News / Asia

Thai PM Calls for Reconciliation

Smoke billows across Bangkok skyline [file photo]
Smoke billows across Bangkok skyline [file photo]

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Ron Corben

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for national reconciliation as the country begins counting the economic cost following an army crackdown on anti-government protests.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday that Thailand faces major challenges in recovering from months of protests and the military crackdown that ended them.

"We recognize that as we move ahead there are huge challenges ahead of us, particularly the challenge of overcoming the divisions that have occurred in this country. Let me reassure you that the government will meet those challenges and overcome these difficulties," said Mr. Abhisit.

Protesters known as red shirts set more than 30 fires in Bangkok Wednesday as the military moved to close their camp in the city's center. Flames engulfed department stores, malls, banks and media outlets, causing more than $1 billion in damage. International ratings agencies say Thailand's credit rating is at risk unless long term political divisions are resolved.

Mr. Abhisit says he will revive a reconciliation plan that the protest leaders earlier rejected. The plan includes early elections as well as economic, social and constitutional reforms.

A key goal, he says, is to get the economy back on track.

Economists warn growth may be cut by up two percentage points this year, to about four percent.

The crackdown and subsequent rioting cost 52 lives over six days, bringing the toll to 77 deaths since the protests began in mid-March. Over 1,400 people were reported injured. Thousands of people have lost their jobs and thousands of businesses have seen sales collapse.

Satish Sehgal, a Bangkok publisher, says the violence will have a lasting economic impact.

"It's hurt the Thai economy - it's put Thailand back two to three years - tourism has been badly affected. It is sad, it's rather sad," said Sehgal.

Tourism accounts for six to seven percent of the economy and 15 percent of the workforce. Industry experts say because of the political crisis, about 13 million tourists will come this year, down from earlier forecasts of 16 million.

Nagesh Kumar, chief economist at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, says foreign investment will also suffer.

"The image of the investment outlook might be affected unless the government is able to restore confidence quickly and demonstrate everything is in order," says Kumar. "It can be contained if the government is able to overcome and restore peace and demonstrate that it is all working very well."   

The political uncertainties have led some expatriates to relocate. Andrew Durieux is the president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok.

"A number of expats are continuing to move out over the last couple of months, and Shanghai, and Kuala Lumpur and Vietnam have probably been the biggest recipients of those skills sets," Durieux said. "So Thailand needs to something to attract those families back."

Thailand has faced four years of political uncertainty, since a military coup ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. His supporters, largely from the rural and urban poor, accuse the military and the nation's traditional elite of ignoring their concerns. Mr. Thaksin, who lives overseas, has called for talks between the protesters and the government and has sought to distance himself from the rioting.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid