* Exports seen down 8%-9% this year - ministry * Shipments likely bottomed but slow recovery seen (Adds detail, forecast) BANGKOK, July 24 (Reuters) - Thailand's exports in June dropped by a bigger-than-expected 23.17% from a year earlier, the weakest pace since July 2009, as the coronavirus pandemic hit global demand, the commerce ministry said on Friday. The decline compared with a Reuters poll forecast for a fall of 15.5% in exports, and against May's 22.5% contraction. Exports, a key driver of Thai growth, could decline by 8%-9% this year, Pimchanok Vonkorpon, head of the ministry's Trade Policy and Strategy Office, told a briefing. "Exports should have bottomed out but a recovery may not be fast," she said, adding exports had fallen by 15.2% year-on-year in the second quarter. Most export markets contracted in June, but shipments to the United States rose 14.5% from year earlier and ones to China increased 12%, Pimchanok said. The June export fall was led by shipments of cars and car parts, which tumbled 43.2% from a year earlier, while gold exports fell 86% and plastic pellets were down 15%. In the first half of 2020, exports decreased 7.09% from a year earlier. (Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon; Editing by Ed Davies)
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