Foreign firms opt to wait and see

Foreign firms opt to wait and see

Leery of martial law leading to a solution

Foreign business leaders gave mixed reactions to the Thai army’s declaration of martial law, saying they are keeping a close eye on how related parties respond to the latest attempt to find a solution to the country’s months-long political impasse.

An investor sits back in front of a board that shows nearly all stocks trading on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in red yesterday, the first day martial law was enforced. The SET index closed at 1,394.69, down 15.94 points in heavy trade of 43.26 billion baht. THANARAK KHUNTON

Jan Eriksson, vice-chairman of the European Asean Business Centre, said martial law could lead to a political breakthrough, allowing a new working government to be formed.

“Although martial law does not sound very nice, we hope it will lead to the resolution of the political situation in Thailand,” he said, noting there is a fine line between martial law and a military coup.

He said the way forward for Thailand is very difficult to predict so foreigners still have to wait and see.

“Many groups have tried many solutions to solve the conflict, but they don’t lead anywhere. Without a working government in place, it doesn’t look good for the Thai economy, especially for domestic consumption,” said Mr Eriksson, also president of the Swedish-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Setsuo Iuchi, president of the Japan External Trade Organisation in Bangkok, said martial law was imposed slightly earlier than forecast to maintain peace.

“It is better that the situation is
now under the control of the army for the sake of security,” said Mr Iuchi, also the chief representative for Asean and South Asia.

“Martial law alone will not have a direct impact on business. Various stakeholders still need to work to prevent further damage to the economy. Investors will look at stability and hope the situation will be settled very soon.”

Toyota Motor Corporation, the world’s biggest car maker, said it was watching events carefully, but all three of its Thai plants were operating normally.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was monitoring developments in Thailand closely after the army declared martial law.

On its Facebook page, the US embassy wrote that martial law gives the military certain expanded authority to ensure public security and safety, while Thailand’s constitution and caretaker government remain in place.

“US citizens are warned that even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid protest sites, demonstrations, and large gatherings. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and pay attention to local news reports,” read the website, adding that extra time is recommended when travelling throughout the city or to and from airports.

Marc Spiegel, vice-chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand, said he felt there was nothing to worry about.

“No restriction or curfew has been announced. It is still too early to say anything,” he said.

“It’s like watching a football match. When the referee steps in, everyone agrees it is positive. But if they don’t like the results, it could lead to more trouble.”

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