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March 14, 2009

Thai PM: Economy may not recover until Q4

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday his country's economy might not show positive growth until the final quarter of this year, later than forecast.

After talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown focusing on the global economy, Abhisit admitted that expectations for the Thai economy -- hit by last year's mass protests and the global slowdown -- had been lowered.

"I think we are now looking at a delay in recovery. The projections for the global economy have been lowered," Abhisit was quoted by AFP as telling journalists.

"We do hope though that the stimulus package that we've now pushed through will help to strengthen domestic purchasing power through the second and third quarters and we hope to see a turnaround in the final quarter."

Thailand's central bank governor said last month that 2008 growth could be between -0.8 and 1.8 percent, less than previously projected. English-educated Abhisit said he hoped the Thai parliament would give the go-ahead in a March 24 vote to begin the process of negotiations with international lenders over borrowing up to two billion dollars (1.6 billion euros).

"If parliament approves we can begin the process of negotiations with the lenders. We hope to have the money by the third quarter," Abhisit said.

Thai finance ministry officials have said the money is likely to come from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japanese International Cooperation Agency and will be spent on infrastructure.

Abhisit said he and Brown had discussed next month's G20 economic summit in London which was "absolutely essential... in terms of shoring up confidence and in terms of coordinating policy response."

Asia is represented at the G20 by China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. In other comments, he told reporters that the international media had yet to provide evidence of its allegations that the Thai military had abused migrants from Myanmar.

Thailand has faced criticism over claims that its security forces abused migrants from the Rohingya Muslim minority, hundreds of whom have been rescued in Indian and Indonesian waters in recent months.

"We have taken these allegations seriously, we have tried to check up on the facts and I can say that the alleged abuses have not happened, especially in terms of whipping or body abuses or so on," Abhisit said.

"In instances where the boats have been allowed to be pushed back, these people have been supplied with food and water. "I have asked the media who have reported on these incidents to provide me with additional evidence so that we can proceed. "Unfortunately they have not been willing to provide it."

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