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Business sector warns of huge losses on and after January 13

The anti-government protesters' plan to "shut down" Bangkok on January 13 will have a negative impact on the country's tourism and export industries as well as logistics, the business sector warned yesterday, pointing out that the capital was Thailand's logistics hub.

Meanwhile, a Finance Ministry official warned that the planned shutdown and possible delay of the February 2 election were likely to affect consumer confidence, investment, government spending, and trading in the stock market.

"It remains unclear how the political dispute will end. This situation will most certainly have a negative impact on the economy. If it ends without any bloodshed, then that should help improve confidence in the economy," said the source, who asked not to be named.

Thanit Sorat, vice president of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the tourism sector would be hit the hardest, followed by the export sector, as the confidence of tourists and foreign businesses had been affected.

He pointed out that since the protests began in October, about 30 per cent of orders from overseas had gone elsewhere and about 50 per cent of overseas shipments were diverted as foreign traders were worried about Thai exporters' ability to deliver.

Thanit said that since Bangkok was a national logistics hub, an attempted "shutdown" could have a huge impact on logistics, trade, financial transactions and documentation procedures.

However, Bank of Thailand spokeswoman Roong Malikamas said she was confident about the payment system weathering the planned shutdown, adding that financial transactions would continue, as commercial banks as well as the private and public sectors have experienced crises before.

Pornsil Patchrintanakul, vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said he expected any such shutdown to wreak huge damage on the national economy, though exactly how much would depend on the length of the protest. He said every party should negotiate and help resolve the conflict soon.

Under the worst-case scenario, he said the business sector could make preparations ahead of the January 13 action by accelerating exports or completing transactions before that date.

Meanwhile, commercial banks are planning to close branches that might be affected by the shutdown.

Weidth Nuchjalearn, Krungthai Bank's first senior executive vice president, said branches that were unable to serve customers would be closed temporarily and staff would be moved to work elsewhere. He added that the manager of each branch had the authority to make decisions based on the safety of staff.

He also said that if there is a blackout, each branch has an emergency generator that can run for about seven hours and ensure that operations are not interrupted.

During the 2010 unrest in Bangkok, KTB closed 22 branches temporarily.

Siam Commercial Bank will also close branches that cannot provide services on January 13, executive vice president Phanporn Kongyingyong said.

"If a branch is forced to close, we will ask the customers to opt for other branches that are not too far from the ones closed," she said.

The bank is looking to see how many branches have the highest chance of being affected by the rally as it wants to ensure that customers are not inconvenienced, she added.

Kasikornbank will also consider temporarily closing branches in areas that are on the rally route as it is worried about break-ins, first senior vice president Thawee Teerasoontornwong said.

The bank would close branches if there were violent incidents, he said. About five in downtown Bangkok might be closed because of the shutdown. However, he does not think the delivery of cash to automated teller machines and bank branches would be interrupted.


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