Thai king signs decree approving first election since coup

Thai king signs decree approving first election since coup

BANGKOK: Thailand’s king has issued a royal decree endorsing the first general election since a 2014 coup, the palace said Wednesday (Jan 23), with the date of the long-delayed poll expected to be announced imminently.

The decree, published in the Royal Gazette, called for a general “election of members of parliament” and gives the kingdom’s Election Commission five days to announce when it will hold the much-anticipated poll.

The election will be the first since the military toppled the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra nearly five years ago, rewriting the constitution, muzzling dissent and appointing key military allies across the bureaucracy.

The decree means campaigning can officially start, although an array of new parties – including some aligned to the military, others to the still powerful Shinawatra clan – have already begun meetings and recruitment.

Analysts say the military is positioning itself for a return to government through its proxy party with leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha angling for a role as civilian leader after the election.

The army-linked Phalang Pracharat party led by members of the Cabinet held a recruiting drive in the traditional rural base of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who was toppled by an earlier coup in 2006.

Questions remain about whether Pheu Thai, the Shinawatras’ main party, still draws the loyalty of its vote banks in the poor, rural north and northeast without the star power of its brother-sister duo.

Both remain in self-exile to avoid convictions they say are politically motivated.

The uncertainty over the election date prompted small demonstrations in Bangkok this month, but analysts do not expect an immediate return to the violent, paralysing street protests that defined Thailand’s politics since the fall of Thaksin.

The election is expected to be held before the coronation of Thailand’s king in early May.

Malaysian palm oil price hits over 4-month high on bullish price forecasts

Malaysian palm oil price hits over 4-month high on bullish price forecasts

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil futures extended gains to a more than four-month high on Tuesday evening, supported by bullish price forecasts at an industry conference over the weekend and strength in U.S. soyoil.

The benchmark palm oil contract for April delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange rose as much as 1.9 percent to 2,269 ringgit ($549.39) a tonne, its strongest since Sept. 7.

“Palm is up on support from Friday’s gains in rival oilseed and bullish price outlook by leading market analysts at the Pakistan Edible Oils Conference,” said a Kuala Lumpur – based futures trader. Malaysian and U.S markets were closed on Monday for holidays.

Leading analysts forecast at the conference that palm prices would rise in the coming months as production and stocks fall in line with a seasonal trend.

Prices of vegetable oils, including palm oil, are set to rise by $50 -$100 per tone by June, according to analyst James Fry, while Dorab Mistry forecast benchmark prices to rise to 2,400 ringgit a tone by end- March.

Indonesian palm oil prices are also forecast to rise to as high as $600 a tone amid rising demand from the food and energy sector, slowing production growth and declining global stockpiles, said analyst Thomas Mielke.

Rising demand could also reduce stockpiles and support prices. Malaysian palm oil shipments during Jan.1- 20 rose  11.8-12.9 percent from a month earlier, according to cargo surveyors Intertek Testing Services and AmSpec Agri Malaysia.

In related oils, the Chicago March soybean oil contract rose 0.8 percent on Friday, and was last up 0.5 percent on Tuesday.

Palm oil prices are impacted by movements in soyoil rates, as they complete for a share in the global vegetable oil market.

Meanwhile, the May soybean oil contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was up 0.8 percent and the Dalian January palm oil contract gained 0.2 percent.