News / Asia

    Thais Appeal to Army to Lift Curfew in Bangkok

    FILE - Thai soldiers stand as anti-government protesters board a bus to head home, at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.
    FILE - Thai soldiers stand as anti-government protesters board a bus to head home, at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.
    Reuters
    Thais called on the army to lift the curfew in Bangkok on Wednesday (June 4), one day after Thailand's ruling military council lifted a curfew in some tourist areas in the country.
              
    The military imposed a nationwide curfew, currently running from midnight to 4 a.m., after it seized power in a coup on May 22.
              
    In a decision sure to please a battered tourist industry, the military on June 3 lifted a nationwide curfew in some tourist areas, including the beach resorts of Pattaya, Phuket and Samui. The curfew from midnight to 4 am remains elsewhere, including in Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai.
              
    The coup is another blow to the country's tourist industry, adding to the economic pain from six months of destabilizing street protests as airlines cut back on flights and concerns over insurance add to travelers' worries.
              
    As soldiers fanned out onto the streets of Bangkok - hailed by Time magazine only last year as the world's most visited city -- most shops and businesses stayed open and transport ran normally, but the number of tourists has dropped sharply.
              
    Only streams of tourists were seen taking the once-booming boat tour along the Chao Phraya River, which runs through the capital city.
              
    Boonserm Kaewkald, a 46-year-old boat driver, said he used to run four or five tours a day, but now he only had one at best.
              
    “Please lift the curfew, please lift it and end this faster. We need to return to democracy as soon as possible and they need to return democracy to the people. If there is democracy in the country, tourists won't run away,” he said. 
              
    Souvenir store owner Nattapon Artnoi, 62, said he had lost half of his income since protests flared up in November last year.
              
    “It is very quiet. Yesterday was quiet but today will be quieter because when tourists know that there is no curfew in other places, they will go there. Bangkok will be even worse. People will move from here to there,” said Nattapon.
              
    Tourism makes up about 10 percent of Thailand's economy, and the ebbing number of visitors contributed to a fall in gross domestic product in the first three months of the year, adding to fears the country is sliding into recession.
              
    The junta wants to move swiftly to revive an economy that shrank 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

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