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UPDATE 1-Thai economy seen shrinking by single digit in Q3 - cenbank

* Q3 economy seen contracting by a single digit

* That would mark an improvement on Q2’s 12.2% contraction

* Political protests could affect economic recovery

* C.bank sees 2020 GDP shrinking by a record 7.8% (Recasts with Q3 economy)

BANGKOK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Thailand’s economic performance in the third quarter improved from the preceding three months, with GDP shrinking by a single digit as economic activity resumed after easing coronavirus restrictions, the central bank said on Friday.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy contracted 12.2% in the second quarter year-on-year, the sharpest fall in 22 years, as the pandemic pummelled tourism and consumption.

“The third quarter is still negative, but not a double digit contraction,” Chayawadee Chai-Anant, senior director at the Bank of Thailand (BOT), told a briefing. She gave no specific forecast.

Official third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data is due to be released on Nov. 16.

However, political uncertainty could undermine private sector confidence and a future economic recovery depending on developments, Chayawadee said.

Thailand has seen some of the biggest political protests in years in recent months calling for the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, changes to the constitution and reforms to curb the powerful monarchy.

The BOT has forecast the economy will contract by a record 7.8% this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In September, the economy recorded smaller falls in exports than in August, though tourism remained in a slump due to restrictions on foreign arrivals, the BOT said.

Exports, a key driver of growth, fell 4.2% in September from a year earlier after August’s 8.2% drop.

September imports declined 8.1% from a year earlier, resulting in a trade surplus of $3.21 billion in the month.

Thailand recorded a current account surplus of $1.31 billion in September after a revised surplus of $3.12 billion the previous month. (Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Davies)

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