What's new in business news: May 21, 2014

Stock exchange recovers after martial law dip, political TV stations & content to be censored & US hacking allegations spur angry Chinese response.

This combination of images released by the FBI on Monday shows five Chinese hacking suspects. The US has charged five members of a shadowy Chinese military unit for allegedly hacking US companies for trade secrets, infuriating Beijing which suspended cooperation on cyber issues. (Source: AFP)


Stock exchange recovers after martial law dip


Panic gripped the local capital market with Thai shares dipping 1.13%, the baht making a sharp retreat and bonds under selling pressure after the army imposed martial law nationwide Tuesday. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) index slid 1.58% to 1,388 but closed higher at 1,394 points with brisk turnover and foreign investors pulling 8.34 billion baht out of Thai shares in a single day. Some offshore funds are prohibited from putting money in countries that declare martial law.

The baht weakened sharply to the day’s trough of 32.65 per dollar triggered by an offshore investors’ selling spree in early trade before bouncing back to 32.53 on suspected intervention by the central bank and exporters’ selling the greenback. The local bond market suffered the same fate as the stock market with bond yields jumping slightly by 0.04-0.05% in the morning due to panic sales right after the market opened. However, the market bounced back to close at only 0.01%.

An industry insider predicted that, “the military has tried to be a buffer between the two sides [in the conflict] and reduce the possibility of clashes, but political problems will drag on. Investors then need to closely monitor how the new prime minister who will be neutral and acceptable to all parties will be picked."

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Political TV stations & content to be censored  

Martial law chief Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered print media and TV operators from carrying interviews with anyone who might "confuse society or provoke violence". Gen Prayuth, who now doubles as army commander and director of the Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC), issued an order Tuesday night targeting "owners of print media and television programmes, programme hosts and journalists", and said they must not let academics, former government officials, former judiciary officials or independent organisations "express opinions that could worsen conflict, distort information, confuse society [or] lead to violence". He warned anyone violating the martial law order would be prosecuted and shut down. In the same censorship order, Gen Prayuth also instructed officials of the Interior Ministry and the police to take action to end any demonstration criticising the martial law regime and the POMC. 

In other orders, Gen Prayuth indefinitely suspended the broadcasting of 14 satellite TV stations known to support political factions such as the red shirts, yellow shirts and People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), including the highly interactive Voice TV station. Those shut down include  Bluesky, ASTV, Asia Update, MV 5, DNN, UDD, P&P, Four Channel, FM TV, TNews, Voice TV, Hot TV, Rescue, and  Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT). The POMC has also ordered unlicensed community radio stations to shut down. Social media operators were also asked to self-censor. 

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US hacking allegations spur angry Chinese response

AFP News Agency 

On Monday, a US grand jury indicted five Chinese military officers on charges they broke into US computers to benefit Chinese state-owned companies, in the first-ever prosecution by Washington of state actors over cyber-espionage. Beijing responded furiously on Tuesday, summoning the US ambassador, accusing Washington of double standards and banning the use of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system on all new government computers.

US prosecutors said the five indicted officers belonged to Unit 61398 of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). A report last year by US security firm Mandiant said the unit had thousands of workers operating from a nondescript, 12-storey building on the outskirts of Shanghai to pilfer intellectual property and government secrets.

An editorial in China's state-run newspaper claimed that Washington was playing the victim of cyber-espionage when in fact it is the world's top intelligence power: "Regarding the issue of network security, the US is such a mincing rascal that we must stop developing any illusions about it," wrote the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist Party.

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Writer: Jon Fernquest
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