Is it still safe for foreigners in Thailand?

By Karam Singh Sethi
May 22, 2014

On Wednesday, Thailand’s military declared martial law ahead of an opposition rally, which they predicted would spark violence between the royalist opposition and Thaksin supporters. In a country where tourism amounts to 10 percent of GDP – roughly $20 billion one would think political unrest might scare away profits but the Tourism Council, and tourists alike, remains largely unphased.

Of course there are a few hiccups. Pornthip Hirunkate, vice president of the Council, expected hits to the tourism industry, saying a “decline was anticipated anyway because of the prolonged unrest.” Income from tourism during FQ1 is expected to fall 4 percent because the unrest coincided with high travel season. Additionally, 11 governments updated travel warnings yesterday morning: “Stay alert”, “Exercise a high degree of caution”, “Avoid areas where there are large protests”. (Commonplace tips for anyone traveling anywhere at anytime).

On the whole, tourists are met with little real change. Reporting from Thailand, NPR’s Michael Sullivan was asked, “What does Bangkok look like today?” He responded: “A lot like it did, yesterday.”

Major airlines flying in and out of Bangkok are reporting normal operating hours without any delays. Traffic flows downtown are expected to be less congested and the U.S. came out strong today at 33 Bhat. If anything, tourists are coming out the victor during the so-called Martial Law. Yet there still persists an air of, what if?

The past seven months claimed at least 28 lives and wounded 800. Just last week a group of pro-government royalists brutally attacked protestors in Bangkok using M79 grenades and gunfire. How is it, that no tourists have been wounded?

Thai people have a vested interest in tourism and have an unspoken agreement not to harm visitors (each averaging $116 a day).

Visitor protection is accomplished in part by two designated protest sites. The pro-government red shirts are stationed at Thawi Wattana District, west of Bangkok and the anti-government yellow shirts at Rachadamnoen Road, near Government House (though the opposition has been known to take over government buildings outside Rachadamnoen). The latter is within walking distance to popular tourist destinations, explaining the military checkpoints keeping tourists separated.

Since 2006 the country has seen three administrations taken out of power for various illegitimacy claims. Visitors were most affected in 2008, when the opposition took over the Bangkok airport, leaving 100,000 travelers stranded. Still, there have been no reports of tourists harmed due to political unrest so enjoy the pad Thai (though apparently it’s not really Thai), check out the 46-meter reclining Buddha, and island hop. If you’re still feeling timid, check out Stratfor’s guide to safe traveling.

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Posted by on May 22, 2014. Filed under Recent News,Top News,World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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