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Thai consumer confidence hits eight-month high

Consumer confidence in junta-run Thailand jumped to the highest level in eight months in June after a military coup quelled political violence, a survey showed Thursday.

BANGKOK: Consumer confidence in junta-run Thailand jumped to the highest level in eight months in June after a military coup quelled political violence, a survey showed Thursday.

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said its confidence index rose to 75.1 last month, up from 70.7 in May when sentiment had already improved for the first time in 14 months.

"In the past people lacked confidence in politics so they did not want to spend. They felt that politics had no future," said Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the university's Center for Economic and Business Forecasting.

The improved sentiment comes despite severe restrictions on civil liberties including a ban on public protests.

Consumers appear relieved that the May 22 military takeover has, for now at least, quelled political bloodshed in Southeast Asia's second largest economy. A rising stock market has provided further comfort.

"It is not because of the military government itself, but because stability has returned to politics quickly," Thanavath said, noting that the junta had vowed swift action to tackle economic and social problems.

The generals have unblocked funds for farmers under the ousted government's loss-making rice price guarantee scheme and they are also reviewing existing mega-infrastructure projects.

At the same time their threat to arrest illegal migrant workers sparked an exodus of tens of thousands of Cambodian migrants in a blow to labour-intensive industries from seafood to construction.

The kingdom has been dubbed "Teflon Thailand" for its record of economic resilience, helped by its enduring popularity with foreign tourists.

Nearly seven months of deadly street protests and political deadlock before the coup had dented consumer confidence and scared off visitors.

The economy shrank 2.1 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2014, teetering on the brink of recession, which is usually defined as two consecutive quarterly contractions.

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