News

    Bangkok Airport Back in Operation, But Economic Pain May Linger

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Bangkok's international airport is returning to normal, after protesters shut it down for eight days.  But business experts say the economic damage caused by the country's political crisis may linger for some time. VOA's Kate Pound Dawson reports from Bangkok.

    Within a few days, cargo and passengers should be flowing normally through Bangkok's international airport.  The anti-government protesters who occupied it began leaving Wednesday, after a court barred Thailand's prime minister and his party from politics.

    But business leaders in Thailand say the country's reputation has been badly damaged by the occupation, which shut traffic for eight days.

    John Koldowski, an executive with the Pacific Asia Travel Association in Bangkok, says that, although tourism has been most immediately affected, problems caused by the airport's closure spread around the country.

    "I think the ripple effect is beginning to be felt now, because the freight's affected as well.  So you're looking at produce that can't be shifted out of Thailand.  You're looking at produce that can't come into Thailand for consumption.  It's now starting to be felt right across the wider society," said Koldowski.

    Hotels struggled to accommodate stranded guests while the airport was closed. Now, they are looking ahead to see whether potential visitors have been scared away.

    Porntina Tangsajjavitoon - the communications director for the Accor Group, which has 20 hotels in Bangkok - says, so far, the damage is moderate for her company, in part because their rooms stayed filled with stranded tourists.  She says only a few bookings for the upcoming Christmas holiday have been canceled.

               
    "It's not as bad as we thought. … However, the new reservations, we'll probably have to wait and see a little more.  Of course, there are some cancellations as well," she said.

    However, other hotels are seeing a greater number of cancellations.  Some report they may see fewer than half their rooms occupied, in the coming weeks - the heart of the peak tourism season.

    Business leaders worry that the damage could be long-lasting and they are concerned because it could be weeks before a new government is installed.

    Dusit Nontanakorn, the vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, says airport managers worked hard to get flights moving again, but more must be done now to help the business community, which already was suffering because of the global economic downturn.          
    "The private sector and the government officials really have to join hands and work together.  We cannot wait until the next government will be coming in," he said.           

    There is considerable concern that Thailand's political crisis is just on hold and has not ended.  Most members of parliament from the banned party have regrouped under another banner and they, along with coalition partners, still hold a majority of seats.  If their choice for a new prime minister - expected next week - does not satisfy the anti-government group, protesters may well be back on the streets.

    Robert Broadfoot runs Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, a Hong Kong company that assesses business risks around Asia.  
               
    "This is not the end of the crisis by any means, I don  't think.  It's just moving on to the next chapter. There's still a large number of uncertainties.  And, when it comes to businesses like tourism, this is going to be a disastrous high season," he said.

    Broadfoot says it will be hard to determine just how much damage the political crisis has done to the economy, compared with the damage caused by the global slump.  Foreign investment is likely to shrink and demand for exports will be weak, because of the worldwide financial crisis.

    He says one way the Thai government can minimize the pain and help build a foundation for future economic growth is to focus on improving its infrastructure, such as roads and schools.
               
    "Probably the best that could happen now is if they get some sort of agreement in the political process, even if they're going to get revolving-door governments, where you can push ahead with major infrastructure and other programs, at least A., to create opportunities, and B., to create the impression that the economy's not just stuck in quicksand," he said.

    Broadfoot points out one advantage to focusing on infrastructure projects is that they are not dependent on foreign investment.

    The political uncertainty and the effects of the global economic crisis have factored into the decision by international credit rating agencies to downgrade ratings in Thailand.  That means the government and businesses here will pay more to borrow money.  However, Thailand's central bank may have eased some of the pain this week, when it surprised financial markets with its largest rate cut ever. The benchmark lending rate dropped a full percentage point, to 2.75 percent.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora