Mekong Memo Thailand Weekly: Business, politics, finance, trade & legal news.
Business stories from Southeast Asia directly to your inbox every week.
The Mekong Memo is proudly presented by:
Hiring the best staff? Horton International offers reliable, effective solutions to recruiting and resourcing challenges for a diverse range of organizations, from small, privately held start-ups to leading Global corporations. With offices and experience throughout Southeast Asia, Horton International is your first choice for executive search in the region. Click here to learn how Horton can make your life easier.
Here is your Mekong Memo Thailand for the week of February 9, 2024.
If you like it, please share. If you love it, please get a paid subscription. If you’re not sure, hit reply and let us know what’s on your mind. Thanks!
Refer three friends and receive a full paid subscription to The Memo for one month absolutely FREE:
Central Bank Steady on Rates Despite Growth Pleas
The central bank is sticking to its guns on interest rates - holding steady against calls to cut. While the Prime Minister and Chamber of Commerce say a reduction could stimulate the fragile economy, the bank sees inflation risks in loosening policy right now, so it's cautiously balancing stability and growth needs instead. The tension spotlights the tough tradeoffs in nursing Thailand back to health.
Thai Airways Bets Big With Boeing 787 Order
Gearing up for bluer skies ahead, Thai Airways just committed to a major fleet expansion - ordering 45 next-gen Boeing 787s with options for 80 total aircraft. The airline is responding to rosy international travel demand forecasts post-COVID. Interestingly, the deal also reveals a pivot in engine preference - from Rolls Royce to US-based GE Aerospace. Expect a formal announcement of the order, already on Boeing's books, later this month.
Read more: US News & World Report
Inflation Hits 35-Month Low in January
Thailand’s inflation slide continues with January’s consumer price index dropping for a fourth straight month. Government relief on energy plus ample fresh food pushed the CPI to its lowest since February 2021. Forecasts suggest full-year inflation will stay tamed between 0.3-1.7%, though global oil and currency swings remain wild cards. While prices fell across key categories, tensions threatening oil and Thailand’s baht signal future increases may still materialize.
Read more: Thai PBS World
Data Leak Exposes Elderly Thais to Cybercrime
Personal details of 20 million older Thais just got hacked and listed for sale online - prompting urgent investigation. The dark web data dump contains national IDs, photos and other sensitive information. With victims spanning senior welfare rolls nationwide, the breach spotlights the public sector’s digital vulnerabilities. As authorities pursue legal recourse, protection against future cyber attacks now becomes paramount.
Free Speech Collides With LM Laws Again
Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra faces fresh charges under Thailand’s strict anti-royal insult legislation over a 2015 interview. The case is yet another example of the ongoing use of the controversial laws against political figures. It also rekindles debate around balancing free expression with safeguarding revered institutions. For the currently jailed Thaksin himself, the timing raises questions - coming just as he neared possible parole.
Read more: Al Jazeera
Former Zipmex CEO Faces SEC Charges
The SEC has accused former Zipmex head Akarlap Yimwilai of investor fraud this week. The regulator alleges Yimwilai misused customer assets and made false statements about transfers. Coming amidst financial turbulence at Zipmex, the charges come as scrutiny of crypto’s transparency and compliance standards in Thailand grows. For an industry hoping to go mainstream, restoring trust is now of the utmost importance.
Investment Hits 5-Year High on Foreign Capital
Investment pledges to Thailand rose to a $24 billion peak in 2023 - up 43%. The tally marks a five-year record thanks predominantly to swelling foreign direct investment (FDI). China led the capital influx, part of shifts spurred by Thailand’s strategic promotion against a volatile global backdrop. The victory cements Thailand’s reputation as a sturdy investment safe haven amid uncertainty, especially across priority sectors like EVs and digital tech.
Thailand Turns to India to Diversify From China
While 2023 exports largely stayed flat, dropping 1% overall, Thailand still saw mild 0.6% growth minus commodities. Yet with Chinese demand slowing, Thailand now looks to expand India trade ties. By addressing barriers and enhancing agreements, Thailand can tap into India’s parallel market characteristics. The lateral move aims to mitigate over-reliance on China as its growth decelerates and export orders decline.
Read more: The Star
Thai Island Tapped for Wave-Power Microgrid
A pioneering Thailand project secured $1.9 million in UK funding this week to test wave-powered microgrids. The consortium, including Toshiba and Aquatera, will combine advanced tech like AI and radar to optimize the trial seaborne energy generation and distribution system. If successful, the initiative can expand access to affordable, sustainable electricity across remote ASEAN regions. It also promises to unlock Southeast Asia’s untapped wave energy potential on a larger scale.
Read more: Offshore Engineer Magazine
PT Defends Handout Scheme Despite Warnings
The Pheu Thai Party has dismissed the National Anti-Corruption Commission's (NACC) warnings about its 10,000-baht digital wallet handout, arguing the government is open to feedback and the scheme has yet to start. While the anti-graft agency flagged corruption risks, Pheu Thai insists the as-yet-unimplemented scheme is above board. The party says its role is to stimulate the economy and assist low-income groups. So despite calls for probes, Pheu Thai maintains the program’s necessity for recovery - even if specifics remain pending..
Read more: Bangkok Post
Thailand Post Bets on Retail and Banking
Thailand Post wants to deliver more than just parcels. The state logistics firm plans to ramp up retail offerings using its distribution might. Newly launched brands include energy drinks to complement its existing water and rice labels. Virtual banking services are also now on the product roadmap - targeting migrant workers and other underbanked groups. The shift aims to diversify revenues as dynamics change in Thailand’s delivery marketplace.
Read more: Bangkok Post
Infrastructure Projects Advance But Details Still Sparse
Thailand’s infrastructure upgrade chase continues with four new highway megaprojects now confirmed. The 140 billion baht schemes promise enhanced domestic connectivity and economic activity. But the trillion baht land bridge program linking two coastlines still lacks investor clarity despite its job creation prospects. With foreign capital awaiting concrete profitability plans, realistic infrastructure ambitions require pragmatic planning and transparency.
Samui Airport Expands to Meet Chinese Tourist Surge
Samui Airport is racing to expand capacity as Chinese visits skyrocket. Flights will rise from 50 to 73 daily to handle the tourist torrent - swelled by new direct routes and visa-free access. Chinese New Year alone is forecast to generate $5 billion locally. With hotels already nearing full occupancy, the move aims to smooth visits while spreading tourist dollars to benefit businesses island-wide.
Read more: Khaosod English
Support Sought to Revive Deflated Property Sector
The Finance Ministry wants to breathe life into the struggling housing market before it drags down the economy. Proposals being pushed include softening mortgage rules and dishing out purchase incentives. The relief package specifically targets low income and first-time buyers to stimulate demand. With the market flagging despite wider recovery efforts, the government is hoping housing can still buttress rather than undermine overall growth. Interesting to contrast this article with the optimism displayed by Banyan in Phuket in the following one.
Read more: Bangkok Post
Phuket Luxury Project Targets Post-COVID Property Boom
Thailand’s Banyan Group is banking on continued property fever with a new $2 billion upscale Phuket project. The mammoth 6,000 unit Laguna Lakelands development will be the island’s largest luxury residential program when complete. But Banyan sees pent-up global demand still surging post-pandemic, as Phuket evolves into a diverse global community. The project also promises to inject tourist dollars into the local economy through big-spending home buyers.
Read more: Nikkei Asia
And now for something completely different.
While the focus of The Memo is on news for business, we often wrap with a less business-focused article. But we leave you with this short tale of Thai artists excelling in an unexpected medium that should bring a smile:
Thai Artistry Dazzles at Snow Sculpture Event
Thai talent shone bright at this year’s Sapporo snow sculpture contest, capturing 1st runner-up honors. The team carved a fantasy-inspired “Naga Fireballs” scene, linked to mystical serpents said to inhabit the Mekong River. Beyond the artistic accolade, the eye-catching entry also spotlit Thailand’s cultural legacy for a global audience. Depicting an iconic legend through universal artistic expression, the sculpture served to promote the Land of Smiles’ heritage and tourism appeal on the world stage.
That’s it for this week, thanks for reading!
Your voice matters to us. Feel we're missing something? Have additional sources to suggest? Don't hold back— hit reply and help us get better.
If you value the Mekong Memo, please consider buying (or gifting!) a paid subscription, sharing it on social media or forwarding this email to someone who might enjoy it. Please also “like” this newsletter by clicking the ❤️ below, which helps us get visibility on the Substack network.
The Mekong Memo is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.