News / Asia

Consumer Survey Shows Thais Hoping Army will Bring Order after Chaos

Vendors sell trinkets in a tourist district of Khao San Road in Bangkok, May 27, 2014.
Vendors sell trinkets in a tourist district of Khao San Road in Bangkok, May 27, 2014.
Reuters
An index of consumer confidence in Thailand jumped in May on hopes a military government that seized power promising to impose order after months of political chaos will drag the economy back from the brink of recession.
 
The army toppled the remnants of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government on May 22 after sometimes deadly protests since November that had forced ministries to close, hurt business confidence and caused the economy to shrink.
 
The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, dominated by the military, old-money families and the bureaucracy, and the supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who are adored by the poor in the north and northeast.
 
Since then the ruling junta has moved to suppress criticism and nip protests in the bud. Yingluck and prominent supporters of the Shinawatras have been briefly detained and warned against any anti-military activities.
 
But the crackdown does appear to have brought some stability  for now, after months of paralysis under a caretaker government that lacked the power to make policy or approve new spending.
 
The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) said on Tuesday its May consumer confidence index hit its highest level since January, just before protesters disrupted a Feb. 2 election called by Yingluck in a failed bid to end the crisis.
 
The index rose to 70.7 in May from 67.8 in April, when it had fallen for the 13th month in a row and was at its lowest level in more than 12 years. Polling for the index was carried out last week, after the coup.
 
“The main factor boosting sentiment was confidence in the future due to political clarity. People were more confident the economy would get better,” Thanavath Phonvichai, an economics professor at the university, told a news briefing.
 
University President Saowanee Thairungroj said an index on the political situation jumped to 59.6 in May from 37.3 in April. “It rose 22 points in a month, compared with just a few point changes previously, and that came in just one week.”
 
Not everyone in Bangkok shared the optimism.
 
“I'm not so confident with this government. It's not simple to seize control with guns and then manage the country's economy. You're bringing an inexperienced group to govern,” said Sunantha Pornsuksawang, 64, looking for lunch in a supermarket.
 
But Tanapan Sasikanyarak, 58, who was selling goods in the supermarket, reckoned the coup was a good thing.
 
“I think this political situation was scaring all the foreigners away from Bangkok, so I actually welcome the military intervention. Hopefully, this will now improve business here,” she told Reuters.
 
Abuse of power
 
In a decision sure to please a battered tourist industry, the military on Tuesday lifted a nationwide curfew in some tourist areas, including the beach resorts of Pattaya, Phuket and Samui. The four-hour curfew from midnight remains elsewhere, including in Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai.
 
Yingluck herself was ordered to step down two weeks before the coup when a court found her guilty of abuse of power.
 
Her brother Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who was considered the power behind her government, had been ousted as prime minister in the last military coup in 2006. He has lived in self-imposed exile since fleeing a 2008 conviction for abuse of power.
 
The junta wants to move swiftly to revive an economy that shrank 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014.
 
It has extended cuts to value-added and corporate taxes and moved quickly to pay billions of dollars owed to rice farmers after a state rice-buying scheme collapsed under Yingluck.
 
It has also extended price caps on fuel to help consumers. Inflation hit a 14-month high of 2.62 percent in May.
 
The UTCC's Thanavath said he expected the rice payments to inject about 100 billion baht ($3 billion) into the economy, along with 100 billion baht in promised loan guarantees for small firms plus 50-100 billion baht from initial investment in infrastructure.
 
“That 200 to 300 billion baht could help push up economic growth by 1 to 1.5 percentage points this year and it's very likely the economy will grow 2.5-3 percent,” he said.
 
The military wants to speed up foreign investment approvals plus some of the big infrastructure projects Yingluck was unable to advance, in part because a court rejected funding methods.
 
Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, in charge of economic matters for the junta, said on Monday a backlog of investment applications worth about 700 billion baht ($21.3 billion) would be acted on within two months.
 
The Board of Investment says this includes applications from 10 global car makers for investments totalling about 139 billion baht related to plans to promote the production of more environmentally friendly vehicles.
 
Shares up
 
Shares in industrial land developer Amata Corp  rose 2.4 percent and rival Hemaraj Land Development  jumped 4.4 percent on expectations they would benefit from new investment projects.
 
The main Thai stock index was 0.75 percent higher. On Monday, it jumped 1.8 percent to its highest level since Oct. 31, just before the protests against Yingluck flared up.
 
Prajin is looking at longer-term projects such as the development of economic zones on the borders with Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia, but 30 urgent proposals on the economy will go before military leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha this week.
 
Prajin has told the Finance Ministry to look at a complete overhaul of the tax structure and report to him next week.
 
On Friday, Prayuth said the military would need time to reconcile Thailand's antagonistic political forces and push through reforms, indicating there would be no general election for about 15 months.
 
The United States, European Union countries and others have called for the military to restore democracy quickly, release political detainees and end censorship.
 
The military has banned political gatherings of five or more people. On Sunday, 5,700 troops and police were sent into central Bangkok to stop anti-coup protests, which were mostly limited to small gatherings held around shopping malls.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid