The Bangkok Post

Government rethinks softer teacher entry rules

The Education Ministry has bowed to pressure from academics who have criticised its policy to allow graduates who do not hold a degree in education to enter the teacher recruitment process. Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin said on March 28 the controversial policy would be adjusted by reducing the number of subjects in which graduates without a degree in education are eligible to apply for teaching positions. Currently these graduates are allowed to enter the teacher recruitment process in 61 subjects, but the number would be cut down to 25. However, those who do not hold a degree in education would be allowed to sit for the recruitment exams in those 25 subjects only this year. 

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15 bidders for 2.07m tonnes of inedible state rice stocks

Fifteen bidders have proposed to a combined 2.07 million tonnes of inedible state rice stocks, which comprise 56% of the total 3.66 million tonnes of the grain unfit for human consumption put up for auction by the government. According to Keerati Rushano, deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, the proposed purchase would fetch about 9.2 billion baht, with white rice accounting for 1.56 million tonnes, broken rice 180,000 tonnes and other types making up the rest. Mr Keerati said the department will submit the results of the bids on March 28 for vetting by the panel handling state rice stocks chaired by permanent secretary for commerce Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa. 

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Land and buildings tax draft gets nod

The cabinet on March 21 approved the draft bill for the long-awaited land and buildings tax, intended to narrow economic disparity, after a review by the Council of State. Nathporn Chatusripitak, an adviser to Prime Minister's Office Minister Suvit Maesincee, said the draft bill amended by the Council of State is slightly different from the version proposed earlier by the Finance Ministry, as the tax rate for unused or vacant land was tweaked to 2% for the base tax year. That rate is subject to increase by 0.5 percentage points every three years until it is capped at 5%. The change is aimed at prompting landlords to use their land, as the incremental tax rate will take some time to hit the ceiling. 

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Transparency or risk fine, warning for online sellers

Online traders must display prices and details of products and services or risk being fined, the government has warned. Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the Royal Gazette recently published the announcement of the central commission on prices of goods and services signed by Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn. The new regime aims to give consumers a choice in comparing the prices of goods and services before making a decision to buy the products or use the services online. Online traders are also required to display details about service charges, delivery charges and product characteristics, size and weight in writing or print on the products and for services in Thai or foreign languages. 

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Board scraps ToR for B96bn rail plan

The so-called "scrutiny superboard", overseeing the multi-billion-baht state procurement projects, has decided to scrap the terms of reference for five controversial double-track railway projects as part of its move to eliminate alleged irregularities. New ToR as well as new bidding procedures will be drafted. The decision must be agreed upon by the State Railway of Thailand board before it can be forwarded to the cabinet for a final say. The drafting of the new ToR would then begin. "I've already informed the SRT board chairman on the phone about what we've decided," Prasarn Trairatvorakul, the chairman of the scrutiny superboard, said Monday.

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Problem of producing cheap biofuel from cassava solved

The state's research agency and energy policymakers have finally discovered a way to produce biofuel from cassava at a competitive cost, says a senior Energy Ministry official. Previously the use of cassava in ethanol production was not viable despite the abundance of the shrub, because the production costs were far higher than those for fuel derived from molasses, the by-product of refining sugarcane into sugar. After 18 months of research and experiments, the Thailand Institute of Science and Technological Research has found that they can use a species of yeast named Saccharomyces Cerevisiae in the cassava fermentation process, resulting in ethanol with a far lower per unit cost. 

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Lazada to provide online training to local SMEs

Lazada Group, a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, plans to provide training to 30,000 local small and medium-sized enterprises this year to raise their online capabilities. The development has come after Alibaba signed a letter of intent with the government to help it move towards the Thailand 4.0 economic model. Lazada will be responsible for providing training to local SMEs, as well as working closely with Thailand Post in order to jointly develop e-logistics systems to provide both domestic and cross-border e-commerce services, said Alessandro Piscini, chief executive of Lazada Thailand. Alibaba will also provide digital marketing training to 10,000 state officials.

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Exports to grow 8% on value-added items

The value of Thai food exports is projected to grow by 8% this year to reach US$26 billion thanks to more value-added food items and higher global demand. Malee Choklumlerd, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said Thailand shipped about $24 billion worth of food last year, or about 840 billion baht, which made it the biggest food exporter in ASEAN and 12th in the world. Strong exports of rice, processed chicken meat, canned seafood products, semi-cooked and frozen shrimp and seasoning items contributed to the growth in 2016. The department expects the export of these products will continue to expand this year. Ms Malee said the government has an ambitious plan to develop Thailand as the world's centre for food research and development as well as food innovations to shift towards selling more innovation and higher-value food abroad. 

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FDA urged to issue product safety details

Consumer protection networks have called on the Food and Drug Administration to reveal information on products certified by the agency to help ensure the safety of consumers who buy them online. Sathaporn Arakwatana, a freelance researcher on consumer rights, said the FDA should disclose a list of all products approved by the agency so consumers can check whether the products they want to buy online. The FDA also should provide information such as a product's FDA registration number and any permission granted by the agency for product advertising, she said. Ms Sathaporn was speaking during a seminar on consumer protection in Bangkok to mark World Consumer Rights Day on March 15. 

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Egat fires up coal plant plans

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand says it will launch a new environmental and health impact assessment for the planned coal-fired power plant in Krabi and an environmental impact assessment for its deep-sea port within three months. The studies will take two years to complete and cause further delays in developing the facilities, said Egat governor Kornsit Pakchotanon. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha scrapped the previous EHIA earlier this month and ordered Egat to conduct a new one with greater input from nearby communities. Mr Kornsit said Egat plans to hire a different consulting firm to conduct the latest impact assessments for the 800-megawatt power plant and the deep-sea port, to be located near the plant in the coastal province.

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