Business calls for an end to rallies

Sixteen countries have issued warnings that their citizens visiting Thailand should avoid areas near the anti-government rallies in Bangkok, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Surapol Sawetseranee said on Tuesday.

They are England, France, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Australia, Israel, Brazil, Singapore, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Hungary.

Mr Surapol said there were no reports from TAT's provincial and overseas offices, or from the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), that advance bookings for rooms at hotels in Thailand were being cancelled by foreign tourists.

The Board of Trade of Thailand (BTT) issued a statement on Tuesday calling for an end to the ongoing anti-government protests after their target of halting the blanket amnesty bill had been met, and said that peace talks should be held to settle political disputes.

The statement was read out by Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the BTT and the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) .

Tourists take a photo with an anti-government protester at Ratchadamnoen on Tuesday. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

The statement said the trade board stood firm in its opposition to corruption and was of the view that the amnesty bill had been killed because coalition parties had pledged that they would not deliberate it again.

The BTT and the TCC called for all sides to refrain from confrontation and violence that could damage the economy, trade, investment, investors' confidence and the country's image in the long-term.

All parties must think of the country's best interests and help return the country to peace once again, the statement said.

It said the BTT and the TCC were concerned that a prolonged anti-amnesty bill protest would worsen the slowdown in the economy, particularly the tourism sector.

The tourist high season is approaching and the sector, if unhindered, could generate huge revenue for the country, to offset the slowdown in exports, which are projected to grow by only one per cent this year, it said.

Mr Isara said he disagreed with calls for anti-government civil disobedience urging people to stop work and withold taxes.

Business operators must comply with the law requiring them to pay taxes and the TCC had not issued any notice to member companies asking them to allow employees to take leave of absence, as protest organisers requested, he said.

Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the Economic and Business Forecasting Centre at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), said on Tuesday that if the protests continue into the first quarter of 2014 it could cost the tourism sector 30 to 50 billion baht in lost revenue this year.

It would also trim gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2013 to only 3.3% to 3.5%, he said.

In 2014, the protests could cost the tourism sector nearly 200 billion baht in lost income and GDP would grow by only 4% to 4.8%, from a previous forecast of 5% to 5.1%, said the director.

If there is a violent clash between police and demonstrators, the GDP growth figure for this year would be only 3% to 3.2%, he said.

Mr Thanavath said if there were a political change, such as a dissolution of the House of Representatives and a general election, seed money would flow into the economic system.

But if the Pheu Thai Party were defeated at an election, that would affect the planned two-trillion-baht investment in infrastructure development projects, which is a key factor in mobilising the economy next year, so the economy would recover only slowly in 2014, he said.

Students of the UTCC on Tuesday issued a statement calling for a peaceful democratic rally. They jointly lit candles as a symbol to bring peace to the country.

Related search: Bangkok, amnesty, protest rallies, politics, Thailand, business, GDP

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