Thai petchem majors shut Bangkok offices after political riots

20 May 2010 12:41  [Source: ICIS news]

By Pearl Bantillo and Chow Bee Lin

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--Thailand’s petrochemical majors PTT and Siam Cement Group (SCG) are closed for business in Bangkok on Thursday after political violence in the city escalated, industry sources said on Thursday.

Trading on the country’s stock exchange has been suspended until tomorrow as political unrest in the country's capital city took a more violent turn after leaders of the anti-government protests surrendered on Wednesday, based on media reports.

Members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), widely known as the “red shirts” and supporters of deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra, started setting fire to office buildings as military troops moved to disperse them from barricades in the city.

"The protesters are burning down some of the buildings, so our office is closed,” said a source at SCG.

Some 35 buildings in Bangkok were set ablaze, according to media reports.

PTT employees were advised to stay home due to security concerns as rioting continued unabated, company sources said.

Burning of government buildings were also reported in the northern and northeastern provinces.

The UDD had been holding anti-government demonstrations in the Thai capital for months in a bid to oust incumbent PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and force a general election to choose the next Thai leader.

Political instability in Thailand had reigned for years since a corruption scandal broke around Shinawatra’s family corporation - Shin Corp - that drove him out of office.

The political protests from both the government and anti-government camps over the past years were proving to be highly disruptive to Thai businesses and had been driving away tourists, thereby possibly resulting in billions of dollars in losses for the economy, analysts said.

 “We estimate the political instability in 2006-08 reduced (GDP) growth by about two percentage points per year. The violence in 2010 probably shaved another 1% off output,” Singapore-based DBS Bank said in a research note on Thursday.

“Whether the cost to the economy in 2011 is similar will depend on how the political situation evolves,” it added.

DBS Bank predicted the Thai economy would rebound and post an annual growth of 6% this year, compared with a 2.3% contraction in 2009, but expansion would slow to 4% in 2011, it said.

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By: Pearl Bantillo
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