Could Political Upheaval In Thailand Derail Tourism Reopening

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government have spent the last few days defending themselves in a series of debates prior to a vote of no confidence that could cause massive ramifications within Thailand.

Main picture anti-government protests in Bangkok, Thailand credit REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasup

Anti-government protesters have been a common sight in Bangkok for the last few months demanding that the Prime Minister must resign over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Political opponents also accuse him, and five other cabinet ministers, of corruption and economic mismanagement.

The Prime Minister received heavy criticism from many within Thailand in June when he announced his 120 reopening plan for tourism in the country.

Many believed that this was moving far too quickly as the country battled rapidly increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases and a slow vaccination rate.

The numbers of tourists who have arrived in Phuket and Koh Samui has been lower than expected since they reopened in July.

Phuket had a target of 100,000 international tourists in the first three months of the Phuket Sandbox but in the first two months just 26,695 arrived. Numbers arriving in Koh Samui were substantially lower. Many tourists who have arrived have found bars and entertainment venues closed due to increased local restrictions.

Prayut has however pushed on with his 120 day plan, albeit scaled back.

Earlier this week the Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn announced during one of the debates that many areas would be reopening to tourists from October. This included Bangkok, which has been the hardest hit Covid-19 area in Thailand in recent months.

Anti-government protests in Bangkok, Thailand credit REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasup
Anti-government protests in Bangkok, Thailand credit REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasup

Many continue to claim that allowing foreign tourists to enter the country will put many of Thai’s at further risk of contracting Covid-19 just for a small short-term economic gain.

If the Prime Minister loses the vote of no confidence the wider political stability of the country may come under threat and future leaders may halt the tourism reopening plan.

The no confidence vote will be taking place on Saturday (4th September) and is expected to be won by the Prime Minister who has a clear majority in parliament.

“The members of parliament have to chose between the people and Prayuth who has failed, causing losses and deaths of more than 10,000 people.”

“If Prayuth passes the no-confidence vote and remains prime minister we will continue to drive him out.”

Nattawut Saikua, protest organiser (Source Reuters)

The Prime Minister is a former military chief who led the 2014 coup that resulted in him taking power.

The majority of Thailand’s 1.24 million Covid-19 cases and 12,374 deaths have come since April this year, when increasing numbers of the Alpha and Delta variants spreading rapidly. Prior to April the pandemic response in Thailand had been praised by many.

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