Foreign investors becoming 'spooked' by political tensions
Some foreign investors are becoming spooked by the intensifying political tension in Thailand, with fears that there could be a recurrence of political violence, said Peter van Haren, president of the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Political tension is the main factor affecting the confidence of foreign investors, despite Thailand's flourishing trade and investment opportunities compared to other countries in the region, he said.
Van Haren said Thailand's law enforcement also remained weak and this was seen as an investment risk. For instance, it is not clear whether the pending amnesty bill will nullify all legal offences. If the bill also provides amnesty in corruption cases, this would run against Thailand's vow to fight graft, he said.
He noted that Thailand's attraction for foreign investors had also lost its lustre with the emergence of new markets such as Myanmar, Indonesia and Vietnam. Thailand's infrastructure is also inferior to that of Malaysia and Singapore.
"Political conflict has taken a firm root [in Thailand], leading to fears that violence might reoccur," he said. "Thai society honours respect and forgiveness. Yet standards and law enforcement must be taken into account, as these influence society and ensure the peaceful co-existence of all."
However, Karl-Heinz Heckhausen, president of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce, said he believed Thailand's political rallies did not differentiate the Kingdom from other countries such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom or the United States.
Protests are a normal feature of a democratic country, he said, as everyone has the right to express his or her opinion. German investors still believe, therefore, that Thailand is one of the most attractive Asean destinations to invest when compared with other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.