Thailand investors say they are nervous after martial law is declared
By Miwa Suzuki, AFP
May 21, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
TOKYO -- Thailand's biggest investor Japan on Tuesday expressed "grave concerns" after the army imposed martial law, with the United States saying it must only be "temporary" as multinational firms monitored events nervously.
After months of anti-government protests, generals ordered forces onto the streets of Bangkok and troops were positioned at television stations as the army said media would be censored.
But despite the crisis — which saw Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy shrink 0.6 percent in January-March — analysts said the economy could bounce back.
"We have grave concerns about the situation in Thailand," Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo. "We once again strongly urge all parties concerned to act in a self-restrained manner without using violence."
The dismissal of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra this month in a controversial court ruling has sent tensions soaring in a country that has endured years of political turmoil.
"Red Shirt" supporters of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed as premier in a 2006 coup, have warned of civil war if power is handed to an unelected leader, as the opposition demands.
The army, which has mounted numerous coups in recent decades, insisted Tuesday's declaration of martial law did not amount to a coup. "The public do not need to panic but can still live their lives as normal," it said.
Nearly 4,000 Japanese firms operate in Thailand, think-tank Teikoku Databank said in February, with investments the Bank of Thailand said were worth US$6.89 billion in 2013 — half of the total inward investment.
That figure is more than the next three biggest investors combined — the United States, Britain and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).