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Violence-inspired trade?

After the bomb attack on a procession of anti-government protesters on Friday, business carried on as usual at Pathumwan rally site, as shown by photos taken by The Nation that evening. As usual, vendors put up stalls offering items ranging from whistles and T-shirts to handbags and caps.

This was probably no surprise to Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce's Economic and Business Forecasting Centre.

Last week, after a press conference, he told reporters he was unperturbed when protesters planned to demonstrate in front of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's residence even though his house was in the same soi, Yothin Pattana 3 in Lat Phrao.

"When things seem to turn violent in any areas, the first things to emerge are more vendors. They are faster than even police officers," he joked.

Apparently however, demand driven by the violence is not enough, or so many economists would not be worried about the impacts.

MYSTERY 'REPORTER' UNVEILED

The State Railway of Thailand last week invited media reps to inspect how the train service was managing during the "Bangkok shutdown".

When an invitation was sent via a Line chat group created as a communication tool between Transport Ministry units and media outlets, many questions were asked by a member called "CSI".

The photo of CSI was unfamiliar. How could such a young boy be a reporter and be included in the chat group?

CSI asked for details on where reporters would meet and when. As some reporters were told to board a train at Hua Lamphong Station, he asked why there and why not Don Muang.

As if aware that he had asked too much, CSI revealed that he was caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt.

Everybody knows that the minister could not reach his office on Rajdamnoen Avenue. Last week during the Bangkok shutdown he was seen here and there. And with this event organised by the SRT, he had a new mission to tend to.

Then, he completed his routine job by posting photos on his Facebook page. It was as if the event was supposed to be presided over by the minister, not SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan.

COPING WITH THE SHUTDOWN

Several companies cancelled events last week and more will be cancelled this week as the shutdown continues.

Chai Srivikorn, president of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association (RSTA), a grouping of operators of hotels and more than 1,000 businesses, said last week that all members were on a 24-hour standby.

Experiences from the bloody 2010 protest taught them to tackle the situation as soon as violence emerged. Chiefs of all businesses would be ready for a meeting 15 minutes after being called. What makes it different from 2010 is that this time the protesters are not interacting with police, so the RSTA needs to assume the task of maintaining security.

Meanwhile, Tisco Financial Group cancelled a weekend media trip to Kanchanaburi. No executives wanted to leave Bangkok and be prevented from reacting promptly if the situation turned violent.

Still, some banks are optimistic that the situation will be better this week. Krungthai Bank sent out an invitation for a press briefing tomorrow. Srisawad Ngern Tid Lor also plans a press briefing on Thursday, and Land & Houses has scheduled a news conference for the same day.

PACE Development, however, is less optimistic. It had planned a media trip for February 8-9, but has just decided to cancel it, citing the possibility of violence. The trip was planned for as far away as Chiang Rai, but who would want to be away from the capital should the situation really turn violent?

A lot is at stake here.

Comments and suggestions can be sent to busdsk@nationgroup.com


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