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Former WTO director cautions against re-opening Thailand too quickly

Maya Taylor

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Former WTO director cautions against re-opening Thailand too quickly | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bao Menglong on Unsplash
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The former director general of the World Trade Organisation has issued a caution against Thailand throwing open its borders too early. Supachai Panitchpakdi says Covid-19 is still very much a threat, pointing to other countries that appear trapped in a cycle of easing restrictions, followed by renewed lockdowns. His comments come as England emerges from a national lockdown, only for many areas to find themselves subject to even tougher measures, at least until Christmas.

According to a Nation Thailand report, Supachai says the cycle of lockdown/open up/lockdown that’s being seen in many Western countries is not just damaging their economies, it’s also leading to more infections and deaths. He warns that re-opening Thailand’s borders too quickly could have long-term negative impacts for the Kingdom.

“Thailand should gradually open the country, because human resources are the most important factor. It takes about 20 to 30 years for human development, and if those people die, it will be very difficult to restore the lost human resources.”

Within Thailand there is a polarised view as to whether Thailand should be broadly re-opening its borders or not. Successive polls show that the Thai population is, generally, suspicious about re-opening too soon, especially whilst parts of the rest of the world are still trying to contain their infection rates. On the other hand Thailand’s tourism and hospitality industry has been decimated with millions unemployed.

Supachai’s comments come as the government has tentatively opened the borders to foreign tourists, albeit at a significant cost and inconvenience to those who might want to visit. There is both a long term STV, special tourist visa, and a modified general tourist visa for up to 60 days. In both cases there is currently a 14 day mandatory quarantine to be served and a number of other paperwork hurdles to overcome.

Supachai says Thailand’s economy is likely to shrink by 5 or 6% this year, a change from the previous forecast of 7 or 8%. He adds that he’s hopeful the economy and exports will recover next year, pointing out that if a quick recovery is seen in China and ASEAN nations, it will help Thai exports. He warns that an appreciating baht could threaten Thailand’s exports and that exporters will need to look at ways of increasing their competitive edge.

He has also called for a hike in interest rates, pointing out that the low rate of 0.5% is having a detrimental effect on people’s savings. Another fallout from the pandemic is an increase in household debt, with Supachai expressing concern that Thai people are getting into debt at a much younger age compared to the trend in other countries.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    EdwardV

    Friday, November 27, 2020 at 9:50 am

    The former WTO director need not worry. What Thailand is doing would make “gradually“ seem reckless … until February of course.

  2. Avatar

    Jason

    Friday, November 27, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    I think Thais can expect foreign visitors to return to Thailand in 2026. But only from low risk countries….like Antarctica for example…..as long as the visitors wear appropriate face masks and are willing to pay for a stay in an ASQ Hotel for the duration of their visit and have no contact with any Thai except by telephone from their enclosed cubical (read travel bubble).

  3. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Friday, November 27, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    What right has a former WTO director have to give advice?
    Unless he is Thai and in that case he will love to be the important man, which to a Thai is a right.
    The present director, Roberto Azevido should tell Suprachai he has been paid off and nobody wants to hear from him.
    Does a former plumber give advice on how to flush the toilet?
    Suprachai should shut up. He is only guessing anyway.

    • The Thaiger

      The Thaiger

      Friday, November 27, 2020 at 3:19 pm

      You can bet that “Suprachai” is indeed Thai.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Friday, November 27, 2020 at 4:00 pm

        “Supachai Panitchpakdi” would be a bit of a give-away for most people! 🙂

        • Avatar

          preesy chepuce

          Saturday, November 28, 2020 at 1:20 am

          “He has also called for a hike in interest rates, pointing out that the low rate of 0.5% is having a detrimental effect on people’s savings.” self interest?

          It’s certainly true that Thais get into debt to buy vehicles. The fix for that is financial regulation, and controlling the lenders, not the borrowers.

          The best thing for Thailand is to make an FTA with the UK, and get UK support to optimise the Thai financial sector, which will yield benefits for every other sector.

    • Avatar

      Mike Frenchie

      Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 2:09 am

      Mr. Suprachai gets his pension from the WTO pension fund (externally funded). He may have got another advice if he would earn a living from running a restaurant in Pattaya!

  4. Avatar

    Derek

    Friday, November 27, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    Please keep the quarantine in Thailand it’s kept Thailand safe.Great idea If tourists don’t want to quarantine stay at home with their virus

  5. Avatar

    John

    Friday, November 27, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Both Columbia and Brazil are open for tourists and no requirements to get in other then a visa or passport. Head to either country for the winter and enjoy a 90 day stay with beautiful beaches and ladies galore. Forget about Thailand until at least 2025.

    • Avatar

      Ben

      Friday, November 27, 2020 at 11:54 pm

      Calling your bluff – Have a nice trip in COVID-19 laced Columbia or Brazil. Most in America or the UK aren’t going there because they don’t want to get sick out of country. That’s the beauty of Thailand if you can get in – very little, if any, COVID-19 and people are moving around normally. I’m planning on visiting Thailand in 2021 and I’ll bet all the naysayers will too unless they refuse to get vaccinated.

      • Avatar

        Preesy Chepuce

        Sunday, November 29, 2020 at 1:42 pm

        There’s no comprehensive data from any of those places you name about how much virus is there.
        Col-O-mbia, isn’t faring as badly as densely-housed Brazil. Like many places in the world, where there’s space and countryside, there’s not as much of a problem.

  6. Avatar

    Ben

    Friday, November 27, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Thailand is months away from having a more permanent solution so it should proceed cautiously. For it to begin acting like the American right and open up wrecklessly would be like Trump saying sorry for the 270,000 American deaths from COVID-19 and insisting everyone wear masks.

    The comments from Edward, Jason and Toby are precisely why there is no plan yet for Farangs to return to Thailand. And believe me most Thais don’t want people like you in their country that don’t care about Thais and how they feel.

  7. Avatar

    Patrick Kelly

    Friday, November 27, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    The untold suffering over the next few years from Thailands attitude towards COVID will have repercussions for a decade . No country can keep its borders locked for extended duration and expect to prosper. You have only begun to see the lasting harm from the zero COVID policy of most locals.

  8. Avatar

    west tiger

    Saturday, November 28, 2020 at 2:08 am

    Perhaps the former WTO director can give some unemployed people who worked in the tourist industry before it got shut down how to feed their families until the tourists return

    • Avatar

      James Pate

      Thursday, December 3, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      Now is the time to learn some new skills, whatever those skills may be. The world will never be the same. Automation, blockchain, you name it. Many of the jobs that exist today were on the way out before Covid anyway. If Covid jumpstarts a complete change in the economy where the most vulnerable can be included and cared for, it may be the only silver lining we have. Oh yeah,and Covid 22 or 23 or whatever they choose to call it, is right around the corner.

  9. Avatar

    Ray W.

    Saturday, November 28, 2020 at 3:50 am

    …So when is too late? Anyone, anyone at all, when are the damages from this paranoia from June 2020 on too great to justify the draconian lockdown?

  10. Avatar

    J West

    Friday, December 4, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Thailand is fortunate that it is not a fully developed economy and a majority of citizens are rural opposed to urban. G7 nations are having to print trillions into existence in order to support entire populations mortgages etc. Thai, seems counter, but does not have the top heavy debt of western nations. It’s only Bangkokians who are pinched by the tourist slowdown. Country folk are not affected and when the tourist workers come home To work the fields it will feel like they never left. For once Thailand benefits from not being a developed economy. The idea that a halt in tourism is a terrible thing is laughable. Farang can stay home and spread their sordid debauchery now that Thailand has closed. The end result is a healthier Thai society.

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PHOTO: Hotel.com

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SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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