ATTA warns of fading confidence
BANGKOK, 6 June 2012: Association of Thai Travel Agents called on the government and political parties, Tuesday, to reconcile their differences and build harmony in the country.
It was commenting on TV scenes in parliament that showed opposition and government MPs fighting or throwing objects at the house speaker.
ATTA president, Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, said the government and the opposition must truly reconcile and set a good example to prevent violence that could ultimately damage the country’s image and tourism confidence.
“Many overseas travel agencies are beginning to worry about the political situation in Thailand, particularly China. The scenes in parliament televised,worldwide, could cause tourists in sensitive markets such as China to cancel their holiday plans.”
He added that political rallies in the capital that closed streets and prevented access to government offices would impact on tourism if it was allowed to continue.
“On behalf of the travel industry, we call on the government and the opposition to adopt a more reconcilatory posture to prevent violence from occurring in the country.”
Mr Sisdivachr added that if there was another round of violent conflict similar to what occurred in 2008 to 2010 then it would be very difficult for Thailand to compete in tourism.
Memories of the violence on the streets of Bangkok are still fresh in the minds of travel executives, especially the demonstrations that closed airports forcing the evacuation of visitors through U-Tapao airport in 2008.
However, the travel industry should not underestimate the depth of the political divide between the so-called red and yellow shirt protestors. It could spill into a violent conflict again if the government lacks patience, or puts the interests of Mr Thaksin before those of the nation.
ATTA is the first association to speak out on the dangers, but it will require solid backing from all travel associations to pressure the government to proceed with extreme caution.
If the national reconciliation bill goes through then the travel industry has to factor in the possibility of violent demonstrations once more in their business plans. It will be devastating for companies and hotels that are just recovering from the 2008 to 2010 political crisis and hope to embark on the first stage of recovery this year.
The national reconciliation bill was first proposed by a former coup leader, Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who deposed the Thaksin Shinawatra government back in September 2006. He is now the leader of the Matubhum Party.
Key points of the National Reconciliation Bill:
Article 3: Any conduct related to political assembly or expression of political opinions between 15 September 2005 and 10 May 2011 that were deemed illegal will no longer be illegal and the wrongdoers will be freed from responsibility for their misconduct.
The term “misconduct” includes:
1. Misconduct caused by political assembly or expression of political opinion, including violation of the law prohibiting anti-government gatherings, statements or advertisements, or disobedience of government officials, as well as protests that affect other people physically or their assets.
2. Any conduct by government officials or anyone involved in the prevention or suppression of political assembly, expression of political opinions or any related conduct.
Article 4: Once this law is put into force, investigation and legal action against any person as per Article 3 must be stopped. If the case is in court, then the court must dismiss it. If the person is already convicted, then the person must be deemed as never having been convicted. If the person has been serving a penalty, then the penalty must end and the person released.
Article 5: People affected by the conduct or operation of an organisation or group of people appointed under orders of the Council for National Security, or the council’s chairman, which seized power 19 September 2006, will not be considered suspects or wrongdoers. The statement in Article 4 shall be applied and all related organisations will treat the people according to the rule of law.
Article 6: The revocation of the voting rights of former executives of a dissolved political party will be ended and those persons will be deemed as those whose voting rights had never been revoked, once this law is effective.
Article 7: Any conduct according to this law will not be considered as a reason to end one’s right to take civil action and seek compensation for any damages caused by people whose penalty has been lifted as per this law.
The bill is viewed as an attempt to whitewash the crimes of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and help him avoid a jail term.
Mr Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in 2008 for helping his then-wife Potjaman Na Pombejra buy land.
His supporters claim it was a trumped up charge created by his enemies who instigated a coup and then initiated proceeding against Mr Thaksin.