In the aftermath of a tragic shooting at a prominent downtown Bangkok mall, Thailand is intensifying efforts to bolster the safety of foreign tourists. The incident, involving a 14-year-old teenager who fatally shot two individuals, including a Chinese visitor. It has raised concerns about tourist safety in the country. This event has prompted authorities to take action to ensure the well-being of tourists.
Thailand’s Tourism Minister, Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol, stressed that the shooting at Siam Paragon mall was an isolated event. However, in response to the tragedy, law enforcement agencies plan to tighten weapons screening at shopping malls and other tourist hotspots.
The victims included a 34-year-old Chinese national and a Myanmar citizen who worked at the mall. Police apprehended the young perpetrator. Apparently, he has a history of mental illness and had stopped taking medication. Additionally, five individuals were injured, including another Chinese citizen.
The shooting incident has cast a shadow over Thailand’s expectations of a surge in foreign tourist arrivals. This is especially concerning under the backdrop of a visa-free program for visitors from China and Kazakhstan. Thailand, renowned for its stunning beaches, serene Buddhist temples, and breathtaking natural beauty, had been optimistic about hosting up to 30 million tourists this year. This number significantly surpasses the figures from 2022. However, the recent tragic event has raised doubts about achieving this ambitious goal.
Thailand heavily relies on tourism to drive its economic recovery. This is especially so in the face of challenges like declining exports and rising interest rates. Chinese tourists were the largest group of visitors to the country before the pandemic. The nation constituted about 28 percent of the record 40 million foreign arrivals in 2019.
The impact of the shooting on the tourism industry will be closely monitored, according to Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput. He noted that the industry had already recovered to 60-70 percent of its pre-Covid levels. Unfortunately, further setbacks could jeopardize Thailand’s economic revival.
The shooting affects both tourism and market
The Bangkok mall shooting compounds a series of challenges affecting Thai assets and the nation’s economic prospects. Following the incident, Thai tourism stocks declined by 1.6 percent. It pulled the benchmark index to its lowest level since January 2021. Concurrently, the Thai baht weakened, reaching an 11-month low against the stronger US dollar.
Foreign selling pressure had been building in Thai stock and bond markets for several weeks. Approximately $1.65 billion exiting these markets since the start of September. The situation intensified with unexpected interest rate hikes and fiscal spending commitments by the Thai government in recent days.
Notably, ten-year Thai government bond yields surged by 75 basis points in just over three weeks, a move even more significant than that observed in US Treasuries. This trend has led to challenging conditions in the Thai bond market, characterized by thin liquidity, wide bid/offer spreads, and difficulties in executing transactions, as noted by Toreck Horchani, head of prime brokerage dealing at Maybank Securities in Singapore.
As Thailand grapples with the aftermath of the shooting incident and the broader economic challenges, the nation’s ability to sustain its tourism industry and financial markets remains a topic of keen observation, with the hope that the resilience of the Thai economy can prevail amid these testing times.