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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More