BANGKOK, Dec 19 (Reuter) - Foreign investor confidence in Thailand could be shaken by two incidents of worker unrest over year-end bonuses this week, analysts said on Thursday. On Tuesday, employees of Sanyo Universal Electric Plc ransacked and set fire to the company's warehouse after about 2,000 of the company's workers protested at the site in eastern Bangkok.
The next day, another 2,000 employees of state-owned Krung Thai Bank staged protests in front of the bank's Bangkok headquarters, demanding higher year-end bonuses and refusing to disperse until government officials agreed to supplement the company's bonus offer.
In the Krung Thai Bank protest, one protester shouted "Sanyo, Sanyo'' while holding up a cigarette lighter. Employee unrest is rare in Thailand and the strong worker responses in the two bonus disputes caught many by surprise, foreign investors and analysts said.
They even prompted Thai Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who visited the scene of the Sanyo fire, to issue a warning against worker violence, saying it would scare away foreign investors.
"This kind of violence should be prohibited and the government should take measures to prevent a recurrence of this kind of incident,'' Yoshiyasu Nao, president of the Thai branch of the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), told Reuters. "I am afraid the violence will discourage Japanese investors and also undermine our efforts to invite investors to Thailand,'' he said. "One act of violence can undermine one thousand efforts to invite investors to Thailand.'
' Sanyo Universal Electric, which makes refrigerators and other household appliances, is 30-percent owned by Sanyo Electric of Japan.
The Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Thailand said its directors would meet on Monday to review the Sanyo violence. Analysts said this week's unrest could embolden other workers to stage bonus-related protests.
In the Krung Thai incident, workers demanded bonuses equal to more than five months' pay, higher than what management was offering, while Sanyo workers were upset that their bonuses were to be cut from last year's levels.
The Krung Thai protesters dispersed only after government ministers came to the scene, mediated and agreed to meet their demands.
George Morgan, country manager for HG Asia, said it was worrying to see that a cut in bonus payments would be viewed by workers as a pay cut.
"The payments have come to be regarded as part of fixed salaries so a cut in bonuses has come to be seen as a pay cut which is not really fair.''
"Managements have stored up problems for themselves ... the bank sector has seen the bonus culture drifting in from the securities sector,'' he added.
The Federation of Thai Industries said the government should enforce laws strictly to give foreign investors greater confidence in the country.