Bangkok’s No 1 shopping zone to be spared from political rally

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BANGKOK, Nov 12 – A leading Thai business operator at Ratchaprasong, Bangkok’s top shopping avenue, today allayed fears of a mass rally by the anti-government Pitak Siam group later this month, saying he expected it to be a peaceful demonstration within the framework of the law.

Chai Srivikorn, president of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association, said he did not believe the Nov 24th political rally will lead to a repeat of the month-long demonstration at Ratchaprasong in mid-2010.

He said business at Ratchaprasong has already returned to the level of its peak in 2009 while tourists from the US and Europe have opted out to be replaced by those from China, India and Russia.

The occupancy rate at area hotels is 80-90 per cent, and hotel rooms are fully booked until early next month, he said. He was optimistic regarding tourists’ confidence on Thailand, adding that Ratchaprasong has been ranked one of the top ten suitable locations for a New Year’s countdown in Bangkok.

Mr Chai painted a rosy prospect for Thailand’s tourism next year thanks to the improving economic situation in the U.S. and higher purchasing power among neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

The association has joined with four public and private organisations in holding the “Happiness is all around @ Ratchaprasong” campaign during the holiday season and expected to attract more than 16 million tourists to the shopping hub and generate a total revenue of more than Bt13 billion.

A Bt80-100 million budget will be allocated for the campaign and more than 3,000 shops will offer up to 70 per cent discounts, he said.

The traditional Thai ceremony of offering alms to monks will be carried out on BTS Skytrain stations on New Year’s morning, while Ratchaprasong will be colourfully illuminated during the festive season, he said.