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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora