When the anti-government United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protestors mobilized around the capital since March and eventually converged their rallies to Bangkok’s most thriving tourist and shopping hotspot of Ratchaprasong intersection, hoteliers and business operators countered a major blow as they watched their earnings and revenue slashed.
Employees found themselves temporarily jobless. While the UDD protests appear to show no signs of retreating despite the Government’s proposition of a house dissolution and the five-point roadmap towards peace and harmony, the Democrat-led government has provided measures to assist the workers and businesses affected by the political situation, to prevent further damages and relieve the burden carried by the public.
The government has divided measures into two categories: employees who have been temporarily laid off and businesses in which earnings are reduced by the UDD protests. On 4 May 2010 a budget worth 388 million THB has been proposed to the cabinet to assist businesses and workers affected by the UDD demonstrators in Ratchadamnoen Road, Ratchaprasong junction and its nearby areas, and Silom.
According to the Labor Minister, Phaitoon Kaeothong, workers affected will be given 3,000 THB per person and up to 93,775 people are expected to seek assistance, worth a total of 281.3 million THB. Meanwhile 1,500 street vendors at Phan Fah Bridge and Ratchaprasong have received 10,000 THB per person, or a total of 15 million THB.
To assist the business affected, the government will provide soft loans to business operators.The Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank o f Thailand (SME Bank) will subsidized the level of minimum lending rate up to three points where a credit line value of 5 billion THB will be provided. Meanwhile, the Revenue Department has delayed corporate tax and other taxes such as value-added-tax (VAT) and property tax filing by 180 days.
The impacts of UDD demonstrations has rippled to 3,395 hotels in Ratchadamri, Ploen Chit and Rama I, affecting 63,601 employees. As of 20 April 2010, 7 hotels have temporarily ceased their operations from 13 locations and two out of five department stores in the area have closed down. This also includes a temporary closure of 11 commercial banks from the 30 branches in the area.
According to reports, the prolonged political situation may cut GDP by 0.4-0.6%, with potential to reach up to 1%, costing at least 140 billion THB. The initial GDP forecast before the protests were set at 4.5%.
Meanwhile Commerce Ministry Permanent Secretary Yanyong Puangrach on 28 April 2010 had encouraged retailers and department store operators affected by the protests to join trade fairs for stock clearance. The Commerce Ministry will hold a special trade fair under the Thailand Grand Sales fair for retailers to sell their items to clear stocks and reduce costs. Currently the search for the location of the Blue Flag Fair is being expedited for retailers to sell their products at a low-price allowing operators to increase channels of sales to customers.
Even though these measures implemented will cushion the damages in the short-term, the government must expedite a firm measure to bring back normalcy to the economy, people and the nation. The return to normalcy however will only commence if both sides come to an agreeable standing which leads to the retraction of the UDD protesters in the Ratchaprasong intersection.
Reporter : Dolsinee Kritayapimonporn