Products imported to Maldives from Thailand were delayed due to political unrest in Bangkok last week, but Chairman of the State Trading Organisation (STO), Faruq Umar, said there “was a short delay, but no major disruptions” in imports.
He said the Maldives depends mostly on Thailand for foodstuffs, construction materials such as PVC pipes, and other hardware materials.
“It has been solved and will resume soon,” Faruq said, adding “there has been no shortage as such” of any indispensable goods.
He added Maldives is also importing many products from China, India and Brazil.
Minister for Economic Development, Mahmud Razee, said “at this moment, [a delay] hasn’t kicked in yet.”
He said there could be a possible delay soon, but “now the issue has been resolved,” and he does not expect the delay to be major.
“We rely on Thailand primarily for garments,” he said, adding that many people “go there, buy them and air-freight them back. It’s only in the last couple of weeks they have not been able to do that.”
He said despite the political unrest in Thailand, “impact has not been that significant” in the Maldives.
Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said most “textiles, clothes, ladies’ fashion and children’s toys” in the Maldives come from Thailand, and many shipments have been delayed due to the political unrest in the country.
He added there has been an “unforeseen decline” for import businesses in Maldives that depend on Thai products.
According to the World Bank, Thailand is one of the top-five import (and export) partners of Maldives. According to Maldives Customs, imports from Thailand in 2008 amounted to 4.3 percent of all imports to the country.
After the 2006 military coup to oust then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a group known as the ‘Red Shirts’ has called on new PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to dissolve parliament and hold new elections.
The Red Shirts had been protesting for weeks, and massive protest was organised in Lumpini Park last Wednesday. Military forces entered the park and dispersed protesters, but several smaller riots broke out across the city throughout the day.
A bank, police station, local TV station and the country’s biggest mall were all set on fire, leading to a curfew that was meant to last until today. Prime Minister Vejjajiva has now extended the curfew, but said government agencies and schools will reopen on Monday.
The curfew has been extended until 24 May, and forbids people to leave their homes between 11 pm and 4 am. The curfew has meant many businesses, and even airlines, have been operating only a few hours a day.
Prime Minister Vejjajiva said on Saturday: “We have restored order in the capital of Bangkok and the provinces of Thailand. We will continue to move swiftly to restore normalcy and we recognise that as we move ahead, there are huge challenges ahead of us, particularly the challenge of overcoming the divisions that have occurred in this country.”
According to Thai government reports, there have been at least 50 deaths and over 400 people injured in the last few weeks due to violent clashes.