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Quest Means Business

Omicron's Advance Throws Wrench In Global Recovery; International Concern Over Thai Court Decision On Protests; British Prime Minister Under Fire As England Braces For Stricter Rules; U.S. President Joe Biden Assured U.S. Commitment To Ukraine Sovereignty; CP Group Sees Digital Acceleration During Pandemic; Call To Earth: Giant Pandas; Bangkok Flower Markets. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 09, 2021 - 15:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: An hour to go in trading in New York where it is coming up to three o'clock in the afternoon -- three

o'clock in the morning here where tonight, the program comes from Bangkok, a special hour long QUEST MEANS BUSINESS from Thailand.

The Dow is enjoying its fourth straight session of gains, small gains to start with. We'll see how they progress in the last hour of trade. We were

at the losing at the beginning.

The main events of the markets and the main events of the day. Thailand is a good example of what is happening worldwide as countries scramble to

avoid new restrictions and new lockdowns. Tonight, a top government adviser tells me, wait and see on restrictions.

British business leaders say don't trust Boris Johnson over England's new rules and call it a grand old mess.

Evergrande is officially in default.

It is Thursday, the 9th of December, where you are. It is already Friday the 10th here in Thailand.

We are live in Bangkok. I'm Richard Quest. And yes, in Thailand, I definitely mean business.

Good evening from Bangkok, from the Thai capital. A special edition of the program tonight. Around the world, governments are working out and putting

in new place new restrictions, new measures, in some cases new lockdowns to deal with the omicron virus variant.

Thailand is desperately trying to keep things open. It is an example of what the other countries are facing. The Prime Minister's top adviser tells

us tonight, Thailand won't lock down unless necessary.

The first omicron cases were detected this week. Of course, Thailand, as you will be well aware is one of the world's top tourism destinations. In

2019, the year before COVID, by the way, that is a live picture of the temple coming to you tonight, you'll be seeing more of that in a moment --

Thailand has had more than 40 million visitors, 32 million overseas visitors.

It is hosting APEC next year, and on this program, you'll hear from the top executives from Thai Airways and CP Group.

Now Thailand itself had only just really got reopening underway. From the sandbox to the Thai Pass, it was experimenting and putting in place new

measures so that tourists could come here safely.

Now, all of that is once again at risk.


QUEST (voice over): After a long hard year of working towards recovery, Thailand's economy is facing fresh trouble. It is a country where about one

in five jobs depends on the tourism sector. It has only been a little more than a month since vaccinated travelers from certain countries were allowed

in without a full quarantine and the Thai Pass was introduced.

Now, a new COVID variant has scrambled the situation again. Last week, Thailand scrapped plans to relax its testing rules. All these restrictions

have led to a sputtering travel recovery and some empty looking resorts.

MARKUS KLARER, GERMAN TOURIST: Just not so many tourists, just not so many people. Okay, nightclub not open. This is what I want to see. This is not

good for me, but many good things, too.

QUEST (voice over) Omicron changes everything again. Thailand's first case of the variant was reported on Monday. The country's COVID cases have been

slowly declining after a peak in August. With around 61 percent of its population fully vaccinated, health officials say omicron will mean more

hard work ahead.


over this. We already know that it is inevitable. We will have to intensify various measures to prevent the worst scenario.

QUEST (voice over): Before omicron, the credit ratings from Fitch was predicting the Thai economy would gain traction next year. Although

Thailand depends heavily on its big trading partners, the U.S., China, and Japan and there is international concern over Thailand's handling of

demonstrators. It has strict laws about criticizing the monarchy, which it says protects National Security. It has arrested young protesters calling

for Royal reforms.

While some U.N. member states have called for the Lese Majeste laws to change, Thailand's Constitutional Court is taking a tough line.


QUEST (voice over): Last month, it ruled that three organizers of recent protests had violated the Constitution, by what it said was an attempt to

overthrow the monarchy.

Political controversy at home and uncertain travel situation at its borders, and the shape of Thailand's recovery is in question once again.


QUEST: The situation across Thailand with the various issues affecting the country.

Joining me now is Dr. Panitan Wattanayagorn, the Chairman of the Prime Minister's Security Advisory Committee, the perfect man to talk to us about

these issues.

Start with COVID. Omicron is here, a couple of cases, but if there is a few, there will be more. How concerned is the government?


tracking down this very closely. And of course, the people are watching the development of the cases.

The Prime Minister insisted that we won't close down the country again, unless we really have to. So hopefully, we could wait and see.

QUEST: If we look at for example, what the U.K. has done in the last few hours. The U.K. has basically introduced more targeted, work from home if

you can, masks in public places. The government here would have to step up the measures taken?

WATTANAYAGORN: Well, the measures are already in place. You see people wearing masks. Less issues of not wearing mess here. Vaccination is going

as planned. More on the way. Boosters on the way.

And of course, schools not open yet. We are just slowly opening in selected areas only. So I think, it is okay.

QUEST: The interesting question, of course, is the tourism industry, 20 percent of the economy is tourism, at a good guess. You've done a really

very impressive job, first of all with the sandbox, then with Thai Pass. But if this carries on, you could lose another tourist season.

WATTANAYAGORN: Well, hopefully not. We could move on with some selected sandboxes. I think life goes on now. I think in certain cases, I think we

could -- we could manage. But of course, of course, we have to wait and see how bad it is.

QUEST: But, I mean, -- I guess the issue is the tourism industry is so important. You can't afford to let it go too far.

WATTANAYAGORN: Of course not, but what can you do? You need to control the pandemic first. The first thing come first, and then anything else may be


QUEST: You're just telling me the building over your shoulder is where Thailand hosted the APEC the last time?

WATTANAYAGORN: Yes, just 20 years ago.

QUEST: Twenty years ago. So, now you're doing it again. What do you hope to get out of APEC later this year? Isn't it just a talking shop?

WATTANAYAGORN: Well, we hope to push more new issues.

QUEST: Such as?

WATTANAYAGORN: Bio, you know, in green renewable energies, you know, of these new approaches to environment, to new industries, just in time to

reopening the country. I think this is very clear, from the beginning that we pushed this in ASEAN and now ASEAN is moving to APEC to move to push

these issues.

QUEST: One other question I must ask, of course, is, particularly since you are the Prime Minister's Security Advisory Committee, the recent ruling by

the Constitutional Court in this country. It basically says that discussion of reform -- and I'm quoting from the judgment, a translation of the

judgment -- that says, " ... creates turbulence and insubordination among the people. It has dangerous repercussions for the security of the state,

peace and order and the good morals of the people."

So the question is really, what is legitimate, democratic discussion on constitutional reform? Because it would seem to me, the Constitutional

Court has shut it down.

WATTANAYAGORN: Not totally, we hope. Of course, attacking the institutions like the monarchy in various open and aggressive ways devalues the

institutions that are traditionally are respected, trying to erase the color of the blue from the flag or trying to destroy the images should be

avoided to cross it, but anything else --

QUEST: So, is it in your -- and I know it's the Court who spoke it.



QUEST: But there was much surprise at the way the Court spoke. Is it your - - is it the government, in your view, that you can have a debate on constitutional reform?

WATTANAYAGORN: Well, the Parliamentary people are now debating in different ways. They are submitting -- they are resubmitting their motions to debate

on this. I think that is in the system. I think that's allowed, as long as it's in the Parliament.

Of course, on the university campuses, you see people everywhere, debating on how we should move forward, including reforms of many institutions, the

Ministry, the bureaucracy, you know, the monarchy in a peaceful way.

QUEST: But this idea of -- and the Lese Majeste rule -- law -- there is a view that -- do you believe discussion of the Lese Majeste law is something

that can be had? People can legitimately say, this needs to change?

WATTANAYAGORN: It has been discussed for many years, but not this way, not the way the court prohibit it. On campus, in social media, you can see

everywhere, they are talking about reforming different laws. In fact, there were attempts to create a different panels to look into the law in the past

without any problems.

QUEST: Well, then on that final point, is the government listening?

WATTANAYAGORN: Of course, of course. You need to listen to the young people. That's the future of the country.

QUEST: Very glad you came along this evening to talk to us. Thank you.

It is late at night, but a good cup of coffee and a lively discussion will always help things along beautifully. Thank you.

WATTANAYAGORN: Thank you. Thank you. Have a pleasant stay.

QUEST: Thank you.

Now, we had agreed an interview with the Prime Minister of Thailand to talk about various several matters. However, when we told his people that we

intended to ask about the Constitutional Court's recent decision, the Prime Minister withdrew from the interview.

The British Prime Minister is in the firing line once again, this time over Christmas parties last year, exactly how many of them took place. The

Investigation is now into three Christmas gatherings -- parties might be too grand to describe some of them.

Now, they are alleged to have been held during COVID lockdowns last year. CNN understands Boris Johnson gave impromptu speech at one of them, and it

happens as the Prime Minister introduced England's Plan B restrictions, which will be starting next week.

Many business groups are now questioning the timing of so called Plan B. It is things like masks, nightclubs, restrictions, working from home when you


The head of Nighttime Industries Association says, "Is this sound based public policymaking, or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from

a damaging story about the Downing Street Christmas party?"

"Nightclubs and bars must not be thrown under the bus for the Prime Minister to save his own skin."

This is from the head of Night Time Industries Association, the CEO of that organization is Michael Kill. He joins me now live from Kent, in Southern


The objection you have -- I mean, other countries are introducing new omicron-related COVID measures. Why do you tie this perhaps, to a sort of

an attempt by the Prime Minister to avert attention?

MICHAEL KILL, CEO, NIGHT TIME INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION: I think the challenge is more around the fact over the last few weeks, we've seen some

miscommunication from government officials, particularly public health officials suggesting a very, very different sort of narrative and where we

saw the U-turn where government was clear that they wanted Christmas parties to go ahead and socialization to go ahead.

We saw this coming week the point that we were seeing some challenges internally politically. That's when we saw the narrative change. So it

brought around some cynicism around the release of these further restrictions which are very much targeted to the industry that's at the

sharpest end of this pandemic.

QUEST: I know that you will say that there is no evidence that nightclubs have been a spreader as such, but the idea of introducing more restrictions

because of omicron, are you against that in principle?

KILL: In principle, the public health strategy, our industry has supported it all the way through. We've been closed for 20 months. We've absolutely

fell in line with exactly what the government has asked us to do from the 19th of July when we were able to open.


KILL: You know, the mitigations that we put in place in terms of sanitation, staff training, negative testing on entry, you know, strong

communication strategy, and even enhancing ventilation was enough to ensure that we weren't seeing transmissions off the back of that opening, which

was, again, against many of the clinicians' perspective where they felt there was going to be a real rise in in transmissions from our industry,

but it didn't happen.

QUEST: You talked about testing upon entry. One of the things I saw here yesterday, I was filming in a club, a nightclub here, or an evening

restaurant, I should say. And outside, everybody who was coming in, one of those quick little, you know, Abbott boxes that you just do a quick test,

put it in wait few minutes, and you pretty quickly get an idea of whether it's negative or positive.

Would you like to see more of that? That seems to me to be a much more real time, these people are probably negative than whether or not you just sort

of show somebody a piece of cardboard? Or what could be an out of date, or a screenshot of a vaccine passport?

KILL: Well, absolutely. I mean, what we are seeing is many of the bigger size venues, the events and gig sized venues are carrying out negative

COVID tests on entry. So, you know, we really have to question the reasoning around putting a COVID passport in place, because the only other

thing that it does is adds the ratification of a double vaccinated sort of certification.

But that doesn't tell you whether you have the virus at that time. You can still carry the virus when you've been vaccinated, so that really isn't a

robust approach for us, and we feel that the mitigations in place are pretty robust and strong at the moment. And we feel that the government

should have confidence in what we have achieved since the 19th of July, in terms of ensuring that we've got safe spaces.

QUEST: And when you put this together, you'd hoped for a decent Christmas this time, and it's not just you, it is all over the world. Nightclubs,

restaurants, and bars had hoped at least for a decent Christmas season. Do you now fear that this will put more of your members out of business?

KILL: Absolutely, it is. There is a huge amount of fear and anxiety amongst our sector at the moment. Many people are aware that the key to survival

next year is to build up your cash reserves over the next three weeks. We call it the golden quarter in terms of the end of the year where we see

that opportunity to trade.

And what we've seen is the reiterations and misleading communication has created uncertainty amongst the marketplace, amongst our workforces. And

recently, obviously, with the restrictions being announced, this has really sort of hit us quite hard. It has stalled many ticket sales, and it's also

seeing cancellations of Christmas party bookings, which, in the light of some of the controversy is leaving a bad taste in people's mouths.

QUEST: Sir, I wish you well. I wish you a Merry Christmas, as you can say, but I wish you as Merry a Christmas as one can in all the circumstances.

Thank you for joining us this evening.

Coming up next, before the pandemic, Thailand was getting more than 30 million overseas visitors. They did a very good job trying to get things

started again. When we come back after the break, the Thai tourism economy leading the way in Southeast Asia. What happens next? It is QUEST MEANS

BUSINESS live in Bangkok.



QUEST: The skyline of Bangkok as tourists start to return, but the Thai economy is not likely to get back to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. That

is according to the Thai Central Bank latest forecasts. And of course, tourism is still way, way down.

If you look at the numbers so far, there have been only 200,000 arrivals this year, compared to 40 million in 2019, thirty two million of those were

overseas. And whilst manufacturing has fully recovered, government forecast is that exports will be up 17 percent this year. That's the highest in 12

years, because even though China has shut down, China is still of course, a manufacturing base and it is still buying in and is still exporting out.

The Central Bank Governor has said that the Thai economy could hit a soft underbelly of tourism. Tourism makes up some 20 percent of the economy. It

is key to the country's recovery.

The Thai national carrier, smooth as silk, Thai Airways declared bankruptcy last year unable to continue flying, or at least, it continued flying, but

unable to continue on the balance sheet.

Now it is being restructured. It is under so called a rehabilitation plan, which is a Thai version of Chapter 11, and they have put in place a new

plan and policy.

The new head of Thai Airways tells me it is hoping to go back to where they were before the pandemic. Incidentally, the man who is now one of those

running Thai Airways is the former CEO, and he was the CEO when the airline last made a profit back in 2012.

Now, of course, omicron could spoil all their plans.


PIYASVASTI AMRANAND, CHAIRMAN OF THE PLAN ADMINISTRATOR, THAI AIRWAYS: We are keeping close watch on that. So far, so good -- so far that we have

seen some cancellation, not so much, because in the end, I think it really depends on the reactions of the various countries.

We noticed very clearly that if any country locks down, then obviously you see a lot of cancellation. If you see both countries, destination and

origin open up, then the number of passengers go up tremendously.

So far, we haven't seen severe lockdown in Europe or in countries around here yet.

QUEST: And what about -- I mean, the Thai authorities did the sandbox.


QUEST: Which was quite successful -- difficult, but it was quite successful. Now, you have the Thai Pass. Are you satisfied?

AMRANAND: Fairly satisfied, although I would really prefer if there are fewer rules and regulations, but I suppose maybe that's asking a bit too

much given that omicron is here and it is unclear what the effect would be.

You have been to Bangkok. There is sort of really one-day quarantine, which is not so bad that I think passengers can accept. It was 14-day quarantine.

That was terrible.

QUEST: What will Thai Airways look like once the rehabilitation is over?

AMRANAND: Well, actually Thai Airways is already looking quite different at the moment because in the process of rehabilitation, you have to transform

and reform the work process of the airline.


AMRANAND: Already, we are seeing a smaller workforce. We have cut down the staff by 50 percent, and the airline is much more efficient.

The quality of service, the seats, in-flight entertainment will be more consistent among the aircrafts because you know previously, some aircrafts

had flat beds, some aircrafts had terrible reclining beds. Now, everything will be flat bed for the long haul.

QUEST: That is looking at, in a sense of bringing the cost down. That looks at one side of the equation.


QUEST: Which is an important side, I'll grant you, if you can get your cost base down. But from an airline model perspective, what will Thai be?

AMRANAND: Thai Airways initially will be probably going back to where we were before COVID, but a lot more efficient. Our network will be good. At

the moment, the best network is probably in Europe.

Our problem at the moment, I think is that many countries are still closed to visitors, particularly in Asia. You can't go to China, Japan, Hong Kong,

and also neighboring countries here. Only Cambodia has opened recently. Singapore will be open on the 14th of December.

Now initially, we will go back to where we were with networks, with frequent flights to all these destinations. With 57 aircrafts, I think that

that will be all we can do at the moment.

QUEST: Where do you fit into the aviation architecture between the very powerful Gulf carriers -- Qatar Etihad, Emirates -- and the highly

efficient low cost carriers, AirAsia and the like?

AMRANAND: But for the long haul, we don't have the low-cost airline flying. AirAsia doesn't fly to Europe. But for the Gulf carriers, if you come from

Europe to Bangkok, you have to change in the Middle East. Thai Airways has direct flight and that is a lot more convenient for passengers.

Now, it's terrible to be woken up at night to change in Dubai or Qatar or whatever. That's the first reason. The second reason with COVID, you know,

who knows? You might contract COVID during transit. And it's also more environmentally friendly, because CO2 emission for direct flights is less

than taking a flight where you stop in the Middle East.

QUEST: But they can beat you on price every time because the power of their networks and their ability to yield management discount.

AMRANAND: But then, with our lower costs, we will be more competitive. And also, I think, our network to send passengers to neighboring countries to

Yangon to Vihn or whatever is the best for airlines around here, I'm pretty sure.


QUEST: So, that's the head of Thai Airways.

Coming to Thailand can be a little bit confusing with the various restrictions, so look at this chart from the Thai Consular Affairs Office.

Now, if you are a green traveler -- if you're coming from a quarantine- exempt country, then you've got fully vaccinated one-day hotel stay basically you do a PCR in the morning, you have to have insurance, you have

two tests later on. The blue is the sandbox, and the red is the alternative quarantine.

It is complicated, but it is doable.

I came here on my honeymoon just three or four weeks ago, and I managed to come here again.

Karla Cripps is with me, CNN senior travel producer. You're here covering Thailand's tourism reopening.

How have they done? The sandbox, and now, the Thai Pass, how is it going?

KARLA CRIPPS, CNN SENIOR TRAVEL PRODUCER: Well, you know, Richard, Thailand was certainly first out of the gate in the region in terms of reopening.

July 1st, of course, they started with the Phuket sandbox.

And so with that, you know, it was kind of a bubble to start things off with. So, they allowed fully vaccinated travelers to fly to the islands.

They would spend two weeks there, and then they could go out and explore again.

QUEST: Is it working in the sense -- forget omicron at the moment. They seem to be more advanced than say for example, Bali, or Indonesia, or

Singapore or any of the other major tourist destinations in this part of the world.

CRIPPS: Certainly. You're seeing a lot of these countries are now watching Thailand to see how it all plays out. They are starting to emulate some of

the schemes that Thailand has kicked off.

Of course, with the opening on November 1st, that was, you know, the major step for the country. So that is -- you know, now you've got people from

about 60-some odd countries are allowed to visit if they were fully vaccinated.

And as you said, you know, you arrive, you have a very short quarantine while you wait for your results.

So you know, it's a start for the industry.


It hasn't been a huge rush of tourists by any means. But I think it's been encouraging.

QUEST: And if we look at the region, I mean, as long as Australia, Australia will start to travel again. And that is very crucial. But the

lack of Chinese tourists, tell me about that.

CRIPPS: Well, yes, that's the missing piece of the puzzle. As you pointed out, prior to the pandemic, Thailand was getting about 3-5 million rather

per month international tourists. In the month of November, I think it was about 130,000. So, you know, without the Chinese tourists, it's just going

to be a long time until recovery.

And of course, you know, China is Thailand's biggest source market, as with other countries in the region. These quarantine restrictions for travelers

going back home, that's the issue.

QUEST: In a sentence or two, the feeling for how you think it will develop with Omicron. They've got good policies already in place here.

How would it move forward?

CRIPPS: You know, the government has come out and said that reopening in time for this high season was essential. They cannot afford to miss out on

another Christmas period. So I think they're going to be very reluctant to pull things back, now that they're fully in gear and moving along.

QUEST: Well, let me thank you for all you've done to help our visit here. And you're writing, of course, on section, excellent. Thank


As we continue tonight, talking, President Biden just got off the phone, talking to Ukraine's president.

What did they talk about?

And how did Putin's recent call go?

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS live from Bangkok.




QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. As more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.


QUEST: Look at that view, magnificent. Bangkok, here in Thailand.

It's Constitution Day today, I say today, I mean we're going into our Friday here. And we've got a temple behind me and one in front of me, I'll

show both before the end of the program. It is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, there's a lot more to come.

I'll speak to the head of Thailand's largest private company, CP Group, who is worried he will get caught and have to make a decision, caught in the

middle between the U.S. and China.

And I'll try my hand at flower arranging. I've tried once before but this is bouquet making. We visit the flower market and you see my efforts, all

of after the news headlines, because this is CNN and, on this network, the news always comes first.


QUEST (voice-over): President Biden's holding a virtual global summit for democracy, as part of his plan to counter the rise of autocracies.

Government, civil society and private sector invited, Biden saying keeping democracy strong requires constant effort.

The Finnish prime minister apologizes for going clubbing after being exposed to COVID-19 over the weekend. She said she was unaware of the

guidance to self-isolate, going out without her government phone and missed a text, warning her to avoid other people.

France says it won't boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year. Four countries have now joined the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 games, the

U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada. France denied to join, saying it wants to keep politics and sports separate.

The Chinese property developer Evergrande is officially now in default. Fitch says the company's not met some of its obligations of about $300

billion. Chinese analysts are worried it could trigger a wider crisis in the country's property market.


QUEST: President Biden has just finished speaking to Ukraine's president Zelensky. It follows two days on from President Biden speaking to the

Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. And apparently, gave him a no-holds-barred warning that a red line would be crossed if Russia were to move against


The White House says the president made clear the commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty in his conversation with President Zelensky. CNN's Matthew

Chance joins me now from Kiev.

The fear is that Russia is massing huge numbers of troops on the border.

Do we think the U.S. President gave assurances that, if those troops move, so will the U.S.?


I think what President Biden doubtlessly did on the call with Vladimir Putin is warn him that, you know, if those troops were to move toward

Ukraine, then there would be, you know, absolutely severe sanctions placed on the country.

Vladimir Putin said that he wanted the guarantees for his country's security that NATO would not expand further. I'm sure that has been passed

on to Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, now.

In fact, Zelensky tweeted a few hours ago and talked about the content of that video call between the Russian and U.S. presidents. And he also talked

about formats, he said, by which the war in Eastern Ukraine could be resolved.

So I think that was a little hint that one of the things that President Biden has done, in his video conference call with President Putin, is give

Russia a sense that there is going to be movement in that war in Eastern Ukraine. And he is now speaking to Ukrainians about what that movement

could be.

It's a bit of a point of anxiety, Richard, about what President Biden has told President Putin Ukraine will do to allay Russia's security concerns.

QUEST: Matthew Chance, who's in Kiev in Ukraine, where it looks a lot colder, both politically, I would suggest, than here in Bangkok. Thank you,


The head of CP Group says he does not want to have to take sides between the United States and China.


QUEST: Now CP Group, the name may not be too familiar to you but it's certainly familiar in Southeast Asia. It's the largest private company in

Thailand. It has employed some 360,000 employees and investments across 21 countries.

If you look at what it's been doing, it has a digital acceleration during the pandemic and the company, unlike the vogue of today, with GE, Johnson &

Johnson, is a conglomerate. It has everything from agribusiness to telecos to media, to pharma.

Well, the chief executive of CP Group made clear that the future of the group relied on digital acceleration.


SUPHACHAI CHEARAVANONT, CEO, CP GROUP: So going into e-commerce is actually resting in the skies because, you know, in the past, we want to change the

culture and move online in e-commerce. But a lot of resistance. But with COVID, we just go straight to e-commerce.

QUEST: Right, so there was a digital acceleration.


QUEST: Extraordinary.

And you saw that across all your businesses?

CHEARAVANONT: Exactly. For example, 7-Eleven used to have only under 1 percent of sales online. Now they have more than 12 percent of sales


Macro, which is the cash and carry business, used to have like 5 percent. Now they have 20 percent online, ordering and delivery to all these small

merchants. So actually it has helped accelerate a lot of things.

But too bad it's had the impact to our economy. We have to improve our efficiency, lower our costs. But the most important thing is to save our

people, to save the jobs. So we are not downsizing; in fact, we are hiring more people to work on e-commerce and the delivery.

QUEST: The relations between the West and China are getting worse. You stand to be caught in the middle. You may have to choose. You've got

businesses in China and in the West. You may have to choose.

CHEARAVANONT: We hope we don't have to choose.


CHEARAVANONT: We are private sector, right?

We're looking at what the markets want. We're looking at how to be responsible investors and business operators. So while we could do benefits

to any countries.

And personally, I graduate from U.S., I love America. A lot of values and culture that, you know, we brought back from the U.S. For example, 7-

Eleven, for example, license that we operate in Thailand. Even our chicken farm, you know, we have from the debris (ph) from abery acre (ph), from the

mayor (ph).

But at the same time, my grandfather is a migrant from China.

QUEST: Will you get caught in the middle?

CHEARAVANONT: Hopefully not.

Why -- if China and U.S. can become like older brother and younger brother, if they can look at in terms of partnership, they can actually help the

world tremendously because they are two big economy engines for the world and driving all this innovation and technology.

It's just so much more value that could be created than to have this conflict, which is very costly to everyone, including the private sector.


QUEST: And you can hear more from the CP Group chief executive on tomorrow night. He will talk about more of his company.

Coming up on 4:00 am here, appropriately, I'm in front of the Temple of Dawn. Dawn will be arriving in the not too distant. future. But I'm

sandwiched between the two great temples.

I have one over there and, just on the other side of me, the famous temple in Bangkok and the most venerable abbot (ph), blessed us and our project

here tonight. So we are well and truly in between the two most famous temples, as you can see, in Bangkok, and an extraordinarily beautiful scene

it is, on a warm evening because the full summer hasn't got fully up and running.

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS live tonight, in Thailand.




(MUSIC PLAYING) QUEST: It is Call to Earth. Appropriately, we stay in Asia and in China.

Tonight we're talking about the digital savvy national parks in China, where they're tracking pandas using drones and apps. It's all in the

preservation of the panda, as David Culver reports from Sichuan province.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is China's most beloved species, the iconic face of this nation, treasured globally,

once endangered and near extinction, now the giant panda is on path to populate China's majestic mountains for generations to come.

Welcome to Panda Valley, as it's called. For years, these creatures lazily roamed here in central China's Sichuan province. In 2021, as part of an

effort to increase biodiversity across China, five new parks unveiled.

Among the first batch created, the Giant Panda National Park. It's become a panda sanctuary, thanks in part to what happens here, at the Chengdu

Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. When we visited, this one was getting ready for its close-up.

CULVER: Giant pandas are known as flagship species, they're not as important ecologically as they are culturally here they are in China. But

by protecting the giant panda, we're protecting the ecosystems for potentially millions of other species.

I met some of the rangers and was surprised by how Big Tech has revolutionized the jobs.

Looking to protect pandas?

There's an app for that.

They are using the digital panda system, developed by Chinese tech giant Huawei with the Sichuan Forest and Grassland Administration, along with

other partners.


CULVER (voice-over): Spanning all of Sichuan province, the system uses over 600 cameras, along with drones and satellites, to detect wildfires in hard-

to-reach areas, with data store stored in the Huawei cloud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In those locations, there is often no power supply. So we provide microwave transmissions network solutions

and solar power solutions to support this kind of system in the wild.


CULVER (voice-over): Technology like this has also been used to track and monitor the other residents of the forest, like the black bear, golden

pheasant, Tibetan macaque and long tailed goral, helping to protect the biodiversity that sustains all life, including us humans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biodiversity provides what we call ecosystem services. These are goods and services that we don't pay for but we need. Nature

provides this clean water we can drink. But if we need to produce this water, it's much more expensive and when we lose biodiversity, we cannot

(INAUDIBLE) this function with technology we have much of that information (INAUDIBLE).

CULVER (voice-over): This is just the latest of the long-standing conservation efforts that have helped revive the once-dwindling giant panda

population. Over the past 20 years, the number of giant pandas in China has jumped nearly 80 percent from about 1,000 to nearly 1,800, removing it from

the endangered species list in 2021.

This conservation success story is thanks to the people like Haram (ph), nicknamed Panda Mom. She has worked with pandas for nearly three decades.

HARAM, PANDA MOM (through translator): We are protecting giant pandas, we want more people to pay attention to biodiversity protection. The giant

panda is definitely not the only species we care about. We hope to extend the conservation efforts to other species.

CULVER: Here in Chengdu, it's not only the giant pandas but also these guys, red pandas, a bit more approachable but equally as cute and cuddly.

CULVER (voice-over): Sadly, red pandas are still endangered. But the hope is, with new technologies to protect these newly minted national parks,

there will be more safe spaces for a range of species, from the lesser known to the most famous, to lounge freely for centuries -- David Culver,

CNN, Chengdu, China.


QUEST: It is impossible not to look at those pandas, when you actually see them in real life, and go, aww. Tell us what you're doing to protect the

Earth and the environment and the climate, #CallToEarth. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.





QUEST: Anyone who's been to Thailand knows Thais love their flowers, from these orchids to the ubiquitous orange chrysanthemums and they do the most

extraordinary things with them. I went to the flower market to see where all this comes from.


QUEST: You know how difficult it is to grow an orchid in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, they have orchids everywhere, everywhere, barrel loads of



QUEST (voice-over): But it's marigolds at the heart of all of this. It is the sheer number of marigolds. They are everywhere.

What is the main thing they're used for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's for a part of Thai style garland (ph).

QUEST: There's a lot of them, thank you.

All right, let's see if I can make a garland. So show me what it should look like.

QUEST (voice-over): Of course, these women are experienced masters of their craft, doing many hundreds if not thousands a day. Their new apprentice is

not as talented.

QUEST: All right. You've got to be careful you don't shove this in your finger.

This lady seems to think it's amusing.

Now remember that lady over there, making those other ones, well, this entire place is really a production line. She makes them over here.

And what do we do with it?

I have made one. Hundreds a day have to be made.

Thank you, I'll pay for this.



QUEST: I don't know what I was -- did I say chrysanthemums?

Of course not, marigolds, that's what they are. And I only made one of them. We'll have a "Profitable Moment," a short one, after the break.





QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment" in a sentence -- when it comes to tourism and re-opening, Thailand, they are at least trying.

That's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Thursday night. I'm Richard Quest, live in Bangkok. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's