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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs