Local shops feel pinch of Thai coup

Bangkok, September 24:

Just days after the Thai military seized power in Bangkok, the city was back in business and stores were full of shoppers.

But shopkeepers say few people are buying, and analysts warn that consumer spending could dip as Thais put off major purchases until it’s clear what kind of government the junta plans to install.

“We normally enjoy heavy sales during the weekend, but today it is pretty quiet. The coup possibly caused locals, who make up 40 per cent of our clients, not to be in the mood for shopping,” said a saleswoman at Le Gourmet, which sells imported wines and teas.

She estimated that sales were down about 50 per cent compared to a normal weekend at her store in Siam Paragon, the country’s biggest and glitziest shopping mall.

Nearby the mall, military trucks with armed soldiers have been on guard since the coup ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra late Tuesday.

The soldiers say they have been welcomed by the people.

“Both Thais and foreigners come to take pictures with us and give us food,” said one soldier.

Still, the picture of soldiers and armored vehicles on the streets might dent buying sentiment, especially when it comes to big-ticket items like cars, houses and durable goods.

The coup has already rattled investors, with stocks closing at a two-month low Friday and tipped to drop further next week.

“Consumers were already hit by oil prices and high interest rates. Now they are likely to

put off some spending because they are not quite confident about the next development,” Suthiphan Chirathivat, economics professor at Chulalongkorn University, told AFP.