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Thais tie on Thai ties

Belt-tightening is not easy, particularly when the belt is an imported fine leather one with a high-priced Louis Vuitton label. As the IMF urges financial self-control, Thailand's elite are finding the austerity package hard to swallow.

A "Buy Thai" campaign has been launched to try to persuade people to foresake western designer labels for Thai silk suits in a bid to restore some semblance of balance to the current account.

Former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa was one of the first to recognize the publicity value of foresaking his expensive imported French ties in favour of domestically produced numbers last year.

But the award for bad timing goes to outspoken deputy interior minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who paraded across one local newspaper boasting of his 300 designer name ties and 40 Versace shirts, just two weeks after the baht's devaluation.

His most expensive shirt cost Bt30,000 ($880), he says, but he prefers to buy from the sales, and his best bargain was Bt7,000.

The gaffes are easy to pounce on. One female dignitary turned up to open a Thai export promotion fair complete with her Gucci handbag - the price tag having contributed around $300 to the current account deficit.

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