Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Safe Travel in Thailand

Thailand is once again undergoing volatile times, as protesters take to the streets demanding the resignation of the current government. This has been a long-festering dispute, with the country polarised between pro and anti-Thaksin (former prime minister who was ousted in a military coup in 2006) supporters. Even if this particular regime - led by Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra - does stand down, or there is military intervention, there is no guarantee that tables won't be turned and that protests won't continue in the future.

(Read this Time article for a brief and concise background on Thailand's political situation.)

For tourists, news reports of political unrest, violence and even deaths in the street are indeed disturbing, and may lead them to reconsider their travel plans to The Land of Smiles.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has updated their travel alerts for Thailand following the political unrest, urging travellers to "exercise caution", particularly in Bangkok and Phuket. It has not, however, upgraded the advise to "reconsider your need to travel" or "do not travel" except in southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Malaysian border, where there are threats of terrorist attacks (a long-standing warning, due to ongoing unrest).

The bottom line for any tourist applies - avoid conflict areas, don't go "sightseeing" where there are angry mobs, and avoid getting swept up in political situations. This advice will be particularly pertinent this week, with the crisis said to be reaching a climax and with Thursday marking the 86th birthday of Thailand's beloved king.

Travelling anywhere in the world requires common sense and a modicum of caution. The few tourists who do end up in trouble have usually put themselves into vulnerable positions and ignored advice. Of course, there is the odd case of "wrong place, wrong time", but this can happen anywhere in the world, any time.

Away from hot spots, life continues as normal in Thailand - and chances are tourists will not be impacted in any way during their holiday. You'll still get the same 'service with a smile', be able to swim in balmy blue waters, lie on beaches and enjoy great food and a rich culture. You're unlikely to be caught up in political unrest in a hammock on the beach, put it that way!

Be sensible, be alert - but don't forget to have fun!

Not much unrest going on here...

Life's a beach in Thailand, if you avoid political hot spots.

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