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Businesses want normalcy restored fast in Bangkok

April 9th, 2010 · No Comments


THE Thai government’s declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces will not significantly affect investor confidence in the country, says Thailand Trade Representative president Kiat Sittheeamorn.

The business community supports the government’s efforts to clear so-called Red-Shirt anti- government protesters from their rally point at Ratchaprasong intersection in the heart of Bangkok’s retail district, he said.

‘The private sector knows that we have exercised extreme restraint,’ said Mr Kiat. ‘Since the demonstrators moved to Ratchaprasong intersection one week ago, we have tried to negotiate and not use force or risk bloodshed or damage to the area. The private sector appreciates that – but they now want us to move quickly to restore normalcy to the area.’

The supporters of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military putsch in September 2006, have camped out at the intersection since last Saturday to reinforce their calls for the government to dissolve the Lower House of Parliament within 15 days to make way for fresh elections.

The area is home to several luxury shopping centres and hotels. Local businesses have chalked up losses totalling 10-14 billion baht (S$430-600 million), or 30-38 million baht a month, according to Thailand Trade Representative figures.

An emergency decree issued by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Wednesday night grants police and the military greater powers to control the protests, which include closing down media that disseminates ‘untruthful information intended to intensify the situation’, as well as allowing security forces greater freedom to use force, said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

The government is focusing on closing the Red Shirts’ media machine. It is also providing free transport to demonstrators who want to return home to the provinces, said Mr Panitan.

The emergency decree is aimed at returning ‘normalcy’ to Bangkok for the sake of the ‘safety and security’ of the local population, he said, declining to discuss plans for the arrest of the leaders of the Red-Shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

While the protests have largely been peaceful, Red Shirts clashed with police and stormed the Parliament compound on Wednesday. And more than 40 bomb and grenade attacks have taken place across the capital in the past month.

Mr Abhisit yesterday pulled out of the 16th Asean Summit in Vietnam.

Speaking from the summit in Hanoi, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said the situation in the Thai capital is ‘worrying’ and that he has discussed the matter with his Thai counterpart Kasit Pirmoya on the sidelines of the Asean meeting.

‘I fully understand why Mr Abhisit is not able to come, because he has just declared a state of emergency,’ Mr Yeo said. ‘This situation affects all Thai people. All the leaders understand his decision fully, not because Thailand makes light of Asean, but first of all our responsibility has to be to our own people. The safety and well-being of the Thais are at stake here.’

The Stock Exchange of Thailand plunged 30 points yesterday to close at 783.93, after hitting a low of 780.6, in trade worth 40.2 billion baht.

Analysts say a quick resolution to the security situation is essential to restore confidence to the market.

‘The emergency decree is a more palatable name for martial law, which is meant to be used when a nation is under imminent military/security threat,’ said a Phatra Securities report published yesterday.

Published April 9, 2010
© The Business Times

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