Thai stocks, currency plunge over election uncertainty

Thai stocks, currency plunge over election uncertainty

BANGKOK - Thai stocks and the baht currency tumbled on Thursday as uncertainty deepened about a February election that anti-government forces are determined to block in their bid to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The benchmark index dropped 2.7 per cent to a four-month low of 1,263.72 before the midday break and the baht lost for a 10th straight day against the dollar. Investors are worried a February 2 poll will not go ahead, leaving Yingluck's government exposed to prolonged attacks by opponents.

National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said on Thursday security agencies were considering declaring a state of emergency after protesters said they would try to "shut down" the capital from January 13.

"The situation has intensified," Paradorn told Reuters. "We may need to call for tougher measures and security agencies have planned for that."

The latest bout of political tumult erupted in November after a blunder by the ruling Puea Thai Party, which tried to push through an unpopular amnesty bill that would have annulled the jail sentence of Yingluck's self-exiled brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, the divisive tycoon at the heart of eight years of on-off conflict.

Protesters say Yingluck is a puppet of Dubai-based Thaksin, who they call a corrupt crony capitalist who has subverted a democratic system that needs to be suspended and overhauled.

Backed by Bangkok's conservative elite, their broader aim is to neutralize the power of Thaksin's political juggernaut, rooted among the rural poor in the populous north and northeast, which has won every poll since 2001.

Yingluck dissolved parliament on December 9 to defuse massive street protests. However, calling a new election she is almost certain to win has had the opposite effect, sparking deadly clashes, mysterious shootings and concerns about military intervention or legal paralysis.

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