#WhatsHappeningInThailand – June 15, 2024

#WhatsHappeningInThailand – a weekly news roundup of the latest news in Thailand. Hosted by independent journalist Matt Hunt.

Thailand Tourist Arrival Fee Cancelled

Tourists enjoy the beach as a plane lands at Phuket International Airport – Matt Hunt / SOPA Images

In response to Thailand’s economic hardship and lingering economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced that the Government will cancel the tourist airport arrival fee introduced in February 2023 by the Prayut Chan-o-cha government. The fee had drawn criticism for its potential impact on tourist numbers, particularly from the private sector. By canceling the additional foreigner tax, the Thai Government hopes to incentivize higher-spending travel to revitalize its tourism industry.

Thailand Declares New War On Drugs

Someone fills a needle with methamphetamine before injecting it at home in Bangkok – Matt Hunt / Neato

Following the Cabinet’s decision to make possession of all methamphetamine–including just one pill–a crime, Thailand’s health minister declared a new war on drugs, saying that anyone in possession of any amount of meth will be treated as a drug dealer. He added that it would be dealt with swiftly, as in the times of the Thai Rak Thai Government. He was referencing Thailand’s last drug war, under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which led to the death of over 2,000 people.

Thailand Central Bank Keeps Interest Rate at 2.5%

Thai Baht currency notes – Matt Hunt / Getty Images

The Bank of Thailand has decided to maintain the interest rate at 2.5%. Despite inflationary pressures, global economic fluctuations, and the current Government’s urge to lower the rate to ease the situation for debtors, the bank opted for continuity, emphasizing the need for sustained support for domestic economic recovery. This decision reflects the cautious approach toward monetary policy, balancing the imperative to contain inflationary risks while providing sufficient stimulus to bolster consumer spending and investment. It also comes at a concerning time for Thai society as the average household debt-to-income ratio is steady at about 90%, amongst the highest in the world.

Over 1,000 Pets Perished at Chatuchak Market

The pet section of Chatuchak Market in Bangkok on fire. Source: X @mothershipSG
The pet section of Chatuchak Market in Bangkok on fire. Source: X @mothershipSG

Over 1,000 animals died in a fire at Bangkok’s renowned Chatuchak Market. The blaze, which engulfed Section 118 of the market known for its pet stalls, resulted in a significant loss of life among various species, including dogs, cats, birds, and reptiles. The incident sparked mourning, anger, and widespread outrage and calls for the wildlife trade in Thailand to end. The incident underscores the vulnerability of animals in such densely populated marketplaces and highlights the importance of future safety measures to prevent similar tragedies from occurring again. An electrical shortage caused the fire at about 4 am local time; no humans were injured.

Thai “Wai” Designated as Thai National Identity

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin does a ‘Wai’ gesture while meeting members of the LGBTQ community during Pride Month 2024 – Matt Hunt / Neato

The Thai Cabinet has taken a significant step in affirming the cultural heritage of Thailand by officially recognizing the traditional “Wai” gesture as a fundamental aspect of the nation’s identity. This centuries-old custom, characterized by a bow with hands pressed together prayerfully, holds profound significance in Thai society, symbolizing respect, humility, and gratitude. By elevating the “Wai” to the status of a national symbol, the Cabinet aims to preserve and promote Thai cultural values domestically and internationally. The gesture’s official incorporation as the Thai identity underscores the Government’sGovernment’s commitment to preserving and promoting Thailand’s cultural heritage worldwide.

Thailand Senate Election Goes Crazy

A general view of the Parliament House of Thailand – Matt Hunt / Anadolu Ajansi

Thailand’s ongoing senate elections are facing a legal challenge in the Constitutional Court, which accepted a petition claiming that some provisions of the law overseeing the election are unconstitutional. This not only raises concerns about the integrity of the electoral system, the ability to elect a civilian senate, and the fairness of the results, but the dispute also emphasizes the ongoing tensions surrounding Thailand’s democratic institutions and the challenges in ensuring transparent and accountable governance in the country’s political landscape.

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