Digital Revolution and Repression in Myanmar and Thailand

By Karen Lee

Following the February 1 coup, Myanmar’s netizens became the latest to join the #MilkTeaAlliance, an online collective of pro-democracy youth across Asia.

Drawing from the protest movements in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and neighboring Thailand, youth activists in Myanmar have leveraged their intimate knowledge of digital tools to protest authoritarianism. Inspired by the movement in Myanmar, the nearly year-long protests in Thailand against that country’s military-led government have gained renewed momentum.

The rise of digital activism across Southeast Asia in the past half-decade has featured a new generation of protesters leveraging social media and co-opting popular symbols to attract international coverage and garner sympathy for their causes.

Although the governments they are fighting against have also used these same tools to restrict protest activities and free speech, the digital imprint of the Milk Tea Alliance in the region ensures that these protests will not easily be forgotten.

The

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Thai fruit exports to FTA markets up 107 percent

BANGKOK (NNT) – Thailand’s fruit exports continue to increase, despite the sluggish global economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with key trade partners being countries that have free trade agreements (FTAs) with the kingdom.

Thai durian, mangosteen, longan and mango are popular in China, Hong Kong and ASEAN member states.

Director-General of the Department of Trade Negotiations, Oramon Sapthaweetham, said Thai fruit exports, to 18 countries which have FTAs with Thailand, reported 107 percent growth in the first two months of 2021, compared to the same period of last year. The total trade value was US$461 million, accounting for 94.94 percent of the country’s total fruit exports.

China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia and Chile are top importers of Thai fruits, especially fresh durian, mangosteen, longan and mango. Thai exporters are able to benefit from FTA privileges.

Currently, Thailand is the 7th largest fruit exporter, and the … Read the rest

3 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Baht Right Now

The Thai Baht, our beleaguered currency, has had something of a difficult few years. Successful debt and inflation crises have eroded the value of the Baht numerous times, not least the events of 2015-16, which saw the Baht plunge to some of the lowest levels against the Dollar in history.

However, things finally seem to be turning around. The erosion of the dollar continued capital flight into Asia, and a host of other factors have led to a sustained rally of the Baht that has pushed it to some of its highest-ever valuations.

While some detractors might think this is a temporary blip, here are three reasons for longer-term optimism. 

1. The US Dollar is Set for a Weak 2021

Probably one of the most important factors for the rise of the Baht is the continued weakness of the US dollar, which most experts agree is going to continue declining … Read the rest

Will Thailand’s plan for quarantine-free tourism set a global trend?

As part of plans to stimulate a rebound in tourism, some countries have moved to waive compulsory quarantine for international travellers who have received a coronavirus vaccine.

In late March it was announced that, as of July 1, foreigners visiting the popular Thai holiday island of Phuket will be exempt from quarantine upon arrival if they have received two vaccine doses.

  • – As of July 1, vaccinated travellers to Phuket will be exempt from mandatory quarantine
  • – The strategy is being combined with mass vaccinations to trigger a recovery in tourism
  • – The plan could provide a blueprint for the successful resumption of international travel
  • – Governments are increasingly looking towards travel bubbles and quarantine exemptions

Local officials also stated that after one week in Phuket without showing symptoms – and testing negative – tourists would then be able to travel to the rest of the country.

A significant turnaround

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Thailand Approves Latest Economic Relief Package for Businesses

On March 23, 2021, Thailand’s government approved its latest economic relief package, valued at 350 billion baht (US$11.2 billion), to support businesses in the country.

Some 250 billion baht (US$8 billion) was allocated for soft loans while the remaining 100 billion baht (US$3.2 billion) will go towards an ‘asset warehousing’ program whereby debtors can use their assets as loan collateral but will have the right to redeem their assets under a specific time frame.

  • Thailand’s latest relief package aims to improve the liquidity of businesses still impacted by the pandemic through the issuance of soft loans.
  • Businesses can also opt for the asset warehousing program, which allows debtors to use their assets as collateral for loans but have the right to buy back their assets once the financial situation of their business improves.
  • The asset warehousing scheme will last up to five years.

This latest relief package is an extension … Read the rest

Southeast Asia remains a hot spot for plastic pollution

Southeast Asia has emerged as a hot spot for plastic pollution because of rapid urbanization and a rising middle class , whose consumption of plastic products and packaging is growing due to their convenience and versatility.

But local waste management infrastructure has not kept pace, resulting in large quantities of mismanaged waste. COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation due to increased consumption of masks, sanitizer bottles and online delivery packaging.

In Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, more than 75% of the material value of recyclable plastic is lost — the equivalent of $6 billion a year when single-use plastic is discarded rather than recovered and recycled, according to a series of landmark studies by the World Bank Group.

With only 18 to 28% of recyclable plastic recovered and recycled in these countries, most plastic packaging waste is not only left to pollute the environment, littering beaches and roadsides, but its value … Read the rest

Thailand BOI approves Biotech Projects Worth 2.4 Bln Baht ($78 million)

The Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) said today it has recently approved new projects in the field of advanced biotechnology, worth a combined 2.4 billion baht (around USD78 million) in investment, reflecting the increased interest of local and foreign investors in the country’s biotech sector.

“These new and exciting projects reflect investors’ continued interest in Thailand biotech capability,” Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary General of the BOI.

“Adding to our strong agricultural base and biodiversity, Thailand has now also a very strong pool of researchers that allow us to move into advanced technology.”

Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary General of the BOI.

Thai Kyowa Biotechnologies Co., Ltd., a producer of amino acids for pharmaceuticals affiliated to Japan’s Kirin Holdings, received approval for an advanced biotech project to produce Human Milk Oligosaccharide (HMO), a prebiotic and key ingredient in milk powder for infants and adults, helping to build immunity. The fully Japanese-owned company, … Read the rest

The Indonesia-Singapore Bilateral Investment Treaty Comes into Effect

The latest Indonesia-Singapore Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) came into effect on March 9, 2021, and replaces the previous BIT, which was signed in June 2006 and expired in June 2016.

Under the treaty, investors from both countries will enjoy specific legal protection, such as access to international arbitration, thus safeguarding investments and boosting investors’ confidence. The treaty complements the updated double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) signed in February 2020 between the two countries.

Through the upgraded DTAA, the tax rate on branch profits was reduced from 15 to 10 percent, and the tax rate on royalties for copyrighted works of literature, arts, and film, and eight percent for the use of industrial, scientific, or commercial equipment was lowered from 15 to 10 percent.

Indonesia and Singapore have substantive cooperation across a wide range of sectors with bilateral trade reaching S$48.8 billion (US$36.3 billion) in 2020. Further, despite the pandemic, Singapore … Read the rest

Abuse against women still prevalent in Thailand

In December 1999, the United Nations designated Nov 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to commemorate the murder of the Mirabal sisters, the three Dominican political activists who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in 1960.

Today marks the 20th celebration of said day, and therefore it might be worthwhile to review the current situation of violence against women in Thailand.

Like many other Asian countries, Thailand is a patriarchal society in which women are generally tied to the role of family caretaker which usually means raising children and taking care of the elderly, as well as other household chores like cooking and cleaning. Despite having such significant roles in their families, many women in Thailand are still facing domestic violence in their homes.

Statistics from the 1300 hotline of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security shows that, more than 40% of … Read the rest

Asia-Pacific sees 3.9% growth in deal activity in February 2021

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region saw a 3.9% month-on-month growth in deal activity (mergers & acquisitions, private equity and venture financing deals) from 1,126 deals to 1,170 deals in February 2021, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Aurojyoti Bose, Lead Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The COVID-19-hit 2020 remained a roller coaster ride for the global deal landscape and APAC was not an exception. The market conditions are expected to remain volatile as the fear of a second wave of COVID-19 in some of the key markets is likely to affect the investor sentiments.

“However, the growth witnessed in February, albeit bit slow, can be a positive sign for the revival of deal-making in the APAC region as investor cautiousness is likely to prevail for some more time.”

Aurojyoti Bose, Lead Analyst at GlobalData

An analysis of GlobalData’s Financial Deals Database reveals that the APAC markets such as India, … Read the rest