04/20/2009, 00.00
THAILAND
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Tourist sector collapses as “red shirts” announce new protests

Political instability and recent clashes could cut second quarter tourism growth by 30 per cent. Foreign investments also decline. Pro-Thaksin protest leader accuses military of engineering last week’s violence incidents to discredit movement.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Earnings from foreign tourism and foreign investments will suffer in the second quarter of 2009, the Federation of Thai Industry reported today. Tourism growth in the second quarter could plummet 30 per cent and foreign investment may contract by 20 per cent, FTI deputy chairman Thanit Sorat said.

Initially, the country expected about 14 million foreign tourists this year, but the figure could be only 11 million, he said.

Foreign operators remain cautious given the country’s political instability.

Last Friday, Sondhi Limthongkul, head of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement “yellow shirts,” was wounded in an ambush. After an operation for a wound to the head he was declared out of danger.

The attacks came just a few days after pro-Thaksin “red shirts” held protests, attacking Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s motorcade and causing the cancellation oft the ASEAN Plus summit.

FTI deputy chairman called on the government to quickly lift the state of emergency to restore the country’s image.

However, anti-government protesters have announced further action in the coming days.

Jakrapob Penkair said “red shirts” will stage small scale protests within the law.

He said the violence unleashed at previous protests was instigated by military agents disguised as demonstrators in an effort to discredit their movement.

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