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34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok – preview

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South-east Asian leaders will assemble for the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok this weekend to discuss a range of hot topics. Bangkok’s busy Wireless Road will be closed during the Summit. The event is being held at The Athenée Hotel.

Intersections on Wireless, Phloen Chit and Sarasin roads will be closed over the weekend to facilitate the movements and security of summit delegates.

The summit will be held under the theme “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”. Amongst expected outcomes, policy statements about local marine debris prevention and an “Indo-Pacific Outlook”.

Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha will chair the summit despite not yet having announced his new Cabinet. Suriya Chindawongse, director general of ASEAN affairs at the Foreign Ministry, confirmed that the leaders of all 10 member-nations would attend.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, who has served in the military-backed government since August 2015, will assist Prayut on both the substance and protocols of the gathering. He has hinted about finishing his post after the summit.

10,000 police officers and security officials will be deployed around the venue and at strategic locations around the capital.

A decade ago the ASEAN Summit was held in Pattaya when anti-government red-shirt protesters stormed into the meeting venue forcing a hasty evacuation.

“Hundreds of anti-government protesters have gathered in Pattaya as the ASEAN summit opens. The supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, deposed in a 2006 coup, say they will blockade a hotel where heads of state are to meet. The move follows three days of huge protests in the Thai capital, Bangkok, calling on PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to call new polls. Mr Abhisit declared Friday a public holiday to help cope with the protests.” – Pattaya 2009

Myanmar’s State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi will also attend the event on invitation from the Thai PM, and is expected to face a barrage of criticism from member states over her mishandling of the Rohingya crisis.

The regional bloc, of which Myanmar is a member, has already worked out tentative plans for the repatriation of the Rohingya who fled violence at home and took refuge across the border in Bangladesh. So far there has been little signs of moment from the 750,000 Rohingya refugees living in make-shift accommodation. Despite encouragement and promises of safe passage, most refugees have questioned the Myanmar government, and military’s (Tatmadaw), intentions and sincerity.

ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi led an assessment team on a visit to Rakhine late last year, resulting in a report circulating among ASEAN members.

On its Indo-Pacific strategy, ASEAN will issue its “Outlook” paper by the end of the summit, taking into account competing efforts by both China and the US to expand their influence in the region. ASEAN was striving to secure shared benefit for all stakeholders amid the shifting geopolitics straddling both the Pacific and Indian oceans.

On the economic front, ASEAN seeks to conclude negotiations over the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), the world’s largest economic bloc, under Thailand’s chairmanship by the end of this year. But an economics official said the prospects for doing so are not promising.

“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements.”

Established in 2013, the RCEP has representation from 16 economies – all 10 ASEAN members plus Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan and South Korea. They have formalised 20 chapters of a pact aimed at liberalising trade and services but have found agreement on only seven at this stage.

34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok - preview | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: The Nation

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Economy

Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.

SOURCE: VOA News

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Thailand

Thai Health Minister accepts chairman role with WHO Regional Committee

Maya Taylor

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Thai Health Minister accepts chairman role with WHO Regional Committee | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

Thailand’s Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, has been appointed chair of the World Health Organisation’s Regional Committee for Southeast Asia. The colourful and controversial minister made the announcement at a press conference yesterday afternoon. He says 14 countries put his name forward for the role, which has a fixed term of 1 year, partly due to Thailand’s success in controlling the Covid-19 virus.

The committee is due to hold its first meeting today, where members are expected to discuss the Covid-19 situation in Southeast Asia and share tips and best practice ideas. Anutin says Southeast Asian nations are focused on the resumption of travel between their countries, adding that improving the Covid-19 situation across the region is critical in order to facilitate this.

Anutin is generally well-liked by the Thai public, although the same cannot be said for the country’s foreign population, many of whom were riled by what they saw as xenophobic comments made by him in the early weeks of the Covid outbreak, describing some foreigners as “dirty farang” for not accepting free masks as they were being handed out at a PR event at Siam BTS station in Bangkok in May this year.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Business

Thailand planning land and rail passageway, bypassing congested Strait of Malacca

Maya Taylor

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Thailand planning land and rail passageway, bypassing congested Strait of Malacca | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Shutterstock / The Jakarta Post

Thailand hopes to shorten shipping time by bypassing the busy Strait of Malacca with a 100 kilometre highway and railway passageway. Discussions are underway to construct 2 deep seaports on both sides of the country’s southern coast, which would be linked via rail and highway.

The latest proposal replaces the Kra Canal plan, which was talked about for decades. That plan would have seen a canal crossing the skinniest point of the country, through the Isthmus of Kra just south of Phuket and Krabi, chopping around 1,200 kilometres off the shipping journey. However, it has now been dropped on environmental grounds.

The new project is expected to reduce shipping time by 2 days by bypassing the Strait of Malacca, which runs along Peninsular Malaysia’s south-west coast, before curving east past Singapore. The passageway is notoriously congested, as well as being susceptible to piracy. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, incidents of piracy increased from 8 in 2018 to 30 last year.

Thailand planning land and rail passageway, bypassing congested Strait of Malacca | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Encyclopedia of Earth

Currently, around a quarter of globally traded goods use the Strait of Malacca, with Thailand’s Transport Minister, Saksiam Chidchob, saying an alternative route is now a necessity.

“The Strait has become quite congested. Using an alternative route through Thailand would cut shipping time by more than 2 days, which is very valuable for businesses.”

The alternative route would see a 100 kilometre highway and rail passageway linking 2 seaports on either side of Thailand’s southern coast. It’s understood the government has set 75 million baht aside for a study into the building of the seaports, along with a further 90 million baht to look into the feasibility of highway and rail connections between the two.

If the project went ahead it would be a major blow to Singapore which has built its fortune on being the south east Asian shipping and trading hub at the turning point at the bottom of the Mallaca Strait.

SOURCE: South China Morning Post

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