not appointed to serve as the TAMC task force chairman, and he even seemed unhappy about the establishment of the TAMC itself.

After several hours of briefing yesterday, however, smiles were all around.

The BOT governor, whose tone with the media had been rather abrupt of late, further surprised central bank reporters by speaking to them for an unusually long period. And this time his comments about the economy, the baht, and the government`s policies, were uniformly positive.

Judging from his glow, one might hesitate to suggest that the BOT governor`s role has truly been downgraded by the Thaksin government. - The Nation.

* * *
Globalisation, Thai style

IT`S time to "get cooking" for the country`s sake.

In a report released yesterday, Thai Farmers Research Centre (TFRC) says that overseas Thai restaurants are a potential growth sector in the service industry and deserve active promotion.

The policy to promote the export of service sector businesses was inspired by the Department of Export Promotion`s observation of potential overseas markets.

The Department believes that this business could gross handsome foreign earnings, especially in the face of keener export competition.

Over the past five years, Thai cuisine has become popular abroad, performing even better than Chinese food in certain countries.

There are now more than 5,000 Thai restaurants around the globe. Notably, more than 2,000 of them are in the United States and Canada, with 700 in Europe, 300 in Japan, and 500 in Australia and New Zealand.

The total figure is expected to surge to 8,000 Thai restaurants worldwide by 2005, or an additional 3,000 venues in five years, said the TFRC.

The promotion of Thai restaurants abroad would create various spillover effects.

In terms of food exports, restaurants would order raw materials for Thai cooking and provide the necessary information about demand and taste for overseas customers.

As for overseas employment, remember that there will be 8,000 Thai restaurants by 2005. With an average of three chefs at each one, the business should create as many as 15,000 jobs.

Then there`s the promotion of Thai culture overseas. Thai restaurants provide one channel to do this. They can decorate their premises with Thai handicrafts, distribute brochures and leaflets about Thai tourism, or advertise Thai travel programmes.

Any takers? - The Nation.

* * *
Top of the world

ACCORDING to its own press release, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has maintained its position as the No 1 global project finance adviser in terms of deal volume.

League tables from the January issue of Project Finance International show that the firm was involved in 222 project finance mandates and 33 completed transactions with a total value of US$5.08 million (Bt223.60 million) last year.

The firm says it has secured its leadership role, both in the number and value of project finance deals carried out in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the United States.

"This strength is reflected in the growing number of project finance mandates we are working on originally, especially in Thailand, Korea, and Indonesia," said Simon Leary, partner and head of Bangkok-based Project Finance & Privatisation Thailand and Indochina. - The Nation - 16.3.01 -
Friday, 16 March 2001 The Post
More thoughts on Flight TG114
All things considered, it`s pretty amazing that Don Muang airport security is being stepped up as investigations into the March 3 bombing of Flight TG114 is not making much headway.

And it is even more amazing that some officials have given up the hope of catching the people who masterminded the deadly bombing, which killed a Thai Airways steward and wounded seven other people.

Writing in the mass-circulation Thai Rath yesterday, columnist Kilane Pralongcherng drew up hypotheses that may -- or may not -- provide an explanation for the bombing mystery.

``First, if we assume that the bomb was planted by saboteurs, who was their target?`` the columnist asked.

It is easy to assume that the bomb was aimed at harming Prime Minister Thaksin, but why was it detonated 35 minutes before he was due to board the plane? In this sense, it is more likely that the bomb was meant to discredit a person or an organisation involved with activities at the airport, said Kilane.

The columnist referred to earlier reports about a serious conflict arising from the removal of a company in charge of cargo handling at Don Muang during the previous government. The cargo business involves a huge sum of money, and those who lost out might have acted in revenge, he said. But this theory seems unlikely given the extent of damage caused by the bomb.

``There are many ways to revenge a defeat ... but not by destroying a two-billion-baht aircraft,`` said the columnist.

So was Thaksin the target? If the answer is yes, then why was the bomb detonated 35 minutes before the prime minister was to board the plane? ``If we stick to the assassination theory, then we may assume that the ill-fated steward found the bomb and accidentally set it off,`` Kilane suggested.

The columnist did not believe that a malfunctioned air-conditioner caused the explosion, saying it was nonsense to even think about it. Prime Minister Thaksin and police investigators would also suffer a loss of face because they had insisted that it was a bomb explosion.

But dark clouds have silver linings. The destruction of the Boeing 737 has drawn public sympathy for Mr Thaksin, whose government got off to a rather sluggish start, Kilane said. ``Realising what life would be like without him, people have now begun to love him more,`` he added.

* Songpol Kaopatumtip is the Editor of Sunday Perspective Section of the Bangkok Post. Email: songpolk@bangkokpost.co.th
Friday, March 16 10:31 AM SGT

THAI PRESS:Thai Imports Need To Be Cut To Avoid Crisis
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand`s federal industries body warned that the country`s imports need to be cut by 120 billion baht (1$=THB43.832) to avoid a second economic crisis, the Bangkok Post reports.
Praphad Photiworakhun, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, proposed four measures to slash imports. They are reducing imported raw materials by at least 10% or THB68.9 billion, cutting down on imported luxury items by THB20 billion from THB30 billion and reducing the import of capital goods by state enterprises by half, to THB30 billion.

A serious campaign to encourage people to buy more Thai products should also be launched.

Lobbying for powerful seats on board is under way
Banks each want to be represented

Cholada Ingsrisawang and Darana Chudasri

While formal establishment of the Thai Asset Management Corp is at least several months away, lobbying has already begun for a seat on the new agency`s board.

Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has said laws supporting the new agency were expected to be passed by mid-year, after which the process of transferring some 1.35 trillion baht in dud loans from local banks could begin.

The TAMC board will have sweeping powers over the 4,500-plus borrowers placed under its supervision, including authority to change management, liquidate assets and order mergers with other firms.

Of the 1.35 trillion baht in assets, around 250 billion will come from private banks, with the rest from state-owned banks, Bangkok Asset Management and Sukhumvit Asset Management. For the private banks, management details of the new institution form the biggest sticking point. Thanong Bidaya, head of the TAMC drafting committee, said the agency would be structured along private sector best practices, with separate audit committees set up to monitor performance.

But bankers still have reservations about whether a state-owned agency can efficiently rehabilitate assets as well as their private counterparts.

M.R. Chatumongol Sonakul, governor of the Bank of Thailand, said yesterday the TAMC should be patterned after the Corporate Debt Restructuring Advisory Committee.

CDRAC, a central bank agency comprised of representatives of local and foreign banks and industry groups, has overseen restructuring of 1.1 trillion baht in debt to more than 270,000 borrowers over the past three years.

M.R. Chatumongol said the TAMC would help banks focus more on new loans, allow borrowers with bad loans access new capital and strengthen the overall financial position of the banking sector.

For now, sources say Dr Somkid and members of the 12-person TAMC working group have already begun to field requests from business leaders, consultants and financial experts looking for a seat on the new board.

But at the Thai Bankers` Association, one official said members generally believed that each bank participating in the scheme should be allowed to name their own director to TAMC to help oversee their interests.

"In any case, a qualified search committee should take responsibility for setting up the board. Transparency is crucial if the agency is to retain credibility and be divorced from politics," the official said. "Each baht of TAMC is either taxpayer funds or the money of public investors."The Thai Bankers` Association believes participating banks should contribute between five and 10 of their own staff to jump start operations at the TAMC.

Other bankers fear that without professional management, stringent controls and independent audit systems, the TAMC could fall prey to heavy lobbying by business interests hoping for an advantage in restructuring talks.

Kittipong Urapeepatanapong, a partner at Baker & McKenzie, said it was crucial that the TAMC law clearly stipulate the role and responsibilities of the new agency, as well as its authority over outside creditors in restructuring debt.

He said the extent of the agency`s powers over existing laws remained unclear, whether it was the civil code or the bankruptcy law. A borrower filing suit with the Constitutional Court, for instance, against a TAMC action, could set up a conflict which should be addressed by the government now.

Another problem is moral hazard, where other borrowers start defaulting on their own obligations in hopes of entering the TAMC and receiving discounts on their debt.

In any case, local banks say they believe the TAMC will reduce pressure on banks to raise new capital, but that whether this would translate to loan growth remained uncertain.

Sataporn Jinachitra, senior executive vice-president at Siam Commercial Bank, said around 30-40% of the bank`s 97 billion baht in non-performing loans were estimated to be unable to be restructured.

Around 20-30 billion baht in loans were estimated to qualify for transfer to the TAMC. Private banks can transfer only loans worth more than five million baht and involving more than two creditors.

Another 7,000 cases, involving loans of 13-14 billion baht, were under legal proceedings, Mr Sataporn said. If transferred to the TAMC, the move would help the bank save in operating expenses.

At Bangkok Bank, executive chairman Kosit Panpiamrat said the bank was waiting for final details to be worked out by the government before deciding its own level of participation.

For Thai Farmers Bank, president Banthoon Lamsam said the bank had around 20 billion baht in bad loans which met the transfer criteria for the TAMC. At Thai Military Bank, executives estimate around 25 billion baht in loans qualified for transfer.

Rating agency Fitch yesterday said while not a cure, the TAMC should assist economic recovery and push through corporate restructuring. With lower bad loan levels, private banks would also be in a position to cut loan interest rates and refocus efforts on good borrowers and loan growth.

Fitch said banks with relatively lower provisioning levels such as Siam Commercial Bank, Thai Military Bank, Bank of Asia and Bank of Ayudhya would benefit the most from TAMC.

The programme avoids immediate provisioning for losses, relieving pressure on having to raise new capital. The transfer of bad loans for TAMC bonds would also raise net interest margins.
The Post - 16.3.01 -
Banks lead SET to post-Thaksin low

Tavivoot Chulavachana

editor at large - bday.net 16.3.01 -

THE Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) fell to the lowest point yesterday since Thaksin Shinawatra, the new prime minister, took office on February 9. But most analysts said regional and global issues dominate the SET, and that Thaksin`s policies are not to blame.

"Asia is going to catch a cold if global markets aren`t healthy. Right now the world is nervous. The economy in the US is slowing down and the issue is whether it will be in a slump," said Frank Chiang, who helps manage US$1 billion in emerging market stock at Montgomery Asset Management, which has about 20 percent of its funds invested in technology stocks and another 20 percent in financial stocks.

Yesterday the SET fell 1.28 percent to 296.10, on volume of about 5.5 billion baht, with bank stocks heading the decline. Thai Farmers Bank was off 0.50 baht to 22.75 and Bangkok Bank was off 0.75 baht to 38 baht.

Foreigners continued to be net sellers for the third day in a row.

Despite most Asian markets rebounding yesterday, the SET still took a dive, based on little good news on the local front, according to Verachai Krongsamsri, analyst at UOB Securities.

However, according to Salomon Smith Barney head Asian strategist, Han Ong, equities markets mutual funds still look to be in good position to attract funds.

"On the positive side, there is clearly a growing weight of money as central banks are reflating rapidly. This liquidity is likely to flow into funds. There is a tug of war between falling interest rates and downgrades in earnings and compounding a perception that the Fed was behind the curve on interest rate reduction," Ong said.
TAMC wins Morgan`s praise for `transparency`

Tavivoot Chulavachana

editor at large - bday.net 16.3.01 -

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter said yesterday it is "unambiguously positive" on the Thai Assets Management Corporation (TAMC) because it would help quantify the problem of non-performing loans in Thailand and make the market more transparent.

Prime Minister Thaksin`s Shinawatra TAMC is paving the way for an aggressive structural upturn in the Thai economy, for the first time since mid-1997, the firm said.

Cleaner corporate and bank balance sheets should promote monetary reinflation to accommodate stronger real growth, the firm said.

The comment comes at a time when many local analysts are sceptical about the benefits the TAMC will have on economic growth.

"The Thai Asset Management Corporation helps to quantify the maximum haircut for private banks and the maximum public debt burden in the next few years," Daniel Lian, an economist at the firm said yesterday.

The government plans to buy 250 billion baht worth of bad loans from private banks.

As a result, NPLs remaining on the books of private banks will be reduced to 11 percent of GDP, and government debt and fiscal deficit ratio should not exceed 64 percent and 5.5 percent of GDP, respectively.

"Fiscal sustainability is assured," said Lian.

While a clearer picture on non- performing loans is expected, most private banks have put aside discussion about capital-raising plans until the TAMC is actually in operation and their NPL problems are properly assessed.

Yesterday Bangkok Bank said it will delay capital-raising plans until the TAMC question is settled. That sent its shares tumbling 0.75 baht to 38 baht.

Other banks also fell yesterday.

While Morgan Stanley was positive overall, it did express some concern. as to whether the TAMC could facilitate a much-needed and deep-rooted corporate reform.
PM downplays concerns over exacerbated Thai-Myanmar ties
BANGKOK, Mar. 16 (TNA) – Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday played down mounting concerns over exacerbated relations between Thailand and Myanmar after a Myanmar patrol boat fired on a Thai trawler off the Ranong Province coast on Wednesday.
He said the incident had regularly occurred when Thai trawlers entered the Myanmar territorial waters for fishing.
However, since the border situation becomes tense now, many people viewed the latest incident was attributed to Myanmar’s hostile attitude toward Thailand.
The premier said the ongoing border conflict between the two neighboring countries should not be seen as a big problem.
He believed the problem would eventually be solved through talks by officials at different levels and the bilateral relations would normalize soon.
The Thai trawler was chased by the Myanmar patrol boat before it was shot, just about 30 kilometres off the Ranong coast, injuring a crew on board.
The injured crew was rushed to a hospital in the province by a Thai marine force, which was sent out to assist the shot boat.
Local authorities said that the three similar incidents had occurred this year when Thai fishing boats were chased by Myanmar patrol boats.
Last year, nearly 50 Thai trawlers were arrested by the Myanmar
Last Update : 3/16/01 : 10:04:02 AM

House sets up border panel
Surasak Tumcharoen - The Post 16.3.01 -

The House yesterday set up a special panel to address Thai-Burmese border problems with emphasis on drugs, illegal immigration and other crime.

Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said local Thai-Burmese border committees had reached some agreement, while a regional panel was to discuss problem areas on April 1.

Rangoon, he said, had assured him it would co-operate with the anti-drug campaign launched by the government.

"The matter of clashes on the border is finally coming to the negotiating table," Mr Surakiart said.

Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said the problems could be solved, and he denied ordering the Third Army to ease off along the northern border.

Charoen Kanthawong, a Democrat, said Gen Chavalit had confused the Third Army by planning talks with Rangoon when its forces were launching attacks on Thai territory.

Gen Chavalit-criticised for making "too friendly" gestures towards Burma-said local and regional talks between Thai and Burmese authorities were bearing fruit.

Democrats alleged Gen Chavalit had vested interests in Burma, including logging, given his close ties with the junta. Gen Chavalit dismissed the allegations. M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, former deputy foreign minister, urged the government to speed the process of demarcating the border. Itthidet Kaewluang, a Thai Rak Thai MP, said Thailand was losing 50 million baht a day from the closure of the Mae Sai pass.
Friday, March 16 12:56 PM SGT

Myanmar Closes Another Border Crossing With Thailand
BANGOK (AP)--Myanmar has halted vehicle traffic at a border crossing with Thailand in what may be retaliation for the Thai government`s exposure of widespread drug trafficking from that country, a Thai official said Friday.
All vehicles were stopped Thursday from entering Myanmar at the Three Pagoda Pass checkpoint, 260 kilometers southwest of Bangkok.

But local villagers were allowed to pass back and forth across the frontier, said Maj. Gen. Mana Prachakchit, the regional commander, in a telephone interview.

Mana said his Myanmar counterpart, Lt. Col. Aye Tun, gave no explanation for the ban, merely saying the order came from higher places.

The move followed border clashes last month between the two countries and detailed descriptions by the Thai government of how methamphetamines and heroin are flooding into the country from Myanmar.

"I think the latest closure is an act of retaliation for the exposure," Mana said.

The Three Pagoda Pass action came four days after Thailand reopened its checkpoint at Mae Sai, in northern Thailand. But the Myanmar side of that border crossing remains closed.

Mana said that Myanmar, also known as Burma, was closing crossings which were lucrative to Thai businessmen but keeping open those necessary for vital imports, including oil, rice and medicine, from Thailand.

Thai loggers and furniture makers are active in the Three Pagoda Pass area, which is also a destination for Western backpackers.

Despite the tensions two of the three key frontier checkpoints, at Ranong and Mae Sot, remain open. The third important one is at Mae Sai.

Myanmar has accused the Thais of aiding Shan rebels, who have been waging a guerrilla war against the military regime in Yangon. The fighting spilled over into Thailand and led to Thai-Myanmar clashes.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, declaring a war on drug traffickers, last weekend gave a graphic presentation to senior officials about Mong Yawn, a town just inside Myanmar he said was built with drug money.

The town is controlled by the United Wa State Army, an ethnic guerrilla group believed to be kingpins of the regional drug trade. The group has close ties with Myanmar`s military rulers.
Falling yen takes baht with it

THE baht broke through the key psychological level of Bt44 against the dollar yesterday, dragged down by further weakness in the Japanese yen.

Dealers said Bt44.5 was the next resistance level, which could be tested within the month.

They believe that if the yen declines to ¥140 against the greenback, as anticipated by some foreign analysts, the Thai currency would follow to Bt45, a level it last touched in March 1998.

The local unit edged down shortly after the market opened at Bt43.96 to Bt43.99 to the dollar, before hitting its morning session low of Bt44.02, dealers said.

During the same trading session, the yen fell to ¥122.5 against the dollar, from ¥121 a day earlier.

The local currency stabilised briefly thanks to dollar selling by exporters as well as foreign banks, who seized the chance to take profit from the strengthened dollar.

But the currency`s downward trend gained momentum in the afternoon as importers entered the market to pick up dollars.

That forced the baht, which had re-bounded slightly to Bt43.92 in the afternoon, down to Bt44.02 to Bt44.05 at the close of trading, dealers said.

The yen ended at ¥122.6 against the dollar in Asian trading but slipped further to ¥123 in Western markets yesterday evening.

"The Thai currency will not able to resist the downward trend in the region. We saw the Singapore dollar plunge today to S$1.774 against the dollar, and that is why the baht moved down," a dealer from a major bank said.

"We expect the Thai baht will continue to drop on Monday," the dealer added.

Meanwhile, Jemal-ud-din Kassum, the World Bank`s vice president, was quoted by Dow Jones Newswires as saying that Japan`s economic troubles pose significant risks for Asian economies, especially Thailand, which could be among the worst hit.

"There could be a significant effect on the region but some economies are more vulnerable than others," Kassum said in an interview. "Thailand, South Korea and Philippines could suffer due to export exposure to Japan."

Kassum noted Thailand`s exports will slow down as a result of reduced demand both from Japan and the United States - its two major export destinations.

The World Bank doesn`t expect Thai exports, a key player in the country`s economy last year, to drive economic growth this year.

Exports fell 3.9 per cent in January, as a result of reduced global demand, particularly for technology products and electronics. This pushed the country`s trade balance to a $282 million deficit.

The World Bank still expects Thailand to post a trade surplus this year with a slight recovery in coming months, but in the longer term, things look bleak.

"We are still projecting a surplus but it will be declining," Kassum said. "But we could see a sustained deficit two to three years down the road."


The Nation, Dow Jones Newswires - 17.3.01 -
`External factors could slash growth to 1.5%`

AFTER clipping along at more than 4 per cent last year, the economy`s growth could almost stall at 1.5 per cent this year as a hard landing in the United States and a sharp economic slowdown in Japan take their toll on exports, an economic advisor to the premier said yesterday.

Supavud Saicheua, economic advisor to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said external economic turbulence, particularly economic difficulties in the country`s major trading partners, the US and Japan, could slash up to two percentage points off the 3.5-per-cent projected growth in Thailand`s gross domestic product this year.

He emphasised that there was no way Thailand could avoid being dragged down along with the global slump, as exports had contributed about 60 per cent of last year`s GDP growth and the US, European Union and Japanese markets had accounted for two-thirds of the country`s total exports.

Exports, the main engine of Thai economic growth in the past few years, contracted 3.9 per cent year on year in January against a 19.6-per-cent rise for all of last year.

Supavud, also senior vice president of Merrill Lynch Phatra Securities Co Ltd (MLP), expressed his concerns at a seminar on "Investment Opportunities in 2001" yesterday in the wake of rising fears over a possible new round of economic crisis here.

Such fears have been snowballing since the Nasdaq index plunged below 2,000 points, the lowest level in 27 months, while the Tokyo stock market index also slipped to a 17-year low.

In addition, the yen fell past its key support level of ¥120 against the US dollar, pushing the baht and all other regional currencies down in tandem.

However, the chance that Thailand will plunge into a new economic crisis is slim, given that external debt has fallen dramatically from US$109.3 billion (Bt4.8 trillion) in the middle of 1997 to $80.2 billion last year.

"We`re now in a better position than in the past three years, when external debt was abnormally high," Supavud said. "But we cannot avoid negative impacts from external turbulence as we have a close trade linkage with these troubled countries."

MLP projects global economic growth for this year at 2.4 per cent, down sharply from 4.1 per cent last year. It expects Thai gross-domestic-product growth to ease to 2.5 or 3 per cent year on year in the first half before picking up to 4 per cent in the second half. It estimates that growth last year was 4.1 to 4.2 per cent.

MPL foresees doom ahead for the US, the largest engine of global economic growth, with significant slowdown in growth, especially in the technology industry, weakening consumer confidence and increasing concerns over asset quality.

To prevent the US economy from slipping into recession, the securities house sees a strong need for a greater relaxation of US monetary policy to get the economy back on track in the second half.

MLP thinks that American short-term interest rates need to be chopped by 100 basis points this year.

These cuts should be enough to prevent the US from a sharp slowdown and would be a boon for all countries in the world, it says.

On the current economic situation in Japan, MLP said deflation was lingering and consumption remained weak.

"Extra fiscal stimulus is needed and possibly a further easing of monetary policy in our view. We forecast that the yen should fall further to ¥120 to ¥130 against the US dollar," an MLP report said.

All of these factors have put more pressure on Asian economies, which are still struggling to recover from the economic crisis, it added.

To survive amid dim global economic prospects, Supavud said the Thai government needed to implement fiscal stimulus measures to boost the economy as interest rates could not be lowered significantly any more. Acceleration of non-performing-loan restructuring to strengthen corporations and revive investment is crucial to prevent a major economic slowdown, he noted.

"US and Japan economic performances as well as success in debt-restructuring domestically will determine Thailand`s 2001 economic performance," he added.


The Nation - 17.3.01. -
Im Rennen passiert ja nix zur Zeit, daher das was ich gerade gelesen habe:

Thai bourse’s fate depends on US recovery, says SET president
PRACHUAB KIRI KHAN, Mar 18 (TNA) – The Thai stock market’s fate relies on how quickly the United States government could cope with the country’s economic slowdown, Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET)’s president Vicharat Vichitvathakarn said yesterday.
If it failed to solve the problem swiftly, capital markets and economies around the world, including that of Thailand would unavoidably be affected.
He said the continued fall in Down Jones and Nasdaq indexes had reflected the US economic sluggishness.
The improvement in the country’s bourse depends on what measures Washington would take to turn around the economy. Unless it was able to stimulate the economy quickly, the stock markets the world over, including SET, would be taken the brunt.
Mr Vicharat said the US economic slowdown would not only affect the Thai bourse, but also have an impact on its overall economy, particularly exports because the US is regarded one of Thailand’s main export destinations.
Worse still, the long-dragging economic meltdown Japan is experiencing would certainly deteriorate the SET and Thai economic conditions further since Japan is another major export market.
On mounting concerns Thailand would no longer tolerate economic difficulties if it experiences a new round of crisis, the SET president said the country is now in a better position to weather economic storm given the improved fiscal position and public debts.
He said the SET plans to adopt the offensive marketing strategy to encourage companies to list on the stock market and expand investors’ base in the bourse. It is expected the strategy could increase register capitals of listed firms by 48 billion baht for this year.
The SET would also place an emphasis on pressing listed companies to have good corporate governance for the interest of individual investors and for the sake local business growth, he added. (TNA)
Last Update : 3/18/01 : 2:13:50 AM(GMT+7)
NESDB lowers growth projection to 3.5-4 %

Filed at 11 : 09 am (THLD time)

BANGKOK, March 19 (The Nation) - The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the government`s central planning agency, said on Monday it expected Thailand`s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 3.5-4.0 per cent as world`s economy slows down.

"The key problem [affecting Thailand`s economic growth] this year will be the world`s economy, especially in Thailand`s major export markets, including the United States and Japan, which are facing economic slowdown," the NESDB said.

Thai GDP grew 3.1 per cent year-on-year in the last quarter of 2000, compared to 2.8 per cent growth in the third quarter.

Thai exports will likely expand 7 to 9 per cent this year, compared to 19.5 per cent in 2000. The NESDB forecast last December that exports would grow by 9-11 percent in 2001.
19 Mar 2001 The Business Times

SET plans new products to boost investment

THE Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) will introduce a new instrument for foreign investors in the second quarter of this year and index options in the third quarter in a bid to boost trading volumes, bourse officials said.

Non-voting depositary receipts (NVDRs), a new investment vehicle to allow foreign investors unlimited holdings in Thai stocks, are due to start trading in the second quarter, SET president Vicharat Vichit-Vadakan told reporters.

NVDRs had originally been due to start trading in the first quarter.

"We hope to be ready soon as the issue is just pending approval from the Cabinet," Mr Vicharat said.

Until now, foreign investors have been constrained by laws preventing more than 49 per cent of any Thai company being in foreign hands. This means foreign investors have to buy shares on the stock exchange`s foreign board, usually at a premium.

The new scheme provides for foreign investors to buy NVDRs from a special company, which would then invest the money in the specified stock. Because the firm would actually own the shares, the foreign ownership restrictions would not be an issue.

NVDR holders would not have voting rights, however.

Premiums on the foreign board have narrowed in recent months in anticipation of the introduction of NVDRs. Mr Vicharat said the SET hoped to introduce options on the SET-50 Index of big-cap stocks in the third quarter.

"We`d like very much for it to start trading in the third quarter. Almost everything is ready except back office," he told Reuters.

SET executive vice-president Yuth Vorachattarn said he expected about 10 or 15 companies to list new shares in 2001, including Thai Airways International, which plans to increase the number of its shares in private hands. Mr Yuth said the new listing would raise the paid-up capital of Thailand`s stock market by 48 billion baht (S$1.9 billion) from 800 billion currently. Mr Vicharat said there was plenty of potential for expansion of the stock market, as retail investors in Thailand had so far invested very little in stocks compared with bank savings.

But he conceded that the bearish trend in global markets and the world economy was a concern. "It will of course affect us to some extent, not only the stock market but the Thai economy as a whole," he said. "The important thing is that we are prepared for that." -- Reuters
Monday, 19 March 2001
The lawless elements
``There`s nothing under the sun that the Thai police cannot do.`` That was the standard line people were made to learn in the heyday of police strongman Pao Siyanond over three decades ago. Today`s policemen are not cut from the same sheet of iron, but they are not the darling of the public either, thanks to the corruption scandals that have rocked the police force in recent years.

So it came as no surprise when the mass-circulation Thai Rath launched a campaign against corrupt policemen in its Sunday column early this month. Written by a senior reporter under the pseudonym of Plerng Morakot, the column draws on complaints from people in Bangkok and the provinces who suffer at the hands of corrupt policemen.

In the March 11 column, a group of motorcycle taxi drivers in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan, on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok, complained that they had to pay 50-100 baht (about $1.2-2.4) to patrol policemen each day. The alleged extortion took place even though the taxi drivers already paid 200 baht a month in protection fees, said the columnist.

A similar tale was told by tricycle and taxi drivers in Nonthaburi, on the northern suburbs of Bangkok, who claimed they had to pay 100 baht to policemen whenever they stopped to pick up passengers in front of the municipal market. ``These policemen are acting like robbers,`` a taxi driver wrote in his letter of complaint.

These experiences are hardly the stuff you want to read while enjoying your morning coffee, but they are a fact of life here in Thailand. And corruption will not go away as long as drugs and money are involved, as Plerng Morakot pointed out in his column yesterday.

Expressing his concern about the proliferation of methamphetamine, the columnist urged Prime Minister Thaksin to weed out corrupt policemen who colluded with drug dealers. He claimed that a drug pusher was recently arrested in a crowded community in Bangkok but was set free after he agreed to part with his drug money.

In a housing estate behind the district office in Nakhon Pathom, near the southwestern suburbs of Bangkok, speed pills were on sale openly, the columnist noted. ``Rumour has it that some policemen are distributing the drug,`` he added.

While Thaksin has hit out at drug producers stationed across our northwestern border, it would be wise for him to look at problems closer at home as well, the columnist suggested. Ridding the police force of its bad apples would be a good start.

As Plerng Morakot said in the last paragraph of his March 11 article, ``It`s ironic that these (corrupt) policemen, who are on a fixed salary and overtime pay, choose to take from poor people like taxi drivers who are living from hand to mouth.``

* Songpol Kaopatumtip is the Editor of Sunday Perspective Section of the Bangkok Post. Email: songpolk@bangkokpost.co.th

`Mini-Miyazawa` to be discussed today
B5.5bn injection seen as likely soon

Chatrudee Theparat

A local, much smaller version of the Miyazawa plan, designed to boost consumer spending, is likely to be implemented soon.

The government hopes that a short-term cash injection, along the lines of the Japanese-funded package, will counter the effects of the anticipated slowdown in the world economy.

Under the Miyazawa plan, the previous government injected 54 billion baht into rural areas, employing local people on a wide variety of projects, including construction.

The main objective was to boost household earnings, thereby encouraging consumer spending to revive industrial output.

However, the new government would make the package the launch-pad for its longer-term plan to establish revolving funds of one million baht for each of the country`s villages, which number more than 70,000, said a source at the National Economic and Social Development Board.

The economic policy supervision committee, chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is scheduled to discuss details of the package today.

Sources say it could be worth 5.5 billion baht.

The government hopes to cushion any fall-out from the economic slowdown in the United States and Japan`s financial crisis, as well as the general weakening of worldwide economic growth.

All these problems are likely to depress export earnings, in particular.

Mr Thaksin expressed confidence last week that Thailand would not enter a new economic crisis, but said the government would have to prevent the economy from weakening.

Today`s meeting will include top officials from the NESDB, the Bank of Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and the ministries of Finance, Commerce, Agriculture and Industry.

Besides the stimulus package, plans would be drafted to lift export and tourism earnings, said Sansern Wongcha-um, the NESDB`s secretary-general.

Although some key members of Thai Rak Thai had branded the previous government`s handling of the Miyazawa programme as a waste of money, Mr Sansern said a similar short-term stimulus package was necessary now.

"At present, the only positive factor for the country`s economy is politics. If the government wants to stimulate the economy, such a short-term package is a must," he said.

The other source said the NESDB and the Budget Bureau would jointly work out a list of projects eligible for help from the new package.

The final selection would be made by screening proposals by 1,200 villages seeking finance under the NESDB`s Social Investment Project.

To qualify for consideration, the projects must create jobs, have low import content, be business-oriented, improve quality of life and strengthen community capabilities and competitiveness.

About 5.5 billion baht would be available for the new package, the source said, with 1.5 billion baht drawn from the unused portion of the 2001 fiscal budget and four billion baht from low-priority projects shelved by the NESDB.
- The Post 19.3.01 -
Govt to adopt 4-pronged strategy to stimulate economy
BANGKOK, Mar 20 (TNA) – The government plans to adopt a new four-pronged strategy as part of its concrete efforts to stimulate the country’s economy next month, according to Finance Minister Somkid Jatusipitak.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, he said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra instructed his ministry to set aside a budget to support the implementation of the strategy which is expected to embark on mid-April or the month-end.
The four-pronged strategy for the economic recovery is to promote tourism, boost exports, reduce imports and stimulate the property business.
Mr Somkid said the government paid special attention to tourism because it could earn the country currency revenue in the quickest way. It saw a need to add value to the industry.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) was assigned for 1-2 weeks to work out a plan to promote tourism.
The government eagerly hoped to see the number of foreign tourists increase from around 8-9 million last year because it could not only enhance the country’s revenue, but also create new jobs
He said the premier wanted to see the annual revenue from tourism rise to 50 billion baht or so from 30 billion last year.
On a possible tax increase in order to raise the government’s revenue, Mr Somkid said, the premier supported the policy, but a lot of details had yet to be disuccsed.
The finance minister affirmed the government would not increase value-added taxes from 7% to 10% until next year. The upward adjustment needs to take into account the country’s economic conditions. (TNA)
Tuesday, March 20 10:45 AM SGT

THAI BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bangkok Bk Home Loan At 5% First Yr
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Bangkok Bank PCL (H.BBK) expects to extend mortgage loans worth 500 million baht ($1=THB43.969) during its nine-day home loan promotion period March 26 to April 5, offering a 5% fixed rate for the first year. The bank said in a statement that the interest rate for the subsequent years will be at a premium of 50 basis points above the prime rate, known locally as the minimum lending rate, which is currently 7.25%. Thai banks are competing vigorously for the less risky home loan market, while the commercial loan sector is still mired in nonperforming loans.
Thai, Burma officials to meet over border conflict

Thailand and Burma have agreed to convene a top-level border committee for the first time in two years to try to resolve a brewing row over conflicts along their shared border.

Thailand`s Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, says Rangoon has agreed to the regional border meeting, which will take place in Burma early next month.

Two sessions of the lower-level Township Border Commission have failed to ease strains sparked by clashes between the two neighbours` armies.

A cross-border checkpoint has been closed since Burmese troops pursuing ethnic rebels strayed into Thailand last month, prompting retaliation by the Thai army and a tense month-long standoff between the two sides.

(08:59:39 AEST)Radio Ausralia 20.3.01
US, Japan Set Up Fund to Revive Thai SMEs
March 20, 2001

A major US investor and two Japanese banks yesterday set up the Thailand Corporate Recovery Fund (TCRF), aimed at reviving the fortunes of troubled medium-sized companies, while the Thai government warned growth would slow this year.

The US$150 million fund has been set up by Cerebus Capital Management, a US group controlling US$6.7 billion in capital, Japan`s Shinsei Bank, and the government-run Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

The role of the fund will be crucial as the economy slows down, growing at a slower-than-expected 3.5%-4% this year, down from earlier estimates of 4%-4.5%, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said.

To Support Local SMEs

The TRCF will also be open for additional Thai investors. It will, however, focus its assistance and support to selected local SMEs whose potential is accepted by the fund`s management. Assistance would be either by extending new loans or acquiring stakes in the selected firms.SMEs initially eligible will be those with debts between Bt10-100 million (US$227,000 -2.27million)

Bank of Thailand (BOT) governor Chatu Mongol Sonakul pointed out that the TRCF would be a new alternative for private SMEs in the country to acquire fresh funds for their business expansion under the management control of the professional executives of the TRCF.

(hm/fw)Business Times 20.3.01
WIRE: 03/20/2001 0:12 am ET

Thailand`s PTTEP may lower sales forecast

BANGKOK, March 20 (Reuters) - Thailand`s PTT Exploration and Production said on Tuesday it may have to lower its 2001 sales forecast in line with lower domestic economic growth predictions, but insisted earnings would still rise.
Thailand`s government think tank, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), said on Monday it expected 2001 growth of between 3.5 and four percent, down from previous forecasts of 4.5-5.0 percent. Growth in 2000 was 4.3 percent.

"Demand for gas is closely linked with GDP. The figures released yesterday (by the NESDB) see a smaller GDP growth. We periodically review our sales forecast -- which is eight percent growth for 2001 -- and we will have to take this into account," PTTEP president Chitrapongse Kwangsukstith told Reuters.

Chitrapongse said gas prices would edge down this year, putting some pressure on earnings of the company, Thailand`s biggest upstream oil and gas firm.

"The gas price in 2001 should not be higher than today`s price, which is based on a peak in the oil price six months ago," he said.

He added that the weekend decision by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce production by one million barrels per day to shore up oil prices would have a limited supporting effect on gas prices.

"I think the price will weaken a little, but the OPEC decision means the price will be supported a little. For every one dollar increase in the oil price, the gas price goes up 30 cents," he said.


Analysts say PTTEP`s long-term supply agreements give the company limited short-term protection from lower gas prices.

"A large proportion of PTTEP`s gas is from the Bongkot field, which is sold on semi-annual contracts. Sales up to September are at a price agreed upon in April, which will still be fairly high," said Richard Henderson, head of research at Kim Eng Securities.

Chitrapongse said PTTEP would improve on its 2000 results, which saw a net profit of 5.43 billion baht, a 150 percent jump on the previous year.

"In 2001 we expect an increase on our 2000 earnings. Demand is still rising and we are increasing production, especially from the Yadana gas field which will supply the Ratchaburi power plant," he said.

By midday PTTEP was trading at 100 baht per share, unchanged on the day and the same value as at the beginning of the year. In the same period, the energy sector has gained 7.3 percent and the benchmark Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) composite index has risen 8.2 percent.

Henderson said the potential of PTTEP meant the current share price was substantially undervalued.

"The value of the company lies in the reserves it has found and the exploration rights it possesses. If we look on the basis of past transactions, its reserves are undervalued, and that`s without getting into the exploration rights," he said.

"Using this, or even a DCF (discounted cash flow) valuation, the shares are worth double their current price."

(US$ - 43.9 baht)
Thai economy likely to register negative growth in 1st quarter
BANGKOK, Mar 20 (TNA) – The Thai economy is expected to undergo a negative growth of 0.5% or expand by only 1% in the first quarter of this year due to the export contraction, according to Thai Farmers Research Center (TFRC).
The leading think tank said the country’s exports growth in the three months to March are likely to be very low or stay flat thanks to the economic slowdown in the United States, one of its major export destinations.
The export contraction would impede the private investment and consumption, resulting in pressure on the growth rate of gross domestic products (GDP) in the period.
The situation would go on until the end of the second quarter as the US economy is anticipated to recover in the second half of this year.
TFRC projected the Thai economy in 2001 would expand in the range from 3 to 3.5% given the assumption that the US economy begins to pick up in third quarter of this year.
Still, the country’s economic growth was very likely to be lower than 3% if the US economy failed to recover.
Previously, the think tank forecast the Thai economy would grow between 3.8% and 4.2% for this year.
TFRC also predicted the surplus in the country’s current account balance would continue to fall and the deficit in the balance of payment would deteriorate. The factors would put the local currency under pressure for the rest of the year. The baht is expected to move in the range from 42.5 to 45 to the US dollar throughout the year. (TNA)
Last Update : 3/20/01 : 12:49:44 PM
Tuesday March 20, 12:26 am Eastern Time
Global Slowdown
By Cory Johnson

What the hell happened? Just when it seemed like things couldn`t get any worse in technology stocks, what felt like a bottom completely fell out. The Dow dropped below 10000. The Nasdaq, already reeling, slid 22.1 percent in a month`s time, falling below 2000.

Investors plummeted like Wile E. Coyote off a cliff, with a long whistle, a precipitous fall and no one to blame but another harebrained scheme (OK, with a little help from Acme.com).

The instigator last week was the global economy. It`s ironic that at the exact moment when the United States was up in arms over the import of foot-and-mouth and mad cow diseases, fear of a U.S. export - a recession - was infecting Wall Street.

The first warning came March 8 from Intel. That the chipmaker was issuing a surprise earnings pre-announcement was no surprise. After all, Intel has missed Wall Street`s estimates for the past three quarters, and this warning was Intel`s second of the current quarter. But the context suggested a new problem: a slowdown not just in the U.S. economy, but one in Asia and Europe as well.

A week later, after the market close, Cisco Systems offered its own warning. The networking company had dramatically lowered expectations because of slower U.S. sales in previous weeks, but last Wednesday Cisco said it was worried about overseas revenues. "Our challenge is to fix this before it spreads in a major way to Asia-Pacific, Latin America or Europe," CEO John Chambers told the Boston Chamber of Commerce. "We are already, however, seeing challenges in Korea, Taiwan and Australia."

As if that wasn`t enough, the entire economy of Japan seemed on the brink of disaster, again. Last Wednesday, 19 Japanese banks saw their credit ratings put on watch for a downgrade by Fitch, the international credit rating industry. [See "Banking on Japan."] In response, the Nikkei 225 fell sharply, and the dominos began to fall across the globe. Germany`s benchmark DAX stock index dropped hard, and the London FTSE 100 hit its lowest point since December 1998. "When you have one of the Japanese finance ministers coming out and saying that their economy is on the verge of collapse - well, it isn`t good," says Mike Ward, portfolio manager for Global eFund, a global stock fund that has lost 23.9 percent this year.

The declines belie predictions of global stability. The most recent expectations from the big technology compa-nies saw European and Asian growth buoying a sinking American economy. Computer makers such as Compaq and Dell, for example, knew they were in for single-digit growth in the U.S. market this year. But they continued to expect better than 20 percent growth in Asia to pump up overall results. As those dreams are dashed, Wall Street is recognizing that the U.S. market is the least of its worries.

There is a precedent here. In 1998, a collapse of the Thai baht and the Indonesian rupiah seemed ready to plunge the entire world into a recession. But a rapid intervention by the Federal Reserve helped isolate those problems and avoid a new chapter in the Domino Theory.

Now, again, the world is looking for Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve to keep the dominos from falling. But the stumbling U.S. economy may be too heavy to right. And that possibility is turning many stomachs on Wall Street.
Cabinet raises 2002 budget to Bt973 bn

Filed at 12 : 43 pm (THLD time)

BANGKOK Mar 20 (The Nation) -- Cabinet has approved the 2002 central government expenditure budget of Bt973 billion, up from Bt960 billion planned earlier, with a revenue target of Bt825 billion.

The deficit of Bt150 billion is equivalent to 2.7 per cent of GDP. In addition, the state enterprise budget will carry a deficit equal to 0.8 per cent of GDP, but final figures are not yet available.

THAI Petrochemical Industries (TPI) expected a significant decline in earnings for 2001 - from an original target of $300m to less than $200m, according to company founder and former chief executive Prachai Leophiratana. He alleged the company`s lower earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (Ebitda) could be partly blamed on mismanagement by its rehabilitation planner Effective Planners (EP).

Prachai claimed the court-appointed planner, whom he waged bitter court battles against for much of last year, had run both the company`s petrochemical and oil businesses `improperly`. For its oil operations, EP had allegedly used a price-cutting strategy to sell refined oil at Bt0.25 a litre cheaper than the lowest market wholesale price set by major oil companies. "As for petrochemical (products), EP imports some ethylene which even we can produce at our plant. Due to its poor expertise in the petrochemical business, TPI`s cracker unit is shut down sometimes while imports come into the country," he said.

TPI`s refinery was now running at a capacity of 50,000 barrels per day, significantly below its maximum capacity of 200,000 bpd, he alleged. TPI, like other petrochemical producers, had also been adversely affected by the declining global price of oil.

Executives at Effective Planners were not able to be reached for comment.

In yet another move to "survive", Prachai yesterday met Industry Minister Suriya Juengrungrueng hit to discuss the possibility of TPI`s debt being included in the government`s Central Asset Management Corporation (CAMC).

Speaking after the meeting, Suriya said Prachai requested the government to consider offering incentives to its creditors, led by Bangkok Bank, to move its debt rehabilitation out of the court arena and included under the CAMC structure. However, Suriya played down Prachai`s proposal. "We have no authority to remove the case out of the court and offer special treatment to specific company. It is the duty of TPI itself to negotiate and motivate its creditors to do that."

BY Nareerat Wiriyapong

The Nation.

LAST MODIFIED: Tuesday, 20-Mar-01 09:04:53 EST
Somkid: high debt payback worrisome

Filed at 01 : 17 pm (THLD time)

BANGKOK Mar 21 (The Nation) -- The Bt115 billion budget set for debt repayment in the total fiscal 2002 budget of Bt973 billion has worried Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak who said this morning that the government might face difficulities in collecting enough revenue to meet the target.

The 2002 expenditure budget, which starts on Oct 1 this year, carries a deficit of Bt150 billion, equivalent to 2.7 per cent of GDP, as the revenue budget is only Bt823 billion.

"I hope the spendings will be adequate to stimulate the export, tourism and rural sectors," he said, adding that the government will also introduce measures to curb imports shortly.
PM wants higher rate of growth
Revised target of 3.5-4% `too low`
Post Reporters - 21.3.01 -
The prime minister feels the revised economic growth rate of 3.5-4% is too low and has instructed state agencies to work out measures to stimulate higher growth.

Thaksin Shinawatra stressed four main areas: export promotion, import reduction, encouraging tourism and stimulating consumption demand.

Officials concerned have been given two weeks to work out their measures in the respective areas.

Mr Thaksin, after acknowledging the revised economic growth rate of 3.5-4% by the National Economic and Social Development Board, said such growth would not even enable the government to service its foreign debt, let alone sustain economic rehabilitation.

Although the government has limited budget for spending in this fiscal year, it will allocate more funds to serve its stimulus policies in the new fiscal year, Mr Thaksin said.

The premier has also ordered the value-added tax be maintained at 7% until the end of September 2002. Earlier, the rate was to revert back to 10% in October this year. As a result the government`s revenue will be reduced by 30 billion baht.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said with the stimulus packages to be launched, he is confident the domestic economy will start recovering by the middle of the year, although external factors were still gloomy.

He said the Finance Ministry will issue measures in mid-April to promote exports, reduce imports and support tourism.

Tourism, in particular, will become a major source of foreign exchange and the government has an ambitious plan to boost income from tourism by 50 billion baht a year from the base of 300 billion baht in 2000, Mr Somkid said.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand earlier projected that income from tourism would grow by 10% to 329 billion baht this year.

But TAT governor Pradesh Payakvichien did not say if it would be possible to boost income from tourism by 50 billion baht as Mr Thaksin wants.

Mr Somkid said the country`s economic growth relied heavily on export earnings, which attributed to some 45% of gross domestic product, and "we will try to adjust the GDP structure by reducing the dependence on exports to 40%".

Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik said although the ministry`s projection of export growth of 11% this year was unrealistically high, he would try to accelerate exports and eliminate any impediments.

PM`s Office Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, who supervises the Budget Bureau, said the expenditure budget for 2002 will amount to 960 billion baht, with a deficit of 137 billion baht, equivalent to 2.5-2.7% of GDP.

From the budget about 73-80 billion baht would be set aside to stimulate the economy.

However, sources in the Finance Ministry said the government`s budget deficit is likely to be greater than expected.

The expenditure budget for this year was set at 910 billion baht and the government expected to collect 805 billion baht as revenue.

But based on the latest assessment, the revenue collection is likely to amount to only 773.18 billion baht as revenues by the three tax collection departments were lower than projections.

Collection of the Revenue Department would amount to 474 billion baht against a target of 490.21 billion baht; the Excise Department is likely to earn 172 billion baht against a target of 184.39 billion baht; and revenue from the Customs Department is expected to reach 94.46 billion baht against a projected 100.32 billion baht.
Wednesday, 21 March 2001
Unwanted recognition
Corruption is hardly a rare phenomenon here in Thailand. But when a Hong Kong-based consultancy released the results of its recent study into corruption in Asia, the Thai-language press was compelled to react.

To be sure, the study by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) did not make front-page headlines in the vernacular dailies this week. However, editorial writers and columnists admitted that it was a disgrace for Thailand to be among six Asian countries that were perceived to be the most corrupt in the region.

According to PERC, which polled views from expatriates working in Asia in the first quarter of this year, few Asian countries have paid heed to the lessons from the 1997 financial crisis. And in some parts of the region corruption was even growing worse.

Of the 12 countries surveyed, Singapore was deemed least corrupt while Vietnam was the most corrupt country in the region, according to those polled, followed by Indonesia. India, whose government is facing a raging arms bribery scandal, was listed as the third most corrupt nation in the region, followed by the Philippines, Thailand and China.

Commenting in its editorial yesterday, Thai Post said it was not the first time that Thailand had received such unpleasant recognition. ``But for the first time, government leaders were directly blamed for shrugging off the problem as being just the way things are,`` the paper said.

Thai people must be made to realise that corruption is like a cancer that spreads quickly to all sectors of our society, hindering the country`s social, economic and political development, said Thai Post. ``To stop the killer disease, all 62 million Thais must join hands to fight it.``

Writing in Daily News, columnist Treesoon said the campaign against corruption must begin with the bureaucracy. ``Corruption in the civil service is deep-rooted,`` he said.

Since Prime Minister Thaksin has campaigned for votes under the ``think anew, act anew`` policy, he may coin a new slogan urging the public to take part in a ``speedy eradication of corruption``, the columnist said.

Thai Post said corruption and drug addiction were the two most serious threats to the country. And since Prime Minister Thaksin had already declared war on drugs, he could put corruption on the same priority watch list.

Thaksin can count on the public to help him fight corruption which, the paper said, was a shameful ``fact of life`` in our country.

* Songpol Kaopatumtip is the Editor of Sunday Perspective Section of the Bangkok Post. Email: songpolk@bangkokpost.co.th
Das hätte auch anders ausgehen können. Möglicherweise hat ja auch die Entwicklung in Japan dem SET geholfen. Er gab nur um 1.92 Punkte auf 291.22 nach.
Großer Verlierer war die BBL. Die Foreigns gaben um 4.81% auf 49.50 Baht, die Locals um 4.07% auf 35.75 Baht nach. Beide Werte zusammen machten fast 20% des heutigen Umsatzes vom SET aus(4.490.54 M.Baht)

MfG BodyG
Wednesday, March 21 5:45 PM SGT

Thai Ctrl Bk Says Fed Rate Cut To Benefit Thailand
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--The Thai Central Bank said Wednesday that the Federal Reserve`s decision to cut U.S. interest rates by 50 basis points Tuesday is positive for Thailand`s economy.
Central Bank spokesman Bandid Nijathaworn said the cut will help ease the central bank`s constraints in adopting a low interest rate policy.

"The cut confirms the downtrend of U.S. rates, which is in line with that of Thai interest rates. That will allow us to use the low rates policy to stimulate the economy and domestic spending without any constraint," said Bandid.

He said the Fed`s rate cut will support the U.S. economy and will eventually benefit Thai exports, easing pressure on the current account and help improve the economy.

The lower rates would also ease the interest burden on the country`s massive foreign debt, he added. Foreign debt stood at US$80.25 billion at end December.

Bandid said the U.S. rate cut will be one factor that will be taken into consideration by the Monetary Policy Board at the pre-board meeting scheduled for April 12, when the effect from U.S. and Japan`s economic downturn on the global economy and Thai exports will be discussed. He didn`t say how monetary policy might be affected by Fed rate cut.

However, Bandid doesn`t expect any immediate reaction from Thai commercial banks to the Fed`s move as most of them have reduced their rates over the past four-five weeks.

He said the U.S. rate cut had hardly any impact on the money market as it`s in line with expectations. He said, however, that equity market has reacted better than expected to the Fed`s decision.
Wednesday, March 21 3:23 PM SGT

Thai Fin Min: 2001 Export Growth Expected 7%-8%
(MORE) Dow Jones Newswires 21-03-01

Thai Fin Min: Feb Trade Surplus Expected $90M-$100M

(MORE) Dow Jones Newswires 21-03-01

0728GMTJan Exports Dn 3.8% On Yr -Customs

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand`s finance ministry said Wednesday that export growth is expected in a range of 7% to 8% this year, and the current account should remain in surplus.

Choedchai Khannabha, deputy director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, told a news conference that a positive balance in the account for tourism and services should help Thailand maintain a current account surplus, despite a global slowdown in demand for exports.

Global conditions were also the reason that the commerce ministry proposed the revision in the export growth target from the previous 11.3%, he said.

Choedchai said January exports had dropped 3.8% from the same month last year, and 12.3% from December 2000, to $5.19 billion, according to Customs Department data.

It was the first month-on-month decline in 18 months, he said.

The January trade deficit was $370 million, based on goods and services passing through customs.

But Choedchai said preliminary data indicated the country should record a trade surplus in February of between $90 million and $100 million.
Wednesday, March 21 8:07 PM SGT

Thai Ctrl Bk: End-Jan BIBF Loans Down 21.5% on Year
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Loans extended under Bangkok International Banking Facilities, or BIBF, amounted at end-January to almost 420 billion baht ($1=THB43.931), a decline of 21.5% on year, the Bank of Thailand said Wednesday in a regular report.
BIBF are off-shore banking facilities set up in the early 1990s, loans extended by BIBF have been falling consistently since the 1997 financial crisis. BIBF units are operated by both Thai and foreign commercial banks.

Of the total, loans extended to domestic debtors amounted to THB377 billion, down 20.6% on year, while loans extended to foreign-based customers amounted to some THB43 billion, down 28.6% on year.

Out of the overall decline of BIBF loans over the period, some THB39.2 billion belonged to Thai commercial banks, representing a 34.7% decline, the report said.

Out of the total remaining BIBF loans, some THB218.4, or 52% of the total, were extended to manufacturing industries, while loans to banks and finance companies represented 14.7% and 12.2%, respectively. -0- 21/03/01 12-07G

weitere NPL`s:

Bangkok Bank 18.84 Prozent Ende Feb.
Thai Siam City Bank 58.82 Prozent Ende Feb.
Thursday, March 22 10:06 AM SGT

THAI PRESS: ADB Loan To Finance Thai Tourism Development
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thai government will use a loan from the Asian Development Bank worth THB2.3 billion (1$=THB44.092) to support tourism development projects, The Nation reports Thursday.
Somsak Thepsutin, Prime Minister`s Office Minister, was quoted as saying that the loan would be used to develop new tourist attractions and facilities, and to promote Thai tourism overseas.

Tourist arrivals in 2001 are estimated to reach 10.4 million, generating a cash inflow worth THB330 billion to the country.
Thursday, March 22 11:33 AM SGT

Thai Fin Min:No Change In Rate Policy On US Fed Rate Cut
(MORE) Dow Jones Newswires 22-03-01

Thai Fin Min:No Change In Rate Policy On US Fed Rate Cut

(MORE) Dow Jones Newswires 22-03-01

0333GMT Exports Important For Economy

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thai Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said Thursday that he wasn`t worried about the baht`s recent weakness as it would help export growth.

"I`m not worried about the baht," he told reporters. "Baht weakness could help exports and exports are important for the country`s economy," he said.

The baht has in recent days weakened past the key psychological level of 44 baht to the dollar, tracking the slide of the Japanese yen versus the dollar. At 0343 GMT Thursday (10:43 p.m. EST Wednesday), the dollar was trading at THB44.375 up from THB44.185 at Wednesday`s close. - - 22/03/01 03-47G
Thursday, March 22 12:17 PM SGT

Thai Shrs Slightly Dn Early; Select Buying Offsets Losses
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thai stocks are slightly down early Thursday, with selling in financial stocks on Wall Street`s losses overnight countered by selective buying in non-financial stocks, traders said.
At 0403 GMT (11:03 p.m. EST Wednesday), the Stock Exchange of Thailand index was down 0.63 point, or 0.2%, at 290.59.

The blue-chip SET 50 index was flat at 20.34 points.

Early volume is moderate at 134.4 million shares worth 1.31 billion baht ($1=THB44.092), against a total of 446.5 million shares worth THB4.49 billion Wednesday.

Decliners outnumber advancers 61 to 43, excluding shares traded on the foreign board.

Banking and finance stocks are lower in the wake of a decline in Wall Street markets. The banking index is down 0.3%, while finance stocks are down 0.1%.

Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial lost 2.4% to close at 9487.00 points, while the Nasdaq declined 1.5% to 1830.23.

Most regional bourses, including Thailand, are suffering from a selling trend early Thursday.

Bangkok Bank is down 2.1% at THB35, and Thai Farmers Bank is down 2.3% at THB21.75.

However, selective buying in non-financial stocks with strong fundamentals is helping to limit the main index`s losses.

"Some investors are starting to accumulate good stocks on weakness as their prices are considerably low after the index`s recent declines," said an analyst at ABN Amro Securities.

Hana Microelectronics is up 0.8% to THB65, and PTT Exploration & Production has gained 0.5% to THB100.

Analysts expect the index to find support at 286 points, and resistance at 295 points.
Deficit budget will pull country out of recession, says Somkid
BANGKOK, Mar 22 (TNA) – The 2002 expenditure budget, which carries a deficit of 150 billion baht or 2.7% of gross domestic products (GDP), would certainly help pull the country’s economy out of the three-year recession, Finance Minister Somkid Jatusipitak said yesterday.
The cabinet has recently agreed to endorse the total expenditure budget of Bt973 billion, and the revenue budget of Bt823 billion, resulting in an estimated deficit of Bt150 billion, equivalent to 2.7% of the GDP.
Dr Somkid said he was confident the budget deficit would be sufficient to help stimulate the country’s economic growth of 5% next year although the government had to bear the interest burden of 165 billion baht.
Most of the spending would focus on boosting the export and tourism, which could earn the country’s currency revenue.
He believed the deficit would neither put inflationary pressure on the overall economy nor bring too much burdens to the country.
On a possible tax increase for luxurious goods, the finance minister said the matter would have a clearer picture upon the declaration of the new economic stimulus package next month.
The government wanted to see people reduce their dependence on luxurious products and might resort to the tax increase if necessary.
Dr Somkid conceded the real and financial sectors have now been partially and fully paralyzed respectively. Domestic demand has gradually decreased due to unemployment while production capacity is in excess.
He said the government’s policies including three-year debt moratorium for farmers, one-million revolving fund for each village nationwide, and establishment of Thai Asset Management Corporation, would be able to increase people’s purchasing power.
The finance minister said the reform for financial institutions would be encouraged. Commercial banks would be allowed to compete with each other liberally so they would improve services to meet international standards.
State-owned banks, including Krung Thai and BankThai, would play a key mechanism in keeping private banks abreast of the policy direction taken by the government. (TNA)
22 Mar 2001 The Business Times

Moody`s warns of risk in Thai stimulus package
Boost may not come if restructuring is not deep enough

By Harish Mehta in Bangkok

THAILAND`S proposed fiscal stimulus package, likely to be worth 70 billion to 80 billion baht (S$2.8-$3.2 billion), runs the risk of not bringing about restructuring deep enough to boost competitiveness and efficiency, and to contain ballooning public debt.

Moody`s Investors Service issued this warning yesterday, saying: "The need for stimulatory Budget deficits will continue until fiscal consolidation is achieved over the medium term."

The government said it would announce the fiscal stimulus package next month, which is aimed at boosting exports and the depressed real estate sector, and promoting tourism. This expenditure is on top of the massive handouts promised by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra`s Thai Rak Thai party during its election campaign.

Analysts have criticised the Thaksin government`s spending spree, such as the 70 billion baht handout to villagers, a proposed debt moratorium for indebted farmers, and plans to create a state asset management corporation.

They say these items will add to public debt which is already at 60 per cent of gross domestic product. Moody`s credited the previous Democrat government of former prime minister Chuan Leekpai with establishing a framework for the financial sector and corporate restructuring, and putting the economy on the path of sustainable growth.

However, the Thaksin government had inherited an under-capitalised financial system burdened by poor loan quality, it added. Corporations remained burdened with debt, and restructuring had been limited, Moody`s said.

It warned: "Additional government assistance to both the financial and corporate sectors will increase public debt and pose specific risks to the long-term health of the economy." Moody`s said Thailand`s stable Baa3 foreign currency credit rating reflected the strength of its external payments position. The Baa3 rating puts the country in the lower investment grade category -- just above junk bond status.

"This, together with a more flexible exchange rate policy, provides insulation from foreseeable external shocks," Moody`s said. But it warned that continued progress depended on ongoing repair of the fragile state of both the financial and corporate sectors in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis.

In view of the pending corruption court case against Mr Thaksin, Moody`s said: "Continued political stability will be needed to advance structural economic reform. The ability of the Thai Rak Thai party to deliver will become evident in the months ahead.".

Moody`s said the Thai economy had benefited from a shift in favour of the traded-goods sector, which was a generator of new jobs. "Although the downturn in the US and Japanese economies pose risks to export-led growth, the continuation of an appropriate mix of exchange rate and other policies by the government should protect this new-found strength," it said.
Thursday, March 22 7:54 PM SGT

Thailand To Ban Livestock Imports Over Foot-And-Mouth,BSE
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand`s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will soon ban imports of livestock and meat from 16 countries where the foot-and-mouth disease has been found, according to a ministry`s draft of statement obtained by Dow Jones Newswires Thursday.
The import ban will apply to live cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and cloven-hoofed animals, including such animals` embryos, semen and carcasses from such countries, the draft statement said.

An official at the ministry`s Department of Livestock Development said the ban is pending approval from agriculture minister Shucheep Hansaward.

The ban will be effective once it is printed in the royal gazette, the official said.

The 16 countries are the U.K., Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, Greece, South Africa, Swaziland, Uruguay, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, Mongolia, Israel, Hong Kong and Turkey, according to the draft statement.

The draft statement said the ministry wasn`t planning to ban imports of livestock and related products from the Netherlands, where a case of foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed Wednesday.

The official said the ministry would announce an additional ban against products from the Netherlands later.

The Livestock Development Department in February announced a temporary ban on such products, including their raw meat, blood, meat-meals, all milk and dairy products, wool, hair, bristles, raw hides and skins and trophies from the U.K. due to foot-and-mouth disease there. Other products derived from these animals, as well as straw and forage, were also banned.

According to the draft statement, the ministry also plans to impose an additional ban to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encelopathy, in Thailand.

The ban will apply to imports of cows, sheep and goats, including embryos and carcasses of these animals, as well as bones, brains, inner organs, tallow, greaves and products derived from these animals from affected countries.

These are the U.K., Portugal, France, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Spain and Kuwait.

All countries in northern European are also included, according to the draft.

This move will add to Thailand`s measure in January which banned imports of beef and cattle products, including livestock-related raw material used for feedmeal, such as bone meal and pulverized blood, from 13 countries. These countries include the U.K., Portugal, France, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Spain. -0- 22/03/01 11-54G


MKS verfuegt ueber 60 Staemme mittlerweile, gerade in Asien grassiert sie, von Ort zu Ort, mal hier mal da, Taiwan und Indien wurden zuletzt schwerwiegend heimgesucht. Warum werden diese Laender beim Importverbot nicht erwaehnt?

MfG BodyG
NPL picture clouded

THE banking system`s non-performing loans (NPLs) amounted to Bt787.18 billion and accounted for 19.3 per cent of total lending at the end of February.

Bank of Thailand said on its website that bank`s NPLs as of end-January, recently released, were under review due to questions about data from the state-owned Krung Thai Bank.

According to the previous figure, the banking sector`s bad loans as of end-January stood at Bt795 billion.

Privately-run banks carried NPLs of Bt481.5 billion, or 18.16 per cent of total lending, at end-February, down from B482.38 billion, or 18.23 per cent a month earlier.

State-owned banks reported delinquent loans of Bt305.68 billion, or 21.54 per cent of outstanding credit at the end of February.

Before the review, the figure for state-run banks` NPLs at the end of February was Bt304.75 billion, or 21.36 per cent of total lending.

Thai Military Bank announced yesterday that its bad loans fell slightly to 23.31 per cent of total lending at the end of February from 23.37 per cent at the end of January.

In terms of value, the bank`s bad loans declined to Bt63.45 billion from Bt63.60 billion in January.

Siam Commercial Bank`s non-performing loans increased slightly to 19.89 per cent of its outstanding credit as of end-February, from 19.82 per cent a month before.

The country`s fourth largest lender in February was saddled with Bt97.85 billion worth of NPLs, compared with Bt97.75 billion in January.

Bank of Ayudhya reported that its non-performing loans accounted for 22.83 per cent of its total loans as of end-February, down from 22.99 per cent in January.

The bank`s NPLs in February, however, rose to Bt75.26 billion from Bt74.63 billion in January.

DBS Thai Danu Bank`s delinquent loans accounted for 7.67 per cent of total loans as of end-February, compared with 7.71 per cent a month before.

The bank`s bad loans in February amounted to Bt5.27 billion against Bt5.24 billion in January.

Bad loans carried by finance companies dropped to Bt32.64 billion, or 23.06 per cent of total lending as of end-February from Bt34.23 billion, or 24.30 per cent at the end of January.

The Nation. 23.3.01
Money office to probe general`s huge riches

THE Anti-Money Laundering Office took aim yesterday at bank accounts linked to the late General Sunthorn Kongsompong that, according to a lawsuit filed by his first wife, had balances totalling more than Bt2.7 billion.

The anti-money-laundering body would "definitely look into the matter", AMLO secretary-general Vassana Permlarp said, adding that he had already assigned some agents to begin an informal probe.

Balances in the accounts had later dropped sharply, which could be deemed suspicious and thus subject to investigation by the agency, Vassana said.

The deposits totalled just slightly more than Bt2.1 million on Nov 17, 2000, according to the suit filed by Khunying Orachorn Kongsompong and her two sons by Sunthorn in a legal battle against his second wife, Ampaphan Thanetdejsunthron, over his inheritance.

Vassana said corruption was one of seven offences the AMLO was authorised by law to investigate in order to establish whether money laundering had been committed.

Violators risked imprisonment ranging from one to 10 years and assets obtained dishonestly would be seized, Vassana said.

But he was unsure whether Sunthorn really had amassed over Bt3.91 billion in personal wealth, as claimed in the lawsuit. Such riches could be gained honestly, he said, if the late general had made profits from land deals and other businesses.

Meanwhile, National Counter Corruption Commission chairman Opas Arunin said yesterday the law did not allow the agency to investigate Sunthorn`s wealth as the general had left the public service more than two years ago and was deceased.

However, he said, the NCCC had resolved to assign its legal subcommittee to establish what could be done about the matter.

Klanarong Chanthik, secretary-general of the NCCC, said the anti-graft agency was authorised by law to disclose details about assets of the prime minister and other Cabinet members filed it, but not those of permanent officials. Only a court order would make disclosure of permanent officials` assets possible, he added.

A court might cite the public interest in the case being heard as the reason for asking for such information from the NCCC, Klanarong said.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday he was "surprised" by the amount cited in the lawsuit filed by Sunthorn`s first wife. "I don`t think he had such a large amount of assets," the PM said.

His deputy premier and defence minister, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Sampao Chusri also expressed disbelief at the massive figures.

Chavalit, a close friend of Sunthorn, said the late general had borrowed some money from him. "I believe in his innocence," the ex-premier said, but added that to clear any doubt about Sunthorn`s wealth, an official investigation should be conducted.

But Chavalit expressed opposition to calls for an examination into the wealth of other key members of the National Peace-Keeping Council (NPKC), which cited rampant corruption as the reason for overthrowing the Chatichai Choonhavan government in February 1991.

Sampao said yesterday he did not think Sunthorn had amassed nearly Bt4 billion, as had been claimed in the lawsuit. Sunthorn had difficulties footing his medical bills, he said.

At the Royal Hotel yesterday, pressure groups held a panel discussion on the wealth of former military strongmen. Speakers accused the prime minister and the NCCC of trying to dodge their responsibilities in regard to Sunthorn`s alleged wealth.

Kanin Boonsuwan, a former constitution drafter, said the government and anti-graft agency appeared to be trying to distance themselves from the controversy.

Pipop Thongchai, chairman of the Campaign For Popular Democracy (CFPD), said the premier might be concerned investigation into Sunthorn`s wealth could raise questions about his riches. The activist added that Thaksin`s companies were awarded concessions when the NPKC was in power.

Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the CFPD, said pressure groups would write today to the Revenue Department director-general, to seek an examination of Sunthorn`s tax records.

Next Tuesday, the groups would petition the Prime Minister and the NCCC chairman to ask for them to urgently address the matter, the activist said.

The groups also planned to file similar petitions with the Parliament president next Wednesday and the Parliamentary Ombudsman next Thursday, Suriyasai said.



The Nation 23.3.01
Probe into THAI plane blast set to drag on
BANGKOK, Mar 23 (TNA) – An investigation into the explosion of a Thai Airway International plane early this month is set to drag on as the United States security officials confirmed no RDX, a key component of C-4 explosives, was found in the preliminary examination of the jet wrecks.
The National Transport Security Bureau (NTSB)’s officials also indicated the THAI plane blast, which occurred on March 3, resembled that of the Philippine Airline jet in May 1990 when its oil tank was accidentally exploded.
Still, the officials remained undecided on whether the incident was a premeditated bombing or an accident. They need around 6-9 months to find the real cause of the incident.
The latest development was reported by Defense Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who heads a special panel responsible for accelerating the probe into the incident, in his meeting with representatives from local and foreign agencies concerned in the investigation.
They include Communication Ministry, THAI, Aviation Authority of Thailand, Boeing Company, NTSB and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Gen Chavalit, who is also deputy premier, said some progress was made in the probe into the plane blast in the past week. More discussions were needed to narrow down the cause of the incident.
Robert Sawen, representative from NTSB, said the preliminary examination result showed the plane exploded strongly just only once, not twice in a row as reported earlier. The nature of the blast resembled the explosion of Philippine Airline’s Boeing 737-300 in May 1990.
The incident was proven to be the accident which involved the plane’s oil tank explosion.
Gen Chavalit said the NTSB and FBI officials had examined some sections of plane wrecks and found no RDX in the remains. Other sections would be checked to find the key component of C-4 explosives.
He praised all investigation teams for their tireless efforts to find the cause of the blast although they remain unable to decide whether it was the planned bombing or the accident.
The US officials wanted the Thai counterparts to give them 6 to 9 months to prove the case. But it is believed the officials would take around 2 years to prepare the summary report on the fact-finding result, he said. (TNA)
The Boeing 737-400 flight TG 114 bound for the northern province of Chiang Mai blew up at Don Muang airport around 30 minutes before take-off on March 3 as Mr Thaksin and his entourage, as well as 148 other passengers, were due to board the plane.
Last Update : 3/23/01 : 2:41:18 AM(-7 = GMT)
Thai Foreign Minister off to Beijing

Thailand`s new Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, has gone to China for a four-day official visit.

A official spokesman in Bangkok says the minister is expected to seek China`s cooperation in the battle to shut down drug production along Thailand`s border with Burma.

Thailand also plans to raise the issue of aviation rights, as Thai airlines bid to secure new routes that will allow them to penetrate the Chinese market.

The spokesman says other topics to be discussed are trade; development of the Mekong basin region; transnational crime, and China`s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Aparts from talks with China`s Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, Surakiart will also meet President Jiang Zemain before returning to Bangkok on Sunday.

(01:26:00 AEST) 23.3.01 Radio Australia
Thai stocks opened at 291.24 (+1.82 pts)

Filed at 11 : 26 am (THLD time)

BANGKOK, March 23 (The Nation) -- Thai stocks opened 1.82 points higher at 291.24 amid Bt510 million turnover in the first 10 minutes of morning trade session following gains on Nasdaq overnight.

SET 50 index rose 0.13 point to 20.38.

Five most active stocks: RATCH, BBL, S-ONE, HANA and SVI.

SET rise today will be limited by investors` sentiment on the weak Baht. Next support and resistance level of 280 and 294 points are expected.

Hat aber jetzt, nach der M.pause nicht weiter zugelegt. Mal sehen wie es heute ausgeht.

MfG BodyG
Baht weakness a boon to Thai exports

Filed at 12 : 54 pm (THLD time)

BANGKOK, March 23 (The Nation) -- Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak reaffirmed that the depreciation of the baht is a boon to Thai exports, the main driving force of the Thai economy.

"The baht weakness is in line with market machanism," he told reporters.

The baht was quoted at Bt44.21 to the dollar, up from Bt44.46-Bt44.47 -- the lowest level in three years -- during yesterday`s intraday trading.

Commenting on public debts, he sought to allay fears that public debts would grow as the baht continues to weaken, saying there was no cause for worry because most of the public debts were long-term loans.

On the increasing swap rate, he said it was normal practice for business companies to hedge against the risk from the baht volatility, he said. The rise in swap rate indicates that there is strong demand in US dollar.

By Wichit Chaitrong.
Friday, March 23 2:43 PM SGT

Thai Shares Up 1.2% Midday Following US, Regional Rises
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thai stocks are up 1.2% midday Friday on across the board buying, tracking gains in the Nasdaq overnight and most regional markets, dealers said.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand index is up 3.40 points at 292.82, off its intraday high of 293.39 in early trade. The blue-chip SET 50 index has gained 0.25 point, or 1.2%, at 20.50.

Volume in the first session was fairly light at 187.1 million shares worth 1.97 billion baht ($1=THB44.365) against 349.1 million shares worth THB4.38 billion traded Thursday.

Advancers have outnumbered decliners 134 to 19, excluding shares traded on the foreign board.

"Market sentiment is improving, with active buying volume in most major sectors, as all negative news including the lower-than-expected U.S. interest rates cut by the U.S. and weak Thai economic data have been realized," said Anothai Chiengtawun at Thai Sakura Securities.

Improved sentiment is expected to encourage more buying in the afternoon session, with the SET index seen heading up and maybe testing the 300-point psychological resistance level, he said.

But some dealers see the initial resistance at 297 points, while support is pegged at 290.

All the key sectors are higher. Among the most active sectors are finance and banking, which are up 2% and 1.3%, respectively.

Electronic shares are up 2.5%, while energy stocks have risen 0.6%.

Among the most active securities include Ratchaburi Electricity Generating, up 1.7% at THB15.25; Delta Electronics, up 2.1% at THB194; Jasmine International, up 3.8% at THB8.20; Thai Farmers Bank, up 1.2% at THB21.75; and Kiatnakin Finance, up 1.2% at THB21.

Semiconductor Venture surged 26.4% to THB11.50 after the company announced a plan to raise its capital to THB1.88 billion from THB1.41 billion. Under the plan, it will allot 47.07 million units of free warrants to existing shareholders.

Schoen waere es gewesen, der SET-Index tendiert gegen Boersenschluss leider wieder nach Sueden, zum Tagesbeginn

MfG BodyG
BJC :Resignation of Director

22 March 2001

The President
The Stock Exchange of Thailand

Dear Sir,

Re: Resignation of Director

Please be informed that Berli Jucker Public Company Limited
had today received the resignation letter from Dr. Pracha
Guna-Kasem. He has tendered his resignation as the Director
and Audit Committee member of the Company with effective
from 28 February 2001.

Yours faithfully,

Santichai Dumpprasertkul
Company Secretary

Quelle: SET News 22.3.01

Möglicherweise erfahren wir ja auch noch, warum er das Unternehmen verlassen wollte.
Übrigens, sollte "MaxRoland" im Zusammenhang mit dieser Firma weiterhin Falschaussagen in Bezug auf angebliche Aeusserungen meinerseits publizieren, koennte das fuer ihn leicht zum Bumerang werden.

MfG BodyG
Thai Police Lean Towards Accident Theory On Plane Blast

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP)--Investigators are looking closely at the possibility that the explosion of the prime minister`s plane earlier this month was an accident and not sabotage, police said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Sant Sarutanond, the deputy national police chief, told reporters that the explosion occurred in the fuel tank of the Thai Airways Boeing 737-400 and not under passenger seats as reported by the police earlier.

A flight steward was killed and seven airline staff were injured when the plane exploded and burned at the Bangkok Airport on March 3, about a half-hour before its scheduled departure to the northern city of Chiang Mai. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, his son and 147 other passengers were booked on the flight but none of them had boarded yet.

Sant said the police are standing by their assertion that they found RDX, a chemical component of a plastic explosive, on parts of the wreckage. The discovery had initially led authorities to claim a bomb blew up the plane.

But investigators are having second thoughts about the bomb theory, especially after the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board disclosed its initial findings. Officials of the US Agency are helping Thai police with the investigation.

"We have toned down the sabotage assumption, but this doesn`t mean we stopped collecting information on that aspect," Sant said.

NTSB investigators, who are helping Thai investigators, told the government Thursday that the cockpit voice recorder and physical evidence do not indicate the presence of a bomb.

The investigators said they have also not found an ignition device, which would have indicated a bomb.

But "police will keep on investigating on both assumptions - that it is a sabotage or an accident," Sant said.

Aviation experts have suggested that the explosion could have been caused by an overheated air conditioning unit igniting inflammable vapors of the center fuel tank.

Sant said the cockpit voice recorder shows evidence of only one explosion. If it was a triggered bomb, there would have been two blasts - a small one caused by the ignition device followed by the main blast, Sant said.

He said police will send the 25 pieces of wreckage on which RDX was found to laboratories in the United States for tests.

Meanwhile, police will seek explanations for how the RDX could have found its way on the plane if not via a bomb, Sant said.

He said the ill-fated plane had arrived in Bangkok from the northern town of Pitsunalok, which has a major military base. Sant said police are looking at the possibility that some RDX from the army`s warehouse could have somehow been deposited on the plane. He did not elaborate.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires 23-03-01

Ob wir wohl jemals erfahren werden, was oder wer wirklich dahinter steckt?
Friday, March 23 7:16 PM SGT

Foreigners Sold Net THB545 Mln Of Thai Stocks Friday
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Foreign investors were net sellers of 545 million baht ($1=THB44.200) worth of Thai stocks Friday, out of a total of THB3.75 billion traded, the Stock Exchange of Thailand said.
Figures are in baht; some are rounded; percentages are calculated from unrounded numbers:

Bought % Total Sold % Total
Foreign 674.1 mln 18.00 1,219.1 mln 32.55
Local Retail 2,890.8 mln 77.19 2,412.0 mln 64.41
Institutional 180.0 mln 4.81 113.9 mln 3.04

Note: Foreign activity represents transactions by both institutions and individuals, local retail activity is by Thai nationals only, and institutional activity is by domestic institutions, SET member-brokers and sub-brokers.
TPI`s bad loans non-transferable

LOANS from the debt-ridden Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI) would not be transferred to the Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC) as the case was almost at the end of court procedures, the Bank of Thailand said yesterday.

A debtor whose case had proceeded in the courts would only be allowed to shift to the TAMC under the condition that the debtor had not negotiated with lenders before, Chaktip Nitibhon, the assistant central bank governor, said.

"The case of TPI has already been through negotiations for debt restructuring and then the debtor failed to meet the requirements. So, the case was moved to the courts. This case will now be left to proceed in the legal process," Chaktip said.

The statement from Chaktip came in response to a recent attempt by TPI`s founder to move the case to the yet-to-be-established TAMC, a state-run entity to deal with non-performing loans (NPLs) in the banking system.

Restructuring of TPI`s $3.8-billion in debts has been prolonged for years because the company failed to service its massive loans after the onset of the 1997 economic crisis.

Prachai Leophairatana, founder and former CEO of TPI, recently approached Industry Minister Suriya Juengrungruangkit and other government officials to push for TPI`s bad debts to be sold to the TAMC in a last-ditch bid to avoid losing control of the group`s bankruptcy management.

But Prachai has waged - and lost - a desperate battle with creditors for control of the firm. The bankruptcy court has backed a debt-restructuring plan, under which it approved the conversion of loans from creditors, such as the Bangkok Bank, to equity. As a result, his stake in the firm has been significantly diluted.

If the case could have been switched from the court to the TAMC, it could have been easier for the former owner to buy the firm`s assets back at a discounted price.

So far, a number of debtors have been served with lawsuits for failing to repay debts within the timeframe agreed in negotiations with lenders. Such a practice is in accordance the current requirements of the central bank.

Chaktip said NPLs transferred to the TAMC had to be able to be restructured and have the potential to become performing loans again.

According to the latest blueprint for the TAMC, NPLs amounting to around Bt250 billion in private banks and Bt1.1 trillion in state-owned banks would be bought by the TAMC. NPLs to be transferred to the state entity must have two lenders as a minimum requirement.

The TAMC will perform as a mediator between debtors and lenders to pull back some NPLs from the courts in order to restructure them. Officials will use debtors` financial position as of Dec 31, 2000, when calculating the ability of their NPLs becoming performing loans again.


The Nation 23.3.01
NPL picture clouded

THE banking system`s non-performing loans (NPLs) amounted to Bt787.18 billion and accounted for 19.3 per cent of total lending at the end of February.

Bank of Thailand said on its website that bank`s NPLs as of end-January, recently released, were under review due to questions about data from the state-owned Krung Thai Bank.

According to the previous figure, the banking sector`s bad loans as of end-January stood at Bt795 billion.

Privately-run banks carried NPLs of Bt481.5 billion, or 18.16 per cent of total lending, at end-February, down from B482.38 billion, or 18.23 per cent a month earlier.

State-owned banks reported delinquent loans of Bt305.68 billion, or 21.54 per cent of outstanding credit at the end of February.

Before the review, the figure for state-run banks` NPLs at the end of February was Bt304.75 billion, or 21.36 per cent of total lending.

Thai Military Bank announced yesterday that its bad loans fell slightly to 23.31 per cent of total lending at the end of February from 23.37 per cent at the end of January.

In terms of value, the bank`s bad loans declined to Bt63.45 billion from Bt63.60 billion in January.

Siam Commercial Bank`s non-performing loans increased slightly to 19.89 per cent of its outstanding credit as of end-February, from 19.82 per cent a month before.

The country`s fourth largest lender in February was saddled with Bt97.85 billion worth of NPLs, compared with Bt97.75 billion in January.

Bank of Ayudhya reported that its non-performing loans accounted for 22.83 per cent of its total loans as of end-February, down from 22.99 per cent in January.

The bank`s NPLs in February, however, rose to Bt75.26 billion from Bt74.63 billion in January.

DBS Thai Danu Bank`s delinquent loans accounted for 7.67 per cent of total loans as of end-February, compared with 7.71 per cent a month before.

The bank`s bad loans in February amounted to Bt5.27 billion against Bt5.24 billion in January.

Bad loans carried by finance companies dropped to Bt32.64 billion, or 23.06 per cent of total lending as of end-February from Bt34.23 billion, or 24.30 per cent at the end of January.

The Nation. 23.3.01
Two singled out over baht fiasco

PUBLIC prosecutors are deliberating whether there are grounds to launch a civil suit against former Bank of Thailand (BOT) governors Rerngchai Marakanond and Chaiyawat Wibulswasdi.

The two are alleged to have caused as much as Bt44.77-billion-worth of damage to the country during the disastrous baht defence between 1996 and 1997.

This follows the controversial conclusions of a panel commissioned by the Chuan government`s Finance Ministry, which was charged with finding out whether those responsible should be prosecuted.

The panel - chaired by Thienchay Kiranandana, a member of the central bank`s board of directors and former rector of Chulalongkorn University - submitted its findings to the previous government. It found that Rerngchai and Chaiyawat should be held accountable for their poor judgement, which led to the depletion of Thailand`s foreign exchange reserves, triggering the financial crisis.

Chaiyawat, who was sacked as governor of the central bank in the middle of 1998, is presently serving as an adviser to Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Rerngchai, who was forced out of office in 1997, is keeping a low profile.

Amnuay Viravan, who served as finance minister at the height of the crisis between November 1996 and June 1997, was let off the hook by the panel. It found that he did not directly oversee the management of the central bank`s foreign-exchange reserves.

According to assistant BOT governor Rattakorn Nimwattana, the central bank has passed on the findings to the Office of the Attorney-General for further deliberation.

"We have sent this matter to the public prosecutors for consideration. The prosecutors need to look at all the facts and evidence. We don`t know whether they will launch the suit or not. We also don`t know what is the present thinking of the Finance Ministry," he said.

Earlier, Somchaineuk Engtrakul, the permanent secretary for finance, indicated that the Finance Ministry would not take legal action against the former central bankers because the ministry did not directly suffer damage from the baht`s mismanagement.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sought to defend Chaiyawat, saying that it was not right to go around blaming each other for the mistakes of the past, which could have been caused by flaws in the system.

"I think we should let those who have knowledge help the country out at this time, rather than blaming each other without making things better," he said.

Apart from deteriorating economic conditions and a deposit run on the financial institutions in the early part of 1997, the baht was also under attack. Rerngchai and his top aides, including Chaiyawat who was then deputy governor, decided to fight the attack by selling the US dollar to prop up the baht, both in the spot and future markets.

They believed that while waiting for economic conditions to improve, the weakness in the financial institutions should be tackled before they acted on the fixed-exchange-rate system.

The defence of the baht put a severe drain on the country`s foreign-exchange reserves, which stood at about US$32 billion (Bt1.41 trillion) at the end of 1996.

In May 1997, when the foreign hedge funds and currency speculators launched another attack against the baht, the central bank went broke by losing most of its reserves defending the baht.

By July 2, 1997, the baht was floated outright and a month later Thailand sought a $17.2-billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund to tackle its balance-of-payments crisis.

The Thienchay report, dated January 26 this year, found that both Rerngchai and Chaiyawat acted carelessly in their management of the foreign-exchange reserves and caused severe damage to the country to the tune of Bt44.76 billion. The two should be held accountable for their joint action, the report said.

If the suit is launched, it will involve civil rather than criminal law because neither Rerngchai nor Chaiyawat were found to have personally benefited from their actions.

Shortly after taking office in November 1997, Chuan Leekpai`s government appointed a committee, chaired by former central bank governor Nukul Prachuabmoh. It was asked to study the baht crisis, the Bangkok Bank of Commerce debacle and the ill-advised bailout of finance companies and banks by the Financial Institution Development Fund.

The Nukul Commission pointed to mismanagement at the Bank of Thailand by its top officials as one of the causes of the financial crisis.

Yet the Nukul Commission`s report did not have any legal status. Subsequently, Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda, the then finance minister, appointed another committee. This one was chaired by former Supreme Court judge Pramuk Sawasdimongol and was asked to study whether there were any legal grounds to bring those responsible for the mismanagement to justice.

The committee found that the mismanagement of the baht defence caused the central bank Bt221.18 billion in losses.

The Thienchai panel grew out of the Pramuk committee. Its job was to look specifically at those responsible for the disastrous baht defence. It put the losses incurred from the defence at a lower figure of Bt44.76 billion.

Other members in the Thienchay panel include Wattana Kanchana-akradej, a senior official at the PM`s Office; Chopong Sawetchinda, a deputy secretary-general of the Civil Service Commission; Kavi Khiriphas, deputy director general of the Fiscal Policy Office; and Pharadorn Srisupharangkul, a public prosecutor.


The Nation - 24.3.01 -
BBL may need to sell more shares - CSFB

BANGKOK Bank (BBL) may need to raise as much as US$700 million (Bt30.87 billion) via a sale of new shares in the next few months, CS First Boston (CSFB)`s Thai research team said in a recent report.

However, local brokerage houses believe the country`s largest bank will be able to withstand the pressure to recapitalise until next year.

The need for all of Thailand`s banks to boost their capital is due mostly to lower earnings from their asset bases rather than to boost provisioning, the analysts said. The banks are hurting because lending is continuing to shrink, but deposits are still on the rise.

Bangkok Bank was the CSFB analysts` only pick in the banking sector, with a target price of Bt65.

"Generally, we agree with the banking analystBut we are concerned about a probable secondary share issuance from Bangkok Bank in the next few months," the report said.

"Bangkok Bank needs to raise another $700 million and this represents a 33 per-cent-increase in share base and dilution. We would prefer to wait and buy the shares when they are offered in the secondary market."

BBL`s share price yesterday closed at Bt34.50, down Bt0.25, which analysts say is an undervalued level.

In addition, details on the workings of the Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC), a state-owned body to absorb bad loans from banking system, are encouraging, it said.However, the CSFB banking analysts were cautious. "We are still in an early stage to talk about growth," the report said.

However, the models proposed by the analysts suggest optimistic scenarios for Thai bank stocks.

Tom Phaiboon, analyst from Tisco Finance, said that BBL could wait at least another 12 months given that its loan loss provisioning is currently more than adequate following the write-off of its impaired assets last year.

He said the bank`s transfer of assets to TAMC would not affect its provisioning requirements.

Adisak Kammool, an analyst from Phillip Securities (Thailand), agreed that BBL, as well as other major banks, does not have an immediate need for a capital hike.

"As long as the bank keeps its lending growth as low as 1 to 2 per cent a year, it doesn`t need a capital increase at least in the short term. Anyway, the real concern is that the banks` earning asset base is deteriorating," he said.

Adisak said he believed that Thai banks might need to boost their capital because of decline in interest earnings. Debtors are repaying their loans when they reach maturity, while banks are still flooded with deposits.

As of the end of February, the four large-sized banks` total lending had contracted by Bt10.54 billion from January while their deposits had risen by Bt3.58 billion.

The Nation - 24.3.01 -

THAI MILITARY BANK said Thanong Bidaya will resign as a member of the board and as an advisor to the chairman of the board as of April 1.Thanong said his new government duties have left him insufficient time to continue his relationship with the bank.
Thanong was recently appointed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to serve as the chairman of the Thai Asset Management Corporation taskforce and as deputy chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.


BANKTHAI said the Stock Exchange of Thailand has approved trading of its common shares to resume on March 30. Trading in the bank`s shares has been suspended since August 14, 1998 due to the Finance Ministry`s reform of the financial industry.


The Nation - 24.3.01 -
Ministry cuts export target

The Commerce Ministry has cut its export growth target for this year to 9.46% from an earlier projection of 11.3% after two months of declining exports.

The ministry`s target is still higher than that of the National Economic and Social Development Board, which is forecasting growth of 7-9%.

Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik said the ministry believed the economic slowdown in Japan and the United States would not last long. In addition, he said, exports from local-foreign joint ventures to the two markets would not drop.

The ministry expects exports to be worth US$76.48 billion this year, with industrial products worth $50.94 billion, agro-industrial products $12.59 billion and other products $12.94 billion.

Cash-management business growing
Standard Chartered Bank expects its cash-management operations to double this year, according to Tim Hinton, Asia-Pacific head of wholesale product management.

At the end of 2000, the bank had around 200 active cash management users. Further growth is expected to come from Straight Through Services, a new e-payment service for corporate customers.

Mr Hinton said the "second generation" service focused more on regional rather than local payment services, saving time through a "single pipe", same-day process across the region.

"Thailand is one of our largest and fastest-growing markets for payment outsourcing in the region."Target customers for the new service are large corporations, multinational companies and users needing to process upwards of 200-300 cheques per month.

TAMC approach copies Krung Thai
The Thai Asset Management Corporation (TAMC) would use a similar approach to the one adopted by Krung Thai Bank in transferring its non-performing loans to its Sukhumvit Asset Management subsidiary, according to Chakthip Nithibon, manager of Financial Institutions Development Fund.

"TAMC would focus on transfers of NPLs that represented real problems and were difficult to restructure," he said. "It would not accept transfers of NPLs that had already reached agreements with their creditors, or transfers of small borrowers with few creditors, which were expected to reach agreements with their creditors soon."TAMC would not accept transfers of debtors that had already signed restructuring agreements and were in the rehabilitation process, even if these debtors were dissatisfied with the terms. Mr Chakthip cited Thai Petrochemical Industry Plc as an example, saying it was ineligible for the TAMC process because its restructuring plan had already been signed and approved by the court.

Reserves off $100m
International reserves totalled $32.5 billion as of March 16, a decline of $400 million from the week before, the Bank of Thailand said yesterday.

The decline in official reserves was due mainly to a $400-million repayment to the International Monetary Fund, said central bank spokesman Bandid Nijathaworn.

The central bank is obligated to repay $700 million of IMF debt each quarter. It would be able to repay the remaining debt due in the current quarter without having to buy dollars from the foreign-exchange market as reserves were now high, he said.

The Post - 24.3.01 -
Saturday, March 24 2:45 PM SGT

Malaysia Wants Thailand, Indonesia Tie-Up To Boost Rubber
KUALA LUMPUR (AP)--Malaysia has proposed to form a consortium with Indonesia and Thailand to check the oversupply of natural rubber and push for higher prices, the national news agency Bernama reported Saturday.
The three countries produce about 80% of the world`s natural rubber, which has been hit by depressed prices.

The International Natural Rubber Organization (INRO), which used to buy and sell rubber to control prices, was disbanded last year and is saddled with a huge stockpile of unsold rubber.

On Saturday, Bernama cited Primary Industries Minister Lim Keng Yaik as saying he would submit the Malaysian proposal at a meeting with his counterparts from Indonesia and Thailand in Bangkok Friday.

"By having the consortium, we will have more bargaining power than the major rubber buyers," Bernama quoted him as saying. "With this, we can raise the price of rubber to the appropriate level."

Lim said the three major rubber producers had been selling the commodity individually, allowing buyers to determine prices.

"Now we should merge. We sell on a collective basis and this will give us the edge in fixing rubber prices," he said.

Moral Minority

A group of young senators raises hopes for reform, and one is already blowing the whistle


By Shawn W. Crispin/BANGKOK

FEER Issue cover-dated March 29, 2001


FOR YEARS a Thai television commentator, Chirmsak Pinthong has been accustomed to reading the news. Now, as a newly elected senator, Chirmsak is making the news--in status-quo-shaking fashion.

In late February, Chirmsak announced allegations that an adviser to the Senate Communications Committee, Apipol Kongchanakul, had demanded 300 million baht ($7 million) in kickbacks from two candidates vying for seats on the National Telecommunications Commission, the new seven-member body charged with regulating and liberalizing Thailand`s telecoms infrastructure. As a result of the allegations, the entire selection process is under review by a Senate panel led by another reform-minded senator, Kaewsan Atibodhi. The panel will look into the backgrounds and qualifications of the candidates and selection committee members, many of whom have vested interests in telecoms.

Chirmsak`s charge is a hard warning to his old-style colleagues in the upper house that business-as-usual will be increasingly risky. "We can no longer keep quiet and sweep corruption under the carpet," Chirmsak told the REVIEW after making the allegations public. "We must improve the quality of the senate if political reform is going to move forward."

Indeed, to the drafters of the 1997 constitution, an independent and muscular Senate was crucial for accomplishing the greater separation of powers between branches of government. The upper house, formerly appointed, is now elected and granted unprecedented new oversight powers, including the ability to remove politicians and top-ranking government officials found to have abused their authority. Most analysts agree that the composition of the new Senate compromises the ideal, as many candidates with vested business interests slipped through the democratic screening process, even after the March 13 expulsion of 10 elected senators due to electoral fraud. But Chirmsak is one of a hopeful group of around 40 independent-minded senators, known locally as the Young Turks, who seem true to the cause.

"There are many flaws in the political and economic structure that have disadvantaged the poor for a long time," says Chirmsak, 50, who taught applied economics for more than 20 years at Thammasat University in Bangkok. "We need to equalize and redistribute the power."

No doubt a power struggle between principle and money is in the making. That motivational tug-of-war will intensify, particularly as the high-stakes liberalization of domestic markets and privatization of state-owned enterprises commences later this year. Whichever side pulls harder will go a long way in determining the future success or failure of the next tough stage of Thailand`s political-reform effort, checking and uprooting endemic government corruption.

So far, the Young Turks are taking their oversight role seriously. In January, Chirmsak broke ranks and spoke out against bureaucratic interference and corruption in the liberalization of the domestic whisky business. Chirmsak is also trying to establish a committee of Thailand`s five top economists to monitor the implementation of the government`s controversial economic policies. Other Young Turks in the Senate plan to form separate watchdog committees to monitor the workings of ministries, which have been sources of seepage and corruption in the past.

"It`s been extremely interesting the way they have used moral force rather than numbers to make noise," says Chris Baker, an authority on Thai politics and economics. "So far they have flagged issues. The next part will be harder. We have seen how the power of money and establishment has been able to maintain what they believe they are entitled to."

The test will be the Senate`s role in monitoring the constitutional court while it rules on whether or not Thaksin intentionally concealed assets from formal disclosure while serving in 1997, a ruling that could bar Thaksin from office for five years. The Senate will be responsible for ensuring that the hearings remain influence-free, and has the power to remove judges on charges of corruption.

As with all Thai politicians, the Young Turks face the tempting influence of patronage. Insiders say certain on-the-fence Young Turks have already abandoned just cause for cold cash. But after the NTC precedent, hopes are rising that with new blood like Chirmsak on guard, old-style corruption will be more difficult across the entire political spectrum.

"Public force has a big influence on decision-making," says Sombat Thamrongphanyawong, dean of the school of public administration at National Institute of Development Administration in Bangkok. "In the past, senators didn`t care about public opinion. Now they must yield to it."
Thai politicians `are in drug trade`
A Thai army general says politicians need money from trafficking to buy votes. He criticises Myanmar for pushing drugs across the border

BANGKOK - An outspoken Thai army general responsible for defending the country`s northern border with Myanmar said several Thai politicians and businessmen were involved in drug trafficking across the frontier.

Lieutenant-General Wattanachai Chaimuanwong, commander of Thailand`s third army, told Thai radio on Thursday he could not take legal action against the culprits because he did not have any authority or evidence to do so.

`I can`t arrest them because we are not authorised to, even though we know what they are doing,` Lt-Gen. Wattanachai said. `Narcotics trafficking is a multi-billion baht business involving hundreds of people and networks... Politicians need money from them to buy votes.`

(One Singapore dollar is 24.4 Thai bahts.)

Lt-Gen. Wattanachai has been extremely critical of Myanmar following clashes at the border last month.

He says Myanmar`s government is encouraging the activities of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the source of most of the methamphetamine pills flooding Thailand.

Myanmar insists that it is clamping down on drugs and says the UWSA, an ethnic Wa militia group, should not be made a scapegoat for the problem.

Lt-Gen Wattanachai`s comments have often contradicted Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who boasts good personal connections with Yangon`s ruling generals, fuelling speculation in the Thai media that Lt-Gen Wattanachai could be transferred to a higher but inactive post later this year.

The two countries, which share a 2,400 km border, have waged a war of words since their troops exchanged fire in February clashes that left several dead.

Thai and Myanmar officials plan to hold their first border talks in two years on April 2-4 in the northeastern Myanmar town of Kengtung in a bid to soothe simmering tensions.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Thursday he would ask for a list of the politicians involved in drug trafficking from Lt-Gen Wattanachai.

`I will ask him for the list, to keep a close eye on those suspects,` he said.

`So when we have enough evidence, I will order their arrest - I won`t spare any of them, no matter who they are.`

-- Reuters -- The Straits Times 24.3.01
THAI gears up to restore image
BANGKOK, Mar. 24 (TNA) – Thai Airways International Plc. (THAI), the national flag carrier, is moving to boost its image and sale volumes following a blast of one of its Boeing 737-400 aircraft early this month.
THAI President Bhisit Kuslasayanon said in an official report released to the public that THAI was now focusing on restoring its image following the unfortunate incident, whose virtual cause has yet been exactly found out.
The national flag carrier was also emphasizing on boosting its sale volumes after suffering a loss in its domestic flights due mainly to higher fuel prices, he stated.
Deputy Transport and Communication Minister Pracha Maleenond, who oversees THAI, has delivered his policy on enhancing the efficiency of the national flag carrier so that it will maintain its honourary status as a leading airline of the world.
However, all 15 members of THAI Board of Executives, including Bhisit, and Permanent Secretary for Finance Somchainuek Engtrakul, who is the board’s deputy, tendered their resignation on Wednesday, saying they want to open a way for a newly-appointed board to take office, and for the internal restructuring of THAI.
The move, led by Permanent Secretary for Transport and Communications Srisuk Chantarangsu, who chairs the THAI board, will be effective as of April 1.
Meanwhile, the National Police Office’s investigation team on the THAI aircraft explosion has declared that it has yet ruled out its earlier finding that the blast on March 3, which badly destroyed the Boeing 737-400 plane at the Don Muang
International Airport, was a sabotage act, although an initial finding of U.S. experts indicating the explosion might have been caused by a malfunction of an air-conditioner, as no RDX substance, a key component of a C-4 bomb was not found in parts of the plane wrecks sent for them for inspection.
“The police panel will continue its probe on the case, based on gathered evidences, including traces of RDX substance, despite the initial inspection result announced by the U.S. expert team”, National Police Chief Pol. Gen. Pornsak Durongkavibul told reporters. (TNA)
Thaksin Shinawatra-a biography

Before his Thai Rak Thai party won the January 2001 elections, 51 year-old Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had already enjoyed successful careers as a policeman and a telecommunications entrepeneur.

The latter has made him and his family the wealthiest in Thailand.

Thaksin Shinawatra (pronounced "Shin-a-what") was born on July 26, 1949 in Chiang Mai, where the family silk business has been successful for over fifty years and has expanded into a bus line and movie theatres.

Thaksin was close to his father, Boonlert, and worked in the family businesses. At age 16 he was managing a movie theatre.

A good student, Thaksin entered Pre-Cadet School Class 10 and emerged as the top graduate of Police Cadet School Class 26 in 1973. He then went to the United States for his education after winning a scholarship from the Office of the Civil Service Commission for foreign study. He earned a Master`s degree in Criminal Justice at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky in 1974 and a PhD in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas in 1978.

His first career was in the Police Department and lasted for 14 years until 1987 when he felt burned out and resigned to market a film called "Bann Sai Thong."

His first experience with the new field he was to find himself in, telecommunications and the computer industry had come in 1982 when he signed a contract with the Police Department to supply it with computer software.

Five years later he established the Shinawatra Company as a software marketing company. A year later he joined with Pacific Telesis to operate and market the PacLink pager service.

Conflict produced a split in the company and Thaksin started his own successful pager service, Shinawatra Paging. The company naturally evolved into the cellular phone business and Advanced Info Service now has the largest customer base in Thailand.

Along the way, Thaksin launched communications satellites, as he believed that Thailand should have its own satellites and not have to rent space from satellites owned by other nations.

In 1990 when Thaksin made a successful bid for a 20-year concession from the Telephone Organization of Thailand he was almost broke, as reported by Post reporters, but still had the daring to offer the TOT 20 billion baht in concession fees to garner the contract. Thaksin has never lacked for courage it seems.

Today the renamed Shin Corporation is a communications conglomerate consisting of two major divisions, Shinawatra Computer and Communications Plc and Advanced Info Service Plc with majority holdings in four other telecommunications subsidiaries.

With a self-proclaimed goal of cleaning up Thai politics, Thaksin entered political life in 1994 when he was appointed foreign minister under the cabinet quota of the Palang Dharma Party.

After the government of Chuan Leekpai lost power, Thaksin was elected head of the Palang Dharma party and was elected to Parliament in Bangkok`s Constituency 2.

The once popular Palang Dharma Party self-destructed under Thaksin`s leadership. He then became a deputy prime minister in the Chavalit government in 1997 with a commitment to solve Bangkok`s traffic problems. The problems were not solved and he resigned his position in 1997.

In 1998 he formed the Thai Rak Thai party which won a smashing mandate at the polls in January 2001.

Thaksin is married to Potjaman (Damapong) and the couple has three children: a son,Parthongtae, and two daughters, Praethongtarn and Pintongta.

Thaksin lives by a motto he learned at the Police Cadet School: "Better to die than to live like a loser."

Quelle: The Post,dieses Wochenende, ist aber nicht neu
Hanky-panky at Panca looks hard to beat

K I Woo reviews another brazen case of bank fraud in the region.

EVER since the publication last week of an article in The Nation, "Bankers discover brazen loan fraud", readers have continued to regale us with stories of even more outrageous examples of fraud allegedly perpetrated in the region during the financial crisis.

In our article, a foreign banker said that at one restructuring conference, he was startled to see a large number of previously unknown creditors in attendance.

These heretofore unknown creditors more than doubled the amount of debt previously certified on the defaulting SET-listed company`s financial statements. "Some of these loans to the company were more than four-years-old," he said.

From this observation, the banker alleged that company officials had only reported about half the loans on their books and had used these statements to borrow money from different financial institutions.

The banker was particularly incensed because the SET-listed company`s auditors had certified the company`s financial statements and had pronounced them "clean" for more than five years in succession. He claimed that his bank would not have participated in the syndicated loan if it had known about the other loans.

After the article was published, Nation reader Peter Beal faxed us an Asian Wall Street Journal article filed from Jakarta which showed just how outrageous the extent of alleged fraud has become in the region during the crisis. Everyone at The Nation could hear Beal saying, "Now, beat this one".

According to the ASWJ article, the Indonesian Courts had just turned down a claim by the World Bank that a debtor owing $US13 million (Bt571.23 million) to its IFC Corp had invented fake creditors, who voted in a bankruptcy proceeding to force creditors to settle for 17 cents on every dollar.

Panca Overseas Finance Ltd, an Indonesian finance company, had debts of $68 million in mid-2000, $13 million of which was owed to the IFC.

However, during restructuring negotiations with creditors, the principal of the company suddenly announced that it had received an unsecured $160-million syndicated loan arranged by a Hong Kong registered company, Harvest Hero International Ltd. The new $160-million loan in mid-2000 ballooned Panca`s total debts to $230 million.

The other 13 creditors of this loan syndication to Panca were all companies based either in Western Samoa or the Bahamas.

A few months later, Panca was forced into bankruptcy proceedings again.

During those proceedings, the new Harvest Hero creditors outvoted all prior existing creditors and approved the 17 cents payout for each dollar owed.

The World Bank filed a lawsuit charging that Harvest Hero and its 13 creditors were "invented by Panca" to win approval for its plan to repay creditors 17 cents on the dollar, and defeat an IFC decision to bankrupt the company and put it into liquidation.

The World Bank asked that the Indonesian courts bar the purported 14 new creditors from voting on the Panca restructuring plan which favoured the 17-cents payout.

The Indonesian Supreme Court dismissed the World Bank`s claim.

The ASWJ report said it did some investigating on Harvest Hero in Hong Kong. Harvest Hero, they wrote, is registered with a paid-up share capital of only $HK2 (Bt110). The company doesn`t have a telephone listing nor a licence to lend money in Hong Kong.

Moreover, its corporate registration documents showed an address for its director Oen Robin Ilmuwan, which turned out to be a chicken noodle and jook restaurant in north Jakarta.

Now even Thailand, which has seen its share of fraud, has not produced a similar case.

Now, beat this one.

The Nation - 25.3.01 -
Sunday, March 25 1:12 PM SGT

Thai Ctrl Bk Gov: Up To 3 Yrs To Settle Bad Debt - Report
BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thai central bank governor Chatu Mongol Sonakul said that it will take two to three years to solve the problem of nonperforming loans and get Thai industries back to running at 75% of their capacity, the Nation newspaper reported Sunday.
Chatu Mongol was quoted as saying that the country`s economic recovery would depend on the procedures chosen by the government`s new asset management company to solve the problem. Nonperforming loans in the financial system stood at about 19% of total lending at the end of February.

Chatu Mongol said that lenders still depend on lengthy court procedures to restructure bad debts or sell them to market, which takes time. He said the new asset management company`s board will discuss solutions to be used to rehabilitate borrowers as soon as possible to get debtors back into business.

Industry`s capacity use rate was still too low at 54%, down from 61% last year, he noted, adding that it would take at least two years to bring it back to the 75% rate, it was before the 1997 financial crisis.

The government has agreed with commercial banks to set up a central asset management company that will buy all the bad debt from state-controlled banks of up to 1.1 trillion baht ($1=THB44.2) and up to THB250 billion worth of nonperforming loans from private sector banks. The state asset management company is expected to launch operations in July.
An alle Leser dieses THREADS:

Ich habe per Mail die Mitteilung erhalten, dass meine Zugangsberechtigung per 25.3. 24 Uhr gelöscht wird.

Ich bedanke mich bei allen meinen Lesern und hoffe mit meiner finanzpolitischen Presseschau, einen gewissen Informationsgehalt fuer Interessierte bereit gestellt zu haben.
Allen, auch allen denen, welche meine Sperrung gefordert haben, wuensche ich von Herzen steigende Kurse und viel Erfolg an der Boerse.
Sollte sich jemand von mir angegriffen gefuehlt haben -habe ja auch einiges einstecken muessen- so moechte ich mich hiermit nochmals entschuldigen.

Also nochmals, alles Gute wuenscht Euch

Hi Thaifans,
Body kann wohl doch noch posten, hat wohl ne Fakemail bekommen. Er hat noch keine Ahnung, daß ich das jetzt gepostet habe. Egal, es geschehen jedenfalls noch Zeichen und Wunder!
Nicht wahr "siam2" oder verschwindest Du von allein im Nirwana? Es lohnt sich eben nicht den Bogen zu überspannen!
Oder brauchst Du noch mehr Details?
In Eurem Gold-Silber Thread gab es ja schon genug TamTam!
Thomas Leber wird bestimmt entzückt sein, wenn er wüsste, wem er da geantwortet hat!
Member of Düssel-Connection

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