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BBC World Service

What Thailand’s political climate means for the economy

Kai Ryssdal May 22, 2014
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Thailand’s been said to have a “Teflon economy”: Political instability has wracked the country in recent years, but its major industries haven’t been very affected. 

Jonathan Head, a BBC correspondent based in Bangkok, said the current military coup might change that.

“A lot of the businesses that drive Thailand’s economy are based outside of Bangkok. Manufacturing, cars, electronics… those [exports] will continue as normal,” says Head. “Where there are real worries is that because of this long crisis big investment decisions have been delayed. And the political uncertainty has put off foreign direct investors too.”

Head says Thailand’s military leaders are stressing that the country is currently safe for tourists. But people with future travel plans to Chiang Mai or Bangkok might want to reconsider.

“For example [the military] is stressing that, although there is a curfew, tourists will be able to drive late at night to the airport and back. But in the end the element of uncertainty of whether there is going to be conflict is going to put tourists off.” 

Head says right now, the streets of Bangkok are calm. It’s what the military coup means for the long term that is worrisome.

“When they took over in the last coup in 2006 the country was a lot less polarized, they faced very little resistance, and yet they were accused of completely mismanaging the economy..[Now] they have to do it again with consumer demand already collapsing, with a lot of people in debted after a consumer binge in the last few years. That could all make it very tricky for the army.”

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