Bangkok reopens for business

Thai markets and schools reopen after massive clean-up but tensions remain.


    Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen reports from Bangkok where city life is slowly returning to normal

    Bangkok's metropolitan train services resumed full operations after starting skeleton service over the weekend.

    Government offices and some schools also reopened on Monday, but a night curfew in the city and 23 provinces was still in place.

    Military crackdown

    Wednesday's military crackdown and ensuing riots left at least 15 people dead, bringing to 85 the number of people who have died since the first violence flared on April 10.

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    The violence also left nearly 100 people wounded, bringing to around 1,400 those who have been injured in the crisis.

    Nearly 40 buildings in the city were set on fire and the tourism and retail sectors have been devastated by the crisis which started in March.

    On Sunday, thousands of municipal workers and volunteers, including high school students, cleaned up the Rachaprasong district that the anti-government red-shirt protesters had occupied for weeks.

    Al Jazeera's Aela Callan, reporting from Bangkok, said life did seem to be getting back to normal in the city.

    But she said residents were still in shock over the violence and there appeared a long way to go to reconciliation, with lots of red shirts and splinter groups calling for more protests outside Bangkok next month.

    Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister whom the red shirts have been pressing to resign, said in a regular Sunday broadcast that he did not wish to stay for his full term, which lasts until 2012.

    He did not confirm whether an earlier offer of a November election was still on the table.

    "It is now up to me to decide whether that election is appropriate... I don't know what is going to happen next as some people have vowed to continue their struggle, calling for the resumption of the protest in June," Abhisit said.

    No-trust vote

    The opposition Puea Thai party said it would bring a no-confidence motion against the government at a special session of parliament on Monday but the government is expected to easily defeat the motion.

    The government maintained on Monday economic growth projections for the year despite the most violent riots in modern history, as a stellar performance in the first quarter cancelled out the slowdown from the violence.

    Workers and volunteers helped clean up the capital on Sunday [Reuters]

    Despite the state planning agency's forecast, however, the stock market dropped as much as 1.6 per cent as trading resumed on Monday, with analysts blaming increased political risk and the delayed effect of the euro zone crisis.

    Warut Siwasariyanon, the head of research at Finansia Syrus Securities in Bangkok, said "investors may be temporarily relieved that a semblance of normalcy has returned but the political risk remains high and investors will likely be cautious".

    "The big underlying conflict is still there and the wound is deeper than ever even as the roads have been wiped clean," he said.

    The planning agency said the 2010 growth forecast was being maintained at 3.5-4.5 per cent, but had been dragged down 1.5 percentage points by the political crisis.

    The economy grew a strong 3.8 per cent on the quarter in the January-March period, against market expectations of 1.8 per cent.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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