Views from Japan on the Thai coup
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Views from Japan on the Thai coup

BP has done posts on the response of the US, EU, and Australia, but Japan is also a key country as Thailand’s biggest foreign investor.

Statement by Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the coup:

1. It is deeply regrettable that the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council headed by Army Commander in Chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha has assumed the full power of the government in Thailand on May 22.

2. Japan strongly urges those concerned that democracy in Thailand be quickly restored.

BP: In the aftermath of the coup, some Japanese companies, particularly automakers, were affected by the curfew. Then you have some contrasting views from business. Bloomberg a few days after the coup:

Sony Corp. (6758) and Panasonic Corp. (6752) are among companies advising workers against traveling to Thailand as evidence mounts that political turmoil in the country is undermining business activity there.

AFP on May 27:

Japan is Thailand’s single biggest overseas investor and the nation has become increasingly important for Japanese firms, which shifted operations from home to counter high wages and a strong yen and mitigate the effects of natural disasters on the supply chain.

“Thailand is where companies can invest with security,” Honda chairman Fumihiko Ike told reporters during his first group interview as chief of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

“I personally don’t think there are huge risks to the economy.

BP: The coup didn’t stop Thaksin from visiting Japan.

Realizing the importance of Japan, Prayuth personally met with Japanese investors. Japan Times on June 6:

Thai coup leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha has assured Japanese investors of economic stability and believes they won’t withdraw from the country, according to a military source.

The source said Prayuth met with a group of Japanese investors to tell them the economy remains stable and can continue being a hub for foreign investors, especially the Japanese, who account for more than 50 percent of Thailand’s foreign investment.

Gen. Prayuth convinced Japanese investors on economic stability and received a positive reaction, so he believed they will not withdraw business from our country,” the source said.

Although, the Nikkei Asian Review has more than meeting:

A little more than a month on from Thailand’s military coup, The Nikkei has pieced together how some of the roughly 4,000 Japanese companies doing business there fared in the immediate aftermath, based on accounts from some Japanese executives.

That day, at a regularly scheduled get-together, the president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok couldn’t help but take issue with a comment from a Thai participant that the coup would serve as “a good reset button” for the country.

“Wait a minute,” countered Hisamichi Koga, whose day job is president of trading house Marubeni’s Thai headquarters. “This is very bad for Thailand’s outward image.”

Late that night, Koga got a phone call saying that Prayuth wanted a meeting with the Chamber. The date was May 25. The place, the Army Club that had been the scene of the coup three days earlier.

When the day arrived, Koga and the rest of the nine-member delegation from the business lobby sat down face-to-face with the general and 11 other top military brass. Prayuth broke the ice by saying he loved Japan, its people and its food.

Koga eschewed a written statement and delivered the Chamber’s message out loud. He expressed concern over the turn of events, as well as hope for a return to civilian government and a resumption of approval for inbound investment. Prayuth took notes and responded to each point in turn.

On June 19, the Thai Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs met with the Japanese Ambassador. The Nation has the Thai Foreign Ministry summary of the meeting:

Sihasak informed the envoy of Thailand’s commitment to implementing the roadmap in order to restore democracy and support reconciliation leading to an election.

Sek quoted the envoy as telling Sihasak that Japan was grateful for the excellent cooperation between the two countries. He also thanked Sihasak for giving him a clear picture of the political developments and economic policy and will forward the information to his government.

The relations with Thailand will move forward and Japan will welcome Sihasak, in his capacity as acting foreign minister, to Japan probably next month. Both countries are working on the dates for the visit,” Sek quoted the envoy as saying.

NHK on June 22:

One month since the military coup in Thailand, Japanese firms say they are increasingly worried about the country’s political situation.

The concerns have been aired at a weekend business fair in Bangkok for Japanese firms with ties to Thailand.

A representative of an auto parts surface treatment company said orders have sharply dropped since the coup. He said he hoped for a quick resolution to Thailand’s problems.

Another delegate said he is worried that any new government might be overthrown by a coup again. He said his car-parts firm may need to review its business plan.

Japanese firms account for 60 percent of foreign investment in Thailand, which they say is a key Southeast Asia production base.

But these firms say the persistent political turmoil is a risk to investment. Economists say Japanese companies could shift investment to Indonesia, Myanmar and other rising regional economies unless there is a resolution.

Then finally, Matichon reports a senior Thai police source as stating that there was scheduled study tour visit by the Thai police for Japan which had been scheduled to leave, but the Japanese made contact stating that they were cancelling the study tour because of the seizure of power and they were unable to support this non-democratic actions/Thailand not being a democracy (ระหว่างนั้นทางการญี่ปุ่นได้ประสานมาที่ตำรวจไทย แจ้งว่าขอยกเลิกการสนับสนุนการเดินทางดูงานครั้งนี้ โดยให้เหตุผลเรื่องที่ประเทศไทยมีการยึดอำนาจการปกครองประเทศและไม่สนับสนุนการไม่เป็นประชาธิปไตย).

BP: This is the only story that have seen about this, but if it is true, will we have a campaign against not buying Japanese goods (like there is with the US and European goods)? Then again, statements from the Japanese government that BP has been able to find are limited to the immediate aftermath of the coup which differs from the US and the EU.

btw, one thing of note is how much coverage of Thailand there is in the Japanese press (am referring to that in English). Nikkei Asian Review has at least one op-ed a week on Thailand and around 5-10 stories a week from staff writers (see this one detailing the day of the coup). The tone is not very favorable towards the coup.