via CAAI News Media
By KINAN SUCHAOVANICH Associated Press Writer
BANGKOK (AP) - Thailand's prime minister Friday planned his first foreign trip since bloody political unrest ended last month in Bangkok, hoping to repair the hammered tourism industry and blighted image.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will aim primarily to restore confidence among investors and tourists when he attends the World Economic Forum of East Asian leaders in Vietnam on Sunday, the Thai government spokesman said.
Abhisit also will meet counterparts from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and top business executives from the region, spokesman Panithan Wattanayagorn said.
"The theme here is recovery," Panithan said, citing the two-month anti-government protests as a key reason for economic decline in once-booming Thailand. Nearly 90 people were killed and some 1,800 injured during the protests, which ended in a bloody crackdown May 19.
The government estimates the vital tourism industry lost up to $2.2 billion as a result of the crisis.
In a World Economic Forum report published last month, Thailand fell 10 places to number 60 among the 125 countries indexed. The rankings show Thailand's competitiveness slipping, which could decrease foreign investment.
Panithan said Abhisit during his trip would also update the international community on the progress of his reconciliation "road map."
"It is necessary for (foreign governments and investors) to understand this healing process," he said.
Abhisit has been grounded in Thailand for more than two months as Red Shirt protesters demanding new elections occupied Bangkok's prime commercial district, sending tourists packing and shops closing.
Since then, he has tried to mend Thailand's image, meeting with diplomats and the foreign media to discuss the political developments.
Although the situation in Bangkok has calmed, the capital and 23 other provinces are still under emergency decrees and many analysts say the deep rifts in Thai society will not be easy to fix.