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Thai central bank intervenes to curb rapid rise in baht

"What we are concerned about is the currency has already strengthened too fast but there are no tourists yet," says Bank of Thailand governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput.


THAILAND'S central bank has intervened in a bid to stem a rise in the baht because the currency has appreciated too fast and impacted exporters, the country's central bank governor said on Thursday.

The strength of the baht, driven by news about progress on developing a coronavirus vaccine, had exacerbated the country's fragile economic recovery, Bank of Thailand governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput told reporters.

South-east Asia's second-largest economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism and exports, shrank 6.4 per cent in the third quarter after the preceding quarter's 12.1 per cent slump.

Optimism over a vaccine has raised expectations of a revival in tourism, which will boost Thailand's current account surplus and lift its currency, he said.

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"But the reality is we still don't know what the result will be ... and will tourism really come back?" he said, adding that it would also depend on vaccine availability and usage. "What we are concerned about is the currency has already strengthened too fast but there are no tourists yet."

A travel ban imposed in April to curb the outbreak has kept foreign tourists at bay. Thailand started last month to let a limited number of foreign visitors return with quarantine.

The baht hit a more than 10-month high of 30.13 on Monday.

The baht's strength had impacted exporters, particularly smaller ones, already facing weak global demand, Mr Sethaput said.

The BOT has intervened in the baht's movements when appropriate over the past five years, lifting Thailand's international reserves by US$100 billion, he said, adding that even if there had not been reports about intervention it did not mean "we haven't done anything". Keeping the policy interest rate at a record low of 0.50 per cent was among the steps taken to deal with the baht's strength, Mr Sethaput said.

The BOT will hold a briefing on baht measures and capital movement on Friday, he said. REUTERS

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