House of Commons
In recess until 1 September
Written by Li-Ann Chin, associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
26 August 2020
For decades, the Thai monarchy was revered and considered God-like. “Not anymore,” protestors argue. It’s time for a change.
In an act that echoes the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a new democratic awakening is underway among the young. With over 10,000 black-clad individuals gathered around the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Thai demonstrators are demanding for parliament to dissolve, for the military-drafted constitution to be rewritten and for a reform on monarchy. “We dream of a monarchy that coexists with democracy,” Anon Nampa, a prominent activist reportedly told crowds on 16 August.
While taking to the streets in an act of defiance may seem fairly orthodox, it was an act unthinkable in Thailand just mere months ago. Having been increasingly enforced ever since the Thai military junta seized power in a 2014 coup, the nation’s lèse-majesté law threatens to land critics of the crown in jail for up to 15 years. To this day, it remains among the strictest in the world.
Hailed as a COVID-19 success story in Asia, Thailand’s economy, however, has not emerged unscathed. The tourism sector, which makes up close to 15 percent of Thailand’s GDP has been dealt a significant blow, with the country experiencing a shortage of international visitors since March 2020. Seven to eight million jobs have also already been lost to coronavirus, affecting poor and middle-class households alike. Furthermore, the economy is expected to shrink up to 8.1 percent this year, putting it on track to becoming Southeast Asia’s worst performer.
Throughout the crisis, Thailand’s king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, has been notably absent from his kingdom. Instead, he has opted to ride out the coronavirus at a luxury hotel in the Bavarian alps, accompanied by an entourage of 100 that includes a harem of at least 20 women. In March, media reported the king jet-setting around Germany in a private Boeing 737, visiting Hanover, Leipzig and Dresden. It’s a small wonder why protestors are furious.
The arrests of nine pro-democracy activists last Friday serves as a glaring reminder to the protestors just how perilous speaking out in Thailand can be. Indeed, vocal critics of the military and monarchy have previously been abducted or killed. In 2019, two prominent Thai dissidents were found on the banks of the Mekong river, their limbs bound and their bellies filled with concrete.
And yet, the protest leaders remain undeterred. Risking it all to challenge the monarchy, they vow to keep gathering until their needs are met. In Thailand, this is nothing short of revolutionary.
The head of Ofqual, Sally Collier, has stepped down from her position after coming under fire for the controversial algorithm which sought to change GCSE and A-level grades. The previous regulator, Dame Glenys Stacey, has been asked to step in as a replacement. She will run the next stage of the exams process on a temporary basis until December, along with the chief of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, who previously worked at Ofqual.
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has been found guilty of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and repeated bribery attempts in Greece. He was arrested with his brother and a friend after a fight broke out while he was on holiday in Mykonos, over claims his sister was injected with a suspected “rape drug”. Following the convictions, he has also been removed from the team for matches against Iceland and Denmark.
Following a policy shift for England, face coverings will now be mandatory in communal areas for children in cities that are subject to stricter COVID-19 restrictions, for example, Greater Manchester. In other parts of England, however, headteachers will have discretion over whether face masks are required – with the government no longer advising against their use.
Business and economy
Employment in the retail sector has reportedly fallen by 45 percent in the year to August 2020, making it the sharpest drop since February 2009. According to the CBI, a bigger fall of 51 percent is expected in September as the government begins to wind down its COVID-19 jobs retention scheme.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has rejected calls for a new national lockdown, placing pressure instead on regional authorities to come up with a response to the nation’s resurgent COVID-19 outbreak. Rather than leading the change, the central government will provide whatever support is required by the regions – which oversee health policy – and authorise them to declare a local state of emergency if necessary.
The UN-backed Green Climate Fund is facing a wave of internal misconduct complaints including allegations of sexism and harassment in the workplace, and criticism over the death of an employee from COVID-19. Seventeen current and former employees have reported witnessing or experiencing instances of misconduct, including abuse of power, racism, sexism, harassment and inappropriate relationships at the fund’s 330-person headquarters in the South Korean city of Songdo.
Columns of note
In the Financial Times, Ian Goldin argues that globalisation is far from dead. On the contrary, COVID-19 has merely served to accelerate its underlying trends. As individuals and companies move online and virtual meetings are substituting for physical ones, this increased digital connectivity has facilitated a rapid flow of ideas, which he believes is the most influential dimension of globalisation.
In The Guardian, Frances Ryan calls for greater support and focus for Britain’s mental wellbeing, which she argues has been largely ignored throughout the pandemic. The public have experienced a traumatic year with little time to grieve or process it, often while enduring financial security and hardship, she writes. She adds that the time has come for the wellbeing of the people to be placed above profits.
What happened yesterday?
The S&P 500 Index ended 0.3 percent up to reach 3,443.62, the highest on record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 0.1 percent to 28,136.34 and 11,392.94 respectively.
The FTSE 100 index closed in the red on Tuesday, erasing most of Monday’s gains to close down over 67 points at 6,037, down 1.11 percent on the day, as hopes for a quick COVID-19 vaccine were dashed.
In terms of bonds, Britain’s 10-year yield gained four basis points to 0.263 percent, the highest in almost 11 weeks on the biggest climb in almost two weeks. Germany’s 10-year yield similarly increased five basis points to –0.43 percent, the highest in more than a week.
Gold depreciated 0.1 percent to $1,918.45 an ounce, while silver depreciated 0.3 percent to $26.37 per ounce, the lowest total in more than a week for both.
In company news:
Ant Group has revealed $2.6 billion in net profit last year, as it filed documents for an initial public offering which may raise a record $30 billion. The Chinese payments company has also confirmed that it wants to sell at least 10 per cent of its shares in a dual offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Apple can continue to ban Fortnite from its App Store but should not hamper Epic Games from providing software to other apps, a US court has ruled. However, US district judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers warned Apple not to hurt other companies, who rely on Epic’s “Unreal Engine” software to make games, by revoking Epic’s access to the iPhone’s development ecosystem.
American Airlines has announced that it will lay off or involuntarily furlough 19,000 employees as of October 1 when federal aid expires. The carrier expects its fourth-quarter capacity to be half of the year-ago levels, with travel demand still down.
What’s happening today?
Northern 2 Vct
Puma Alpha Vct.
Int. economic announcements
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
The first professional football club in South Korea was named Hallelujah FC.
House of Commons
In recess until 1 September
House of Lords
In recess until 2 September 2020.
First Minister’s Questions
Life Sciences Innovation and the COVID-19 Response
Stage Three Proceedings
Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill
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