Thailand sinks into recession

BANGKOK: Thailand's economy entered a recession in the first quarter of this year as growth shrank by 7.1 percent due to tumbling exports and imports, official data showed Monday.

Figures released by the National Economic and Social Development Board showed that it was the second consecutive quarter in which gross domestic product fell, after a contraction of 4.3 percent in late 2008.

"Growth has contracted for two consecutive quarters so it can be said that Thailand is in a period of recession," said Ampon Kittiampon, the secretary general of the government agency.

The board also revised down its growth forecast for 2009 to between minus 2.5 and 3.5 percent, from its previous estimate of zero to minus one percent.

Ampon said the slump was more severe than in the fourth quarter of 2008 because the continuing world economic crisis had affected Thailand's vital exports of goods and services.

But Ampon said the Thai economy would likely recover from the third quarter onwards because of the improving global situation and the government's economic stimulus packages.

He warned however that if the second phase of the stimulus efforts did not start by September then the country could face a further contraction of 3.5 percent.