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Pandemic batters Thailand's already ailing economy

With household debt soaring and tourism in tatters, worse is yet to come in one of the world's most unequal countries

Benjamin Freeman, Bangkok

Benjamin Freeman, Bangkok

Published: April 07, 2020 09:53 AM GMT
Pandemic batters Thailand's already ailing economy

A priest prays before palm fronds during a Mass on April 4 ahead of Palm Sunday celebrations at a Catholic church in Bangkok where the chairs are marked for social distancing as a preventive measure to stem the spread of Covid-19. (Photo: AFP)

The deadly new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, late last year has done more than just sicken upwards of 2,000 people in Thailand. It has also sickened the country’s already ailing economy to a point where it might well end up in critical condition permanently on life support.

The economic downturn from the global Covid-19 outbreak has hit Thailand especially hard. The country’s vital tourism sector, which accounts for a fifth of annual national income and provides jobs for millions of Thais, is suffering catastrophic losses.

The rowdy tourist havens of Pattaya and Phuket have fallen silent, their deserted streets and beaches turning them into ghost towns. In an effort to stop the spread of the virus, hotels, restaurants and businesses have all been ordered to be shuttered.

As a result, millions of Thais from rural areas and migrant workers from neighboring countries, who together form the backbone of the country’s economy, have suddenly found themselves out of a job.

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