Thailand’s tourism economy is expected to shrink 20 percent following the violent demonstrations in Bangkok, according to new government forecasts. Tourists continue to make a mass exodus from the capital as the death toll from the anti-government protests reaches 21.
In the worst violence in the country since 1992, soldiers shot dead 16 “red shirt” protesters with many clashes taking part in popular tourist areas. Many hotels kept their guests inside to avoid them getting mixed up in the clashes.
Bullet casings, pools of blood and shattered military vehicles littered the streets near Khao San Road, an area in the Thai capital popular with backpackers. Flights into the country during this week’s Thai New Year holidays, usually a peak period, will slump 4.1 percent because of the unrest.
The country’s tourism revenue may fall by 20.8 billion baht, according to the Fiscal Policy Office said in a statement.
“The violence definitely affects the country’s tourism, especially tourists from Asia, which is sensitive to political turmoil,” Prakit Piriyakiet, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told Bloomberg.
The UK Foreign Office has warned tourists to take “extreme caution”. On its website www.fco.gov.uk it states: “The situation in Thailand remains volatile. British Nationals should exercise extreme caution throughout the country, and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.
“If violence breaks out again British Nationals are advised to remain indoors and to monitor the media and this website.”
The red shirts, typically poor rural Thais, have descended on the city to call for parliament to be dissolved and election to take place.
Many have settled in Sukhumvit, the upmarket tourist area which is home to many shopping malls and luxury hotels.
Last week the Thai government declared a national state of emergency allowing the military to ban groups of more than five people gathering, impose curfews and sensor
the media in a bid to restore order.
Violence erupted on Saturday when troops tried to clear one of the protest sites and ended when they retreated.
At least 874 people were injured in what some are calling the ‘Battle for Bangkok’.