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Interview: Thai economy expects short-term impact from Bangkok bombing: academic

By Zhang Chunxiao and Yang Yunyan

BANGKOK, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- If Monday's deadly bombing attack in Bangkok is a one-off, its impact on Thailand's tourism and economy will likely be short-term, a renowned political scientist in Thailand told Xinhua on Friday.

"If we don't see a repeat (of the bombing), especially if we find some culpability, this is not a foreign-driven terror campaign, just some domestic conflict disgruntlement, then I think the impact will be limited to the short term," associate professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak from Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University said in an interview.

The Thai shock absorbers are very strong and people have a way of moving on, Thitinan commented.

But the impact of the explosion on the tourism sector is " immediate," he stressed, saying the tourism sector is obviously the most sensitive.

"It is a soft sector. When you have this kind of scare tactic, you'll have cancellation of tours, a lot of reconsideration and review travel advisories, so the impact is immediate," Thitinan said.

Meanwhile, the academic believed Thailand would not have economic contraction in 2015, but instead of 2-3 percent growth.

"The economy is already in the doldrums and growth forecast has been revised downwards. The government is already seen as lackluster on the economy. The economy is underperforming, so the military government will be under more pressure to deliver," he said.

Thailand's new cabinet line-up was unveiled Thursday, with Somkid Jatusripitak replacing MR Pridiyathorn Devakula as the deputy premier in charge of economic affairs.

"The cabinet reshuffle is not going to help that much. It is of marginal significance," Thitinan said.

As for perpetrators of the bomb blast at Erawan Shrine at Ratchaprasong intersection in downtown Bangkok, which left 20 dead and more than 120 others injured, Thitinan underscored at this stage, all possibilities have to be entertained, but evidence is needed in any scenario.

He enumerated several groups that could be suspected of involvement, including the military government, red shirts on the side of former premiers Thaksin Shinawatra and his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, insurgents in the country's Deep South, international terrorist networks and disgruntlement within the military and police.

The military government, Thitinan said, does not need a bomb blast to prolong its rule, as it does not want to be seen by locals and foreigners as incapable to control the security situation.

Nor does it want to further weaken the economy, he added. "It undermines the government's legitimacy if the economy turns south even more."

Thitinan suggested the bombing was unlikely to be orchestrated by the Thaksin clan as "they want to live in Thailand."

He also admitted that it is possible for some rogue red-shirts faction with ties to bombing equipment and security officers to undertake this kind of campaign. "But we have to see the evidence for that," he said.

Meanwhile, he added, the possibility that Malay-Muslim insurgents in the country's Deep South have expanded the scope of operations to Bangkok and other targets cannot be ruled out.

"But it does not make sense. They haven't done it before for 10 years. Why would they expand the scope now to Bangkok? And they have not made the claim to do so," Thitinan noted.

Evidence is also required to prove whether the attack was the work of international terrorism or an inside job, he said.

"We have to entertain these possibilities, but we have to be led by evidence," Thitinan said.

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