Thailand's past decade of political upheaval has strained society, but the economy has by and large kept on humming.
Until now, perhaps. News this week the economy shrank 0.6% on-year in the first quarter and by 2.1% from the final quarter of 2013 has shaken the belief that Thailand's economy is somehow immune to political fighting on the streets of Bangkok, the capital.
The imposition of martial law on Tuesday adds to concerns over the economy.
Previous bouts of instability have had surprisingly muted impacts. In 2010, anti-government protests brought Bangkok to a standstill for three months, ending in an army crackdown that killed scores of people.
At the time, economic growth slowed, to 6.6% on year in third quarter from 9.2% in the second, but still a strong clip.
During 2006 -- when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was removed in a military coup, laying the seeds of the current dispute -- and 2007, which saw bombings around Bangkok and school burnings in rural Thailand, the economy didn't skip a beat, with quarterly growth ranging from a low of 4.4% to a high of 6.1%.
Thailand's economy contracted for four straight quarters from late 2008, but it's difficult to separate out the effects of political protests that fall -- which included the temporary takeover of Bangkok's airport -- from the global economic turmoil that followed the Lehman Brothers collapse that year.
So, what's different this time? For one, the current turmoil has lasted seven months, longer than other periods of upheaval. And there's no end in sight.
The military on Tuesday imposed martial law to stop protests spilling over into violence. It denied the action was a precursor to a coup, providing little clarity on how the crisis can be resolved. Elections tentatively scheduled for July 20 seem unlikely to go forward after the country's Election Commission recently said the situation was too chaotic for a vote.
The turmoil, although largely contained in Bangkok, has pushed Thai consumer confidence to a 12-year low. Vehicle sales are expected to plunge by a quarter this year. Monday's GDP data showed broad-based weakness that spanned consumer demand, investment and even exports.
Even Thai officials are concerned. The government repeatedly has lowered its growth targets since the crisis began, and on Monday cut them again -- to 1.5%-2.5% for this year, well off Thailand's trend pace. And that may not be the last revision.
'As protests have become more frequent over the last few years it has undermined investor confidence, undermined Thailand's competitiveness,' Capital Economics analyst Krystal Tan said.
Nor is Thailand in a position to counter the downturn with public spending. Economists had been betting on multi-billion-dollar outlays on rail projects and other infrastructure to lift the economy. But these are on hold because Parliament isn't functioning, meaning the nation's budget is stuck.
Some observers saw a silver lining to the imposition of martial law on Tuesday if it helps break the impasse between Thailand's governing party and the opposition.
'It may even help to break Thailand out of the political deadlock of the past six months, by which the two sides have failed to agree on arrangements for new elections,' said Andrew Colquhoun, Fitch Ratings' head of Asia-Pacific sovereigns, in a statement.
Others point out that Thailand is still known as an easy place to do business for foreign investors, with solid infrastructure and supply chains. 'That will not change about the country,' Barclays Capital analyst Rahul Bajoria said.
Still, the longer the turmoil persists, the bigger the risk as investors put off plans to open factories in Thailand. Foreign direct investment fell to 262.6 million in February, its lowest level in eight months and much lower than monthly levels over $1 billion for most of the past year.
'The worry for Thailand is that foreign investment flows suffer a kind of permanent or persistent hit,' said Tim Condon, an economist at ING in Singapore.
Analysts for now are waiting to see how martial law plays out, and what upcoming data show. Trade data is due Friday and industrial production on May 28.
Other parts of Asia recently have seen an uptick in exports as recovery in the West begins to show up in terms of stronger demand. Monday's GDP data showed trade was a net positive for Thailand's growth in the first quarter, but that was mostly because imports fell so sharply as domestic demand languished -- a Pyrrhic victory for trade.
'So far trade figures for the rest of the region have been quite positive. Let's see if Thailand is going to see that too,' Capital Economics' Ms. Tan said. 'If it doesn't, then it seems like all engines are down.'
凯投宏观(Capital Economics)分析师Krystal Tan表示，由于过去几年示威活动越来越频繁，投资者信心和泰国的竞争力已经遭受打击。
惠誉国际评级(Fitch Ratings)亚太主权评级部门主管科洪(Andrew Colquhoun)在一份声明中说，戒严令甚至可能有助于泰国打破持续了六个月的政治僵局，在此期间执政党和反对派未能就新选举有关安排达成一致。