Democracy demands will damage Thailand’s recovery: labor minister

One million jobs coming for Thais are at risk if protests continue against the government, a top government official said today.

Offering a rosy forecast for the economy’s emergence from the pandemic, Labor Minister Suchat Chomklin warned that a pro-democracy rally set for Saturday at Thammasat University would hurt the recovery by disrupting government plans to provide over one million jobs.

“It’s about different political views, and we won’t blame them because they have democracy’s freedom to do so, and it’s beautiful,” Suchat said. “But don’t forget that there are several million people focused on finding jobs so they can look after fathers, mothers, families or return to normal life as soon as possible.”  

Protesters vow to defy Thammasat U’s ban on Sept. 19 rally

Suchat, an executive in the ruling Palang Pracharath party, cited a survey showing that people’s livelihoods are the top public priority. He pointed to a job expo later this month at BITEC Bang Na as an example of the administration’s job-generating efforts.

He said the government expects Thailand to be the first country to exterminate COVID-19 and reopen 100%. He said things have nearly returned to pre-COVID conditions except no tourists are allowed into the country. The evaporation of tourism, which is roughly 20% of the national economy, is a big factor in its projected 8.1% contraction this year.

As for the protests, he said dissolving the current government would stunt recovery by interfering with its many ongoing policies to help get people back to work such as the expo and salary stimulus package for new hires.

Saturday’s mass rally is set to take place on Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus. Since they resumed in July, anti-government rallies have spread nationwide to demand the government step down, an end to the harassment of critics, and a constitutional rewrite. Some have also pushed for reform of the monarchy, drawing sharp warning from the top military brass.

Rally organizer Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul told Coconuts Bangkok today that the minister’s view on the economy was “too shallow” and said he should not blame the rally as the government had damaged the economy well before COVID struck.

“People come out because the economy is bad. If it was good, no one would protest. They come out because they’re starving,” she said. “He is the labor minister, he should have better knowledge for creating jobs.”

It could get much worse, Suchat warned in his comments, citing Hong Kong as an example of the pain that could be inflicted.

“If this turns out to be the case like Hong Kong, what can we do about the ongoing policies? Providing one million jobs, employing 26o,ooo new grads … who will be responsible for those people’s futures? Will the protest leaders take responsibility if Thais about to get a job go back to unemployment, and our whole nation is destroyed?” he said.

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