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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs