Tears in Thailand: Eric Clapton cancels Bangkok concert due to concerns over its tumultuous political situation


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The Independent Online

Rock guitarist Eric Clapton has cancelled an upcoming concert in Bangkok because of the ongoing turmoil. The move is the latest blow to a city that is reeling from a downturn in tourism, trade and conference events.

The 68-year-old Clapton was due to play next Sunday at the Impact Arena in the north of Bangkok. But a statement posted on the website of promoter BEC-Tero said a decision had been taken not to proceed with the event due to the “current situation”.

“I hope to return Bangkok in the future,” Clapton is quoted as saying, according to the Nation newspaper. It provided details of how people could apply for a refund.

The cancellation is just the latest blow to Bangkok’s tourism and entertainment industry which has felt the impact of the ongoing political turmoil as anti-government protesters seek the ousting of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. At least 20 people have been killed and dozens injured in violence.

Reports suggest the violence and uncertainty has damaged Bangkok’s image as a safe and easy place to visit. The Reuters news agency said this week that the Thai Hotel Association had revealed that occupancy rates in the capital were hovering at around 50 per cent, well below the usual 80 per cent at this time of year.

At the same time, Thai Airways International reported a big net loss of £211m for 2013. Another loss is already expected for 2014. Meanwhile, Thailand also announced the biggest drop in imports in more than four years in January.

Imports fell 15.5 per cent in January from a year earlier, the biggest tumble since October 2009. Imports of computers and parts were down 19 per cent from a year earlier, car parts off 31.8 per cent and consumer goods 5.3 per cent. Exports dropped two per cent.

Thailand is a regional hub for global car makers and a major producer of hard disk drives. “Everybody is definitely delaying their imports of consumer products as most shopping malls are quiet,” said Nopporn Thepsitthar, chairman of the National Shippers’ Council. “Nobody dares to place big orders.”