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Thais have high expectations of the new Cabinet, but to maintain that confidence, the military-appointed ministers will need to facilitate state spending and do something about falling crop prices, said the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC)’s survey.

The UTCC survey found that the Thai Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) had improved for the fourth consecutive month in August, to 80.1 points compared with 78.2 in July. The August figure, though still below the 100-point baseline, was the highest in 13 months.

Rising consumer confidence last month was attributed to the appointment of junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister and a new Cabinet, lowering of fuel prices, a positive outlook for next year’s economic expansion, the stable policy interest rate, a rising stock market, and slight appreciation of the baht.

Athough confidence is on the rise, the UTCC found consumers had high expectations on future economic growth, meaning the new government will need to stimulate disbursement of the state budget and reverse the slide of agricultural prices very quickly.

“The dropping prices of rubber and rice are major negative factors that could affect consumer confidence in the near future. The new government should urgently proceed on budget disbursement, as about Bt100 billion is still waiting in the pipeline, to promote domestic economic growth,” said Thanavath Phonvichai, director a the UTCC’s Economic and Business Forecasting Centre.

Accelerating state spending, particularly to renovate tourist attractions nationwide, should help increase people’s incomes and stimulate employment in local communities, he said. He said the price of rice was a worrisome problem because it involved a very large proportion of the population. Now that subsidies have been discontinued, the government should stabilise the rice price to ensure it does not fall below Bt8,500-Bt9,000 per tonne so that farmers can see some profit and not suffer from production losses.

The falling price of rubber is also a problem that needs to be solved soon; otherwise, it could affect spending power for people in many regions, including the South, the North and the Northeast.

However, with politics stabilised by the military’s overthrow of the elected government, the UTCC foresees that consumer confidence will continue to rise into next year, barring serious negative factors such as a conflict between Russia and Ukraine driving up world oil prices.

The UTCC forecasts that gross domestic product will grow by 5 per cent in the final quarter of this year, resulting in full-year growth of 1.5-2 per cent. Next year, the Kingdom’s economy is expected to expand by 4-5 per cent, based on hopes of export growth between 5 and 7 per cent.

Based on the UTCC survey of 2,252 respondents, confidence in employment opportunity rose from 71.7 points to 73.6 last month, while confidence in future incomes improved from 94.6 to 96.4 points.

Distressed people send SOS to junta

Posted by pakin On July - 3 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Rallies were held outside the Royal Thai Army Headquarters yesterday, seeking the help of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to deal with financial and work-related issues.

The protesters included a Thai helicopter pilot group wanting the NCPO to act against foreign pilots working for nominee firms, despite the profession being reserved by law for Thais. Another group of Bangkok city workers said they were in heavy debt due to the city’s retrospective order to cut salaries; and a third were dispossessed villagers from Buri Ram.

The helicopter pilots, led by labour union president Kiattipoom Saengthi, claimed nominee companies in the past decade had hired foreign pilots to fly in Thailand, accounting for 50 per cent of jobs, especially in oil-drilling bases off the Gulf. They wanted the NCPO, which is now regulating migrant workers, to check on foreign pilots.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration employees, led by Choti Khiewchan, said they were affected by the BMA’s December 2013 order reducing salaries of 500 city workers with retrospective effect from April 1, 2010.

The workers, whose pay cheques have been shrinking since January, were told on April 10 to sign their approval within 15 days for retrospective deduction from their current salaries or face lawsuits, Choti said.

The group wanted the BMA to explain the three-year retrospective salary cut, which was unfair because none of the workers had done any wrong, he said. The city tried to deduct Bt30 million from the workers’ current salary total – a six-digit figure in baht per worker, he added.

“We get smaller pay cheques and are forced to pay a “debt”, while the BMA did not probe or punish the persons who had caused this damage. The BMA holds the workers accountable for a wrongdoing they didn’t do. Low-ranking workers have no bargaining power and have families to take care of; some have less than Bt100 left after all cuts,” Choti said. If the BMA persisted, the group would file a lawsuit with the Administrative Court for a temporary injunction, he added.

A group of villagers from tambon Lam Nang Rong in Buri Ram’s Noen Daeng district sought the NCPO’s help in dealing with the Forestry Department. They said department officials had driven them out of a eucalyptus plantation whose concession to a private sector had expired. The villagers had settled in a 500-family community there since 2007.

The army, police and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) have organised a free concert at Victory Monument on Wednesday evening.

City Clerk Ninnart Chalitanon said the concert will be from 4pm and 7pm, near Phong Lee restaurant.

Entertainment will be by marching bands from the army,  police and students from Ratchawinit School as well as a Bonglarng performance,  traditional music from the Northeast, provided by the BMA.

Also participating will be actors and actresses working with the army or the police.

A mobile health unit will also be on site providing free health checks, provided by Phramongkulklao Hospital.

Horse guards from the King’s Guard, 2nd Cavalry Division will also take part in the activities.

About 100 protesters gathered inside and outside the Terminal 21 mall at Asoke intersection on Sunday to demonstrate their opposition to the coup.

The protesters from several factions and a number of individual activists showed up at about noon with anti-coup banners and made a three-finger sign as an anti-coup symbol before ending the rally at 2pm.

The sign represents liberty, equality and fraternity used by demonstrators to signal their stance.

A combined police and military force moved to the area about 20 minutes after the gathering. They were inside and in front of the department store and on the skywalk linking to the BTS.

It forced Terminal 21 management to close the mall and order customers out as scores of police and helmeted soldiers with riot shields took positions nearby. Two army trucks, including a Humvee mounted with a machine-gun, parked on a street outside, but moved away after crowds booed them.

The rally continued with no violence and only a stand-off between security forces and demonstrators. The crowd surrounded two plainclothes police officers who tried to detain one of the protesters. But after several minutes of shouting, the protester was released.

The venue for the rally was announced by Sombat Boon-ngamanong, leader of the Red Sunday Group, on his Facebook page.

“I am here because I don’t want a coup. I want elections and democracy,” said a 66-year-old female protester who asked to be identified only as Ratchana because of concerns over being detained.

”This is the 21st century,” she said. ”There shouldn’t be any coups, but they still keep happening … because Thais are afraid” to speak out.

Winthai Suwaree, the deputy spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said the centre was closely monitoring anti-coup situations especially the one at Terminal 21.

The junta warned of arresting demonstrators for defying a ban on gatherings of more than five people if negotiations with them fail.

They will be sent to a military court and the punishment will be left to the court, Col Winthai said.

About 6,000 soldiers and troops were deployed in eight locations in Bangkok including Ratchaprasong area, which was the venue of the rally last Sunday, and Democracy Monument. Security authorities in other provinces stepped up measures but there were no reports of major rallies.

Police on Sunday detained a woman in the Pratunam area after she was seen demonstrating alone at Ratchaprasong intersection where a number of officers had been deployed to handle anti-coup protesters.

The lone protester showed up at Ratchaprasong intersection at about 10.40am. She was wearing a mask with the word “people” printed on it.

Police tracked her and detained her at the Pratunam intersection. She was taken to Lumpini police station for violating the NCPO’s decree on anti-coup protests.

The woman, who has not yet been unidentified, said she was an ordinary citizen who had done nothing wrong.

A woman was forced into a taxi by suspected plainclothes police officers after she allegedly flashed three-finger signs signalling her opposition to the coup near Asoke BTS station on Sunday, June 1, 2014. (Video by Chumporn Sangvilert)