Its food is unparalleled, beaches beautiful, people lovely, shopping bargains superb and reputation for wild and fun times unsurpassed. Sadly Thailand also has a history and a culture for military interventions for nine decades.
According to media sources, the Royal Thai Army declared martial law nationwide at 3am Tuesday 20 May local time (Monday, 19 May: 8pm GMT or 1pm US West Coast time). Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the military had stepped in to restore order after six months of street protests, the deaths of 28 and injury of 700, a boycotted election, the sacking of the acting Prime Minister, the appointment of a second acting PM. The army has said that troops will take action against anyone who uses weapons and harms civilians. Troops are now patrolling Bangkok and army spokespeople are dominating local media.
The caretaker government despite not being told about the intervention are insisting they are still running the country. The army has confirmed they are not interfering in government business. The next national elections are supposed to take place on 3 August now.
There are no indications that this action will become more violent but the situation is unpredictable. I have been in Bangkok five times since the street protests mushroomed (November, December, January, March, April) and I will be there again in June. Some common sense is required but by the by life goes on for most Thais and Tourists.
Steps to take
These steps can apply in a number of places and situations.
- Review your travel plans- I hate to damage the Thai tourism industry but Cambodia and Malaysia offer alternatives (things have been “interesting” in Vietnam recently
- Bangkok and four provinces in the South are the two most potentially troublesome places in Thailand. It is easy to avoid both. You can fly into Phuket and Krabi airports directly from Australia and Asia without changing in Bangkok. Russia and the United Arab Emirates have direct flights to Phuket too. You can get to Chiang Mai by transiting through Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur
- Get Travel insurance –check for what is covered if there is military intervention
- Most countries have travel advisory services which warn their travellers about how safe a location is:
- Australia Smart Traveller: www.smartraveller.gov.au/
- Canada: travel.gc.ca/
- Ireland: www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/
- New Zealand: www.safetravel.govt.nz/travel-advisories
- Singapore: www.mfa.gov.sg
- Uk: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
- USA: travel.state.gov/
- Advise your embassy or national traveller advisory that you are travelling to Thailand. Most countries let you do it online
- Give family and friends your schedule. I use Tripit which means sharing plans is easy. I can just send them the itinerary by email with a click of two buttons
While Travelling In Thailand
- Take extra care- pay close attention to personal security at all times
- Obey all requests by army personnel
- By law you must carry your passport with you at all times.
- When you go into a pub, shopping centre, theatre or hotel identify two emergency exits
- Monitor the media for information – the BBC World Service are invaluable
- Avoid protest sites, political gatherings and demonstrations
- Know where the Thai Tourist’s Friend Centres are and their 24 hour telephone number: +66 (0)2 314 1212 (English).
- Know where your embassy and consul offices are
- Keep your phone charged at all times- you never know if power may be cut
- If protests or military have blocked roads, it may take longer to get to the airport- leave extra time
- Have your airline, travel insurance company and government authority numbers programmed in your phone
- Tell people you are home!