WRITER: POST REPORTERS

21 August 2015

Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said tourism would be the sector hit hardest by the horrific blast at the Erawan Shrine, whose victims included Thais and foreign tourists alike. "In the long term, we'll have to wait and see what exactly the real impact on foreign investors will be," he said.

However, the Thai-European Business Association (TEBA) thinks differently, saying the bomb has had only a minimal effect on foreign investors, with most of them still expressing confidence in Thailand's fundamentals and investment atmosphere. TEBA president Uli Kaiser believes the incident will not hurt new TEBA investment in Thailand. "We feel sorry for the people who lost their lives or were injured," he said. "We understand the Thai government is working hard to find the culprits who planted the bomb and the people who are associated with it."

Many countries face violence today, and the Ratchaprasong bomb is only a small incident compared with what happens around the world, Mr Kaiser added. The Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association (RSTA) reported all shopping centres in the immediate area including Gaysorn, CentralWorld, Erawan Bangkok and Amarin Plaza were open for business as usual yesterday, but the shopping atmosphere was very quiet. RSTA members have increased their joint security measures for coverage around the clock. The number of security staff in the district has been increased by 25% to monitor the walkway and road near their premises. Phaibul Kanokwatanawan, chief executive of The Mall Group, urged the government to speed up measures aimed at boosting tourist confidence. Up to half of all shoppers in this central area are foreign tourists, he said.

Kalin Sarasin, vice-chairman of Thai Chamber of Commerce, expects the blast will affect tourists psychologically in the short term but said the private sector believed the government would have the situation in hand shortly. However, he urged the authorities to monitor the situation very closely, especially advance flight bookings by foreign tourists in September and October, which could be subject to cancellations. Saowanee Thairungroj, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said if the government could bring the situation under control in a short time, then Monday's bombing would have only a limited effect on the overall economy. The attack will not affect people's purchasing power, as that has already been on a downward track due to economic constraints, she said. "We believe any impact is unlikely to be stretched out to the fourth quarter, the annual high season, so we're still maintaining our economic growth forecast at 2.5% to 2.9% this year," Ms Saowanee said. "Thailand has encountered myriad negative factors simultaneously this year, particularly external ones, leading the private sector to baulk at investing. So it's a must for the government to speed up infrastructure investment."

Nopporn Thepsittha, president of the Thai National Shippers' Council, said Thais and foreign investors alike were waiting to see how the government would react to the bombing and its economic impact. "It has already affected the lives of ordinary Thais, who will now be worried about where to eat, where to go, where to shop, and that will affect overall economic aspects anyway," he said.Mr Nopporn believes while any effects will be short-lived, businesses will still wait to see what happens in terms of new investment if the case lasts longer than expected.

Surachet Kongcheep, associate director of property consultancy Colliers International Thailand, believes the impact of the bomb attack will be limited only to the tourism sector. The property sector should not be significantly affected as long as the aftermath does not drag out, he said, adding that a prolonged situation could affect developers' foreign roadshows. SET-listed developer SC Asset Corporation Plc yesterday said it would not cancel six roadshows planned for Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Chengdu in the remaining months of this year. Condominium projects in Bangkok and Pattaya will be featured.