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Thais Chip In To Help Government Out Of Debt

Mon., Jan. 12, 1998

Hoping to make a tiny dent in their country’s currency crunch, nearly 8,000 people marched to a shopping center Sunday to exchange or donate badly needed foreign cash.

The collection in downtown Bangkok was the biggest so far in the “Thai-Help-Thai” campaign, started last month by a Buddhist monk worried about the nation’s shrinking foreign reserves.

Most people handed over small sums of cash at tables lined up at the market, although one woman exchanged $140,000 and about $76,100 worth of Japanese yen on behalf of a duty-free shop.

Massive bad debts have crippled the country’s financial sector, causing the once-strong economy to stumble. The baht has lost more than half its value against the dollar in the past six months.

The campaign’s original aim was to help the government pay back a $17.2 billion bailout loan arranged by the International Monetary Fund, but now broader goals are being stressed, such as a greater sense of patriotism.


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