Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Black day for Thais in Hong Kong as news of king’s death sinks in

For ordinary workers in the city it was a day to shed tears, while those with business interests in the country worried about the economic and political consequences

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 7:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 11:20pm

As the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday plunged Thailand into deep mourning, Thais in Hong Kong went about their work with heavy hearts on Friday, while some businessmen expressed anxiety about possible economic effects.

In Kowloon City, known as Hong Kong’s “Little Thailand”, Thai-Chinese shopkeeper Veerarat Sae-Chan and her business partner, Jetsadaporn Kesarat, dressed in black and could not help but shed tears at the king’s death. They run a Thai grocery shop in South Wall Road.

“We and our staff are dressed in black today. This is what we can do for now,” Sae-Chan said.

Kesarat said: “I cry whenever I think about it, and whenever the television plays news about him.”

Even after living in Hong Kong for 26 years she said she was disheartened by the king’s death.

Several major business chambers in Hong Kong expressed confidence that the king’s death would not affect foreign business interests in Thailand, but some remained cautious about possible economic and political uncertainties.

I’m 100 per cent sure it won’t lead to any political shock. The business environment is stable
Willy Lin Sun-mo, Federation of Hong Kong Industries

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a televised address that the nation would hold a one-year mourning period.

Industrial sector lawmaker Ng Wing-ka, vice-chairman of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, said the city’s businessmen with factories in Thailand were looking on with concern.

“So far the authorities have not proclaimed whether the one-year mourning period means special leave is given to workers,” Ng said. “If this is the case, this may affect the production flow.”

But the deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Willy Lin Sun-mo, played down the impact on foreign investors.

“I’m 100 per cent sure it won’t lead to any political shock,” he told the Post. “I don’t see any problem if Hong Kong investors continue to operate their manufacturing plants [in Thailand]. The business environment is stable.”

Lin, whose mother and wife were born in Thailand, said his family had a long history of doing business in the country.

Business sector lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung also said he was not worried. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce’s representative, who owns toy factories in northern Thailand and an office in Bangkok, did not “think things will go out of hand at this stage”.

Bernard Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong-Thailand Business Council, said he was confident that Thailand would remain stable under the current government.

Thailand’s trade relationship with China and Hong Kong grew strongly from 2010 to 2014. During that period, China’s cumulative investment in Thailand almost tripled from US$1.08 billion to US$3.08 billion , while that from Hong Kong rose from US$7.4 billion to US$11.2 billion.

Last year Thailand was Hong Kong’s eighth largest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to HK$134 billion.

By August, there were about 28,000 Thais in Hong Kong, forming the city’s fourth largest ethnic minority group - after the Filipinos, Indonesians and Indians. About 2,500 Thais in Hong Kong are domestic helpers.

Additional reporting by Eddie Lee