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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        26  January 2011

Thai business upset about street rallies

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Renewed protests by the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the red-shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) have reignited concerns by businesses on the impact to the country's recovering tourism and investment sectors, as firms request protesters and the government hold talks to find solutions.

"The rallies have rekindled worries for both Thai and foreign business communities after a peaceful period," said Dusit Nontanakorn, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. "There was a lesson from the violence last year, which everyone still remembers. So all parties should cooperate and so we can all earn a living."

He said a peaceful rally is acceptable, but he believes the best way to solve their differences is through negotiations.

Akapol Sorasuchart, president of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, is also concerned.

"If either the PAD and UDD rallies turn violent, it will damage tourism and meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (Mice) businesses eventually," he said.

Thanavath Phonvichai, an economist at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the political rallies were a risk to the Thai economy as reflected by the drastic plunge in the Thai stock market on Monday.

"Although the political situation has not yet affected consumer confidence, it will affect the overall economy, especially tourism in the short term," he said.

Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thailand Hotels Association, said cancellations have not started yet but hoteliers are closely monitoring the demonstration.

"We hope the rally will end in two to three hours as promised. We are not too concerned about the rally, but the two bombs seized in the heart of Bangkok on Monday have already damaged tourist confidence in the short term."

The Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce (AustCham) said recent negative incidents could prevent Thailand from cashing in on expected further investment from Australia following the current review of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, especially if the service sector opens up. Despite greater optimism about political stability these past six months, Australian companies remain very cautious about Thailand, said Andrew Durieux, the president of AustCham.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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