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Thailand's lockdown exit leaves traditional massage industry in limbo

Key tourism sector incompatible with social distancing measures

An herb ball treatment at the Asia Herb Association’s Benchasiri Park shop in Bangkok. (Courtesy of Yumiko Kase)

BANGKOK -- The social distancing measures required to fight COVID-19 have been painful for Thailand's traditional massage and medicine sector, which has been shut down by controls aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus and will continue to face restrictions as the country slowly emerges from its nationwide lockdown.

Yumiko Kase, the Japanese CEO of the Asia Herb Association, one of Thailand's most successful therapeutic massage chains, says the crisis makes previous bouts of political turmoil and flooding that have disrupted business look like "mere inconveniences." But she and other industry leaders believe the 2,000-year-old industry will recover.

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