Amnesty bill in Thailand: The tourism industry is worried

The Thai travel and tourism industry is clearly worried about recent developments in this deeply divided land of smiles.

In a series of recent interviews political parties ready themselves over the government’s proposed amnesty bill. Many in opposition, led by the Democrat Party, with strong ‘people power’ support, believe the proposed legislation is a sham to allow deposed former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, currently living in exile, a free ‘get out of jail’ card and a possible ticket home.

The country is deeply divided and feelings run high. If the bill runs the course, it is almost certain that protests will once again spill out onto Bangkok’s streets.

A worrying scenario for Thailand’s sensitive tourism industry. Currently tourism is enjoying a boom with 24m international tourists expected to visit the Kingdom this year, rising to 28m by 2014.

Many industry observers are worried that continued and protracted street protests will have a major impact on tourist’s confidence. Historically street protests have been quickly forgotten and the reduction in tourist numbers has been short lived. However with recent protests in Egypt and elsewhere future tourist behavior is uncertain and may not be so easily recoverable.

The Democrats have said they will not waiver over their opposition to the amnesty bill.

Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban Democrat MP for Surat Thani reiterated the party’s position on the amnesty bill and slammed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s proposed political reform assembly.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a recent interview insists she is not her brother Thaksin Shinawatra’s puppet, Yingluck said she does not consult her brother on every issue as widely speculated. She made her own decisions largely based on advice and suggestions from her advisers and state officials and the proposed political reform assembly is her brainchild.

It was her idea, not Thaksin’s, to invite former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to a reconciliation meeting. Mr. Annan declined to join, saying he was committed elsewhere.

She said the forum aims to open the country to other viewpoints in its attempts to overcome divisions and achieve national reconciliation.

The government says it intends to invite the Democrat Party to join the reform assembly.
Mr. Suthep, however, said if the party took part in the assembly, it would hand the government the legitimacy it was seeking.

Mr. Suthep believes the amnesty bill, if passed, will overrule judicial power.

The party will seek to topple the Pheu Thai-led government only when it is clear the government has destroyed the rule of law.

Mr. Suthep said the party has agreed to wait until the bill passes all three readings before “blowing a whistle” to start a mass rally.

Mr. Suthep defended the move and said the party did not intend to instigate public unrest.

They were not interested in torching property or taking the city hostage.

He said the party might resort to multiple rallies, work stoppages, civil disobedience, boycotts of products associated with government figures, or a march to Government House.