Shutdown Turns Tourists Off ‘Teflon’ Thailand
Protesters have successfully brought Bangkok to a standstill, and the shutdown is doing a number on Thailand’s tourism industry. Reuter’s Amy Sawitta Lefevre explains exactly how this fallout is breaking the back of this ever-vital industry.
Whatever it Takes to Boot Yingluck Out…
Amy begins, “What we’ve seen today, this morning, is largely peaceful protests, a very festive kind of atmosphere, people blowing whistles, and waving Thai flags. There’s obviously a lot of anger and antagonism towards the Yingluck government. From the people that I’ve spoken to, the protesters that I’ve spoken to, military intervention seems to be something that they’re pushing for as a means to get rid of Prime Minister Yingluck and her Cabinet.
“It is a ‘shutdown’ in the sense that they’ve managed to paralyze some key areas of the city, areas where a lot of multinationals have their offices and there has been some gridlock – a lot of people have decided to leave their cars behind. But public transport is functioning as normal and as with most protests in Bangkok, life has continued more or less as normal, a couple of delays here and there.
“The protesters have basically said that they will try to finish this up within a day, but they are also willing to camp out and stay for the long haul if the government, or the prime minister doesn’t resign, and they’ve definitely brought kit with them to stay, to camp out for a while – tents, sleeping bags and all that sort of stuff.
‘Teflon’ Thailand Gets Hit in the Tourism Sector
“For now the nickname ‘Teflon’ Thailand still stands and the economy as we’ve seen in the past is pretty resilient to protests that have been far more violent than the ones we’re seeing at the moment. But of course if this does drag on, if the violence continues, then this may scare investors away. What we are seeing though is a huge impact on tourism already.
“The main international airport is scarily quiet for the times that I’ve been to visit in the last week or so. Asian tourists are staying away, Chinese tourists which are the number one tourists to Thailand, they ‘re staying away and are cancelling their tours. Although we’ve seen tourists at the protest today, they’re kind of taking pictures and curiously looking at what’s going on, of course as the wariness sets in this is really going to keep people away from Bangkok at least.
Do We Need an Intervention?
“And I think that the government has learnt from 2010 and they’re being very cautious about any form of police or military intervention. So that’s the difference this time around, they’ve definitely been a lot more sedate in terms of the orders that they’re giving and there’s no sign really that they’re gearing up for any sort of dispersal.
“At the moment given the atmosphere today I think it could be just another week of protests, definitely if the atmosphere we’re seeing today, which is largely peaceful, festive as I said, if that atmosphere continues throughout the week then could be in this for a little while longer yet. But at least one group of protesters has said they are going to surround the national police headquarters. If there are clashes between the police and protesters and if that results in heavy casualties, then we could see some sort of intervention by the army or some other security forces and then will be a pivotal week for Thai politics.”
The protesters seem pretty dead set on their goals. They want Prime Minister Yingluck out immediately. And the Thai government? It’s treading lightly.