PM Seeks Fast Remedy To Diesel Crisis As Lorry Drivers Threaten Strike

Cars In Thailand

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday the Energy Ministry must speed up the launch of new measures to lower the retail price of diesel, according to his deputy Anutin Charnvirakul.

The prime minister convened an informal meeting of all of his deputies, except for Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting to discuss the government’s handling of the problem of high diesel prices, which have sparked a protest by lorry drivers nationwide.

The permanent secretary for energy informed Gen Chan-o-cha that intervention measures would be rolled out early next month.

However, the premier asked that those be announced and implemented as fast as possible, said Mr Charnvirakul.

“The PM also stressed that diesel prices must be brought lower than 30 baht per litre,” said Mr Charnvirakul after the meeting.

The move indicates a compromise may be sought after the government refused earlier to cave to lorry operators’ demand that the price of diesel be reduced to 25 baht a litre and pegged at that rate for a year.

The Land Transport Federation of Thailand (LTFT) has repeatedly pressured the government to meet the demand or face a large-scale lorry driver strike on 1st December.

Last week, truckers drove in convoys to the Ministry of Energy to press their case.

On Tuesday, Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said it would be impossible to lower the diesel price that much even though it has already fallen below 30 baht per litre. The government will keep paying subsidies of 2 baht per litre as prices in the world market continue to drop, he said.

As of Tuesday, the average price of diesel nationwide was 28 baht per litre. PTT Plc is expected to announce today that it will lower the price further and other companies are likely to follow suit, Mr Punmeechaow said.

The government has set aside 20 billion baht to subsidise the price for a period of four to five months and capping it at 25 baht per litre would require about 500 million baht per day or up to 15 billion baht per month, he said.

Diesel prices globally have dropped considerably after the United States, China, India, Japan and a number of other large countries began releasing their strategic petroleum reserves in lieu of importing oil, he said.

The measure taken by these nations as they battle for control of the global energy market spelt good news for oil-consuming countries like Thailand but has frustrated the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), he said.

The outcome of an Opec meeting set for 4th December will determine the fate of global oil prices, he said.