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Thailand aims to revive economy after protests end
Wed Apr 15, 2009 3:42pm EDT
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By Bill Tarrant
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The Thai government turned its attention to new measures to revive the economy on Wednesday, a day after the end of violent protests that further dented confidence in a country heading into recession.
Thailand kept a state of emergency in the capital for a fourth day and security forces kept tight guard around the prime minister's office, epicenter of protests by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's "red-shirt" supporters.
An end to the latest round of political chaos in the kingdom allowed the government some breathing space to focus on fixing the economy.
Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said Thailand may have to borrow more to finance additional stimulus measures to compensate for any economic losses from this week's political turmoil.
"With tourism expected to suffer more losses, and private investment likely to fall after what happened this week, the impact would likely be reflected in more tax revenue shortfalls and increased fiscal deficits," Korn told Reuters.
"We will have to review our public sector borrowing plans. With the problems this week, fiscal stimulus will probably need to play a bigger role to boost the economy," he said.
The Thai Cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss the budget and the stimulus package, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told Reuters on Wednesday. He declined to say where it would meet due to security concerns.
A nearly three-week siege of Government House, where Abhisit's administration has offices, ended without bloodshed on Tuesday when Thaksin supporters decided to surrender with hundreds of troops and riot police surrounding them.
Two people died in skirmishes between "red shirt" protesters and local residents, the authorities said, while at least 123 were injured in clashes between soldiers and protesters trying to blockade a major road junction on Monday.
In broad terms, Thailand's crisis is a battle between the "yellow shirts" -- royalists, the military and urban Thais who back Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva -- and the "red shirt" supporters of Thaksin whose power base was mainly drawn from the millions of rural poor.
THAKSIN APPEAL TO KING
Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup, lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a two-year jail term on a corruption conviction. His whereabouts are not known.
In an interview with broadcaster France 24 on Wednesday, he urged King Bumibol Adulyadej, seen by many Thais as semi-divine, to help end the political turmoil.
"He is the only person that can intervene in this incident, otherwise the violence will become wider and also the confrontation would be more and more," said Thaksin.
Financial markets were closed for the three-day Thai New Year holiday, but will reopen on Thursday. Shares and the baht were expected to come under selling pressure. Continued...
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