Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Protests haunt Thai exports, tourism

Thursday, 09 April 2009 01:02

Thailand, the world’s biggest supplier of rubber and rice, said it may miss its 2009 export target as a currency that hasn’t weakened as much as its neighbors’ and escalating antigovernment protests hurt orders.

“The revived political unrest in Thailand is coming back to haunt exports and tourism,” Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said in an interview in Bangkok today. “If we get zero growth, I would consider that a very good job.”

Thailand, facing its first recession in a decade, earlier predicted export growth of between zero percent and 3 percent this year, from a 15.6-percent pace in 2008. About 20,000 people have assembled outside Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s office today, demanding an early election.

The protesters, joining those who had surrounded Government House since March 26, are also seeking the ouster of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s top adviser, whom they accuse of masterminding a coup against former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Protests that toppled the previous government led by Thaksin’s allies last year led to a weeklong seizure of Bangkok’s main airport as well as strikes by train and port officials, prompting delays in goods shipments for several days.

The Thai currency fell on concern protests against Prime Minister Abhisit’s government will worsen, deterring investment needed to counter an economic slump. The baht slipped 0.3 percent to 35.57 per dollar as of 12 p.m. in Bangkok, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The baht has fallen 2.4 percent this year against the US dollar, the fourth-best performer among 10 Asian currencies outside Japan. South Korea’s won has slipped 7 percent, while the Singapore dollar fell 5.9 percent.

Alongkorn said the baht should weaken further to about 37- to 38-baht a dollar to help boost exports. Any further cut in the central bank’s benchmark-interest rate won’t significantly weaken the currency, he said.

The Bank of Thailand will announce its interest-rate decision in Bangkok later today. Bloomberg

IN PHOTO -- Container ships are loaded with export goods at Klong Thoei port in Bangkok, Thailand, in this file photo. Thailand’s economy shrank more than expected in the fourth quarter as exports and tourism slumped, pushing the country closer to its first recession in a decade. Bloomberg

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