Coke loses fizz to economic muscle of Thai Muslims

IT’S the real thing. Coke has lost its fizz in Thailand’s southern provinces as the Muslim minority continues to flex its economic muscles in protest against the US-led war on Iraq.  

Haad Thip Plc, the Thai bottler of Coca Cola closed its warehouse in Yala after sales plummeted to an all-time low, since the war broke out. 

The company that does business in 14 southern provinces, recorded sales of Bt 1.6bil (RM 160mil) last year, raking in a net profit of Bt 70mil. Haad Thip, which bottles Coke and Fanta, used to control about 70% of the sales of soft drinks in the area.  

The protests began on Thursday with Muslims emptying bottles of Coke, and its rival drink, Pepsi outside Yala’s main mosque. The Islamic Committees of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, Satun and Narathiwat – the five southern-most provinces bordering Malaysia, have since passed a resolution urging the Thai Government to take a “clear stand” against the war being waged by the United States against Iraq.  

The panels, which described the United States as a “terrorist state” also want the Government to explain why it had expelled Iraqi diplomats.  

Songkhla committee head Aziz Pitak-kumpol said Muslims were upset with the government’s “wishy-washy” stand on the war, stressing that it risked losing the support of the Malay-strong south.  

The boycott is not only confined to the south, though. Wittay Wiserat of the Central Islamic Committee of Thailand said more American brands were being targeted. “The committee would distribute a list of products soon, “ he said. It is understood that the list would include consumer goods and services such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Coke and Pepsi.  

In another development, two senators said they would urge the Upper House to condemn the US-led war. Senator Den Tohmeena and Senator Kraisak Choonhavan accused the US of using all sorts of excuses to go after Iraqi oil.  

The chairman of Thailand’s Human Rights Commission, Saneh Chamarik denounced the supporters of the war as “American lackeys” who ignored the fact that a handful of powerful nations, including the United States, continued to control more than 80% of the world’s natural resources.  

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