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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
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