Baht plunges against Sing$ as tensions escalate

PHOTO: Baht plunges against Sing$ as tensions escalate

The political protests in Bangkok have sent the Thai baht tumbling to a 12-year low against the Singapore dollar. While tourists to the country might be smiling, Singapore firms with operations in Bangkok are starting to feel the heat.

Uncertainty over the economy in the light of the demonstrations has driven down the baht about 0.54 per cent since last Friday, leaving it at around 25.57 to the Singapore dollar last night.

Those with retail operations in Bangkok, including food and beverage chain Paradise Group, which opened a franchise in Siam Paragon shopping mall in September last year, have also seen a fall in the number of customers.

A Paradise spokesman told The Straits Times that "the protests have led to slower human traffic, which resulted in a drop in revenue". The outlet, which is the company's first in Thailand, employs about 50 staff.

Mainboard-listed companies TEE International and ornamental fish distributor Qian Hu Corp said the protests have yet to affect their businesses, which are located farther away from Bangkok's city centre.

But the unrest does not seem to be keeping holidaymakers from Singapore away.

Apart from a few travellers postponing their plans, most are sticking to their itineraries, according to travel agents and airlines The Straits Times spoke to.

"To date, we have not had any cancellations," said Chan Brothers Travel spokesman Jane Chang, whose agency has more than 200 Bangkok-bound travellers over the next fortnight.

Ms Michelle Chua, a 24-year- old trader who arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, said: "We are putting up at the Pratunam area and haven't seen any demonstrations so far. Safety-wise, I guess it is not much of a concern unless we are really trapped in a crowd."

Mr Shaun Wu, 32, a regional manager in an events and communications firm who visits Bangkok regularly, noted that political protests are not uncommon. "Such demonstrations are generally peaceful. As long as you avoid the affected areas, you are fine."

Singapore's Foreign Ministry has advised travellers to be careful when in Bangkok.

Stay away from large crowds and demonstrations, monitor local news and developments closely, take precautions for personal safety, and buy comprehensive travel and medical insurance, it said in a notice on its website on Tuesday. Singaporeans are also encouraged to eRegister at the ministry's website so they can be contacted if necessary.

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