Thai finance ministry cuts 2013 GDP growth forecast to 2.8%

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand's economy is likely to have grown 2.8 percent in 2013, down from 3 percent forecast earlier this month, due to weaker-than-expected exports and domestic demand while anti-government protests in Bangkok are hurting confidence, a senior official from the finance ministry said on Thursday.

Next year, the economy could expand 4 percent, albeit lower than 5.1 percent seen earlier, thanks to improved global trade which will help exports and domestic demand, the ministry's fiscal policy office chief, Somchai Sajjapong, told reporters.

But he said that if the political unrest was prolonged, economic growth in 2014 could be at 3.5 percent.

Thai police fired teargas at protesters in Bangkok on Thursday after demonstrators tried to disrupt planning for a February election. The unrest is denting confidence and clouding the economic outlook.

Late last month, the central bank cut its 2013 growth forecast to around 3 percent from 3.7 percent and its 2014 estimate to about 4 percent from 4.8 percent.