Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thailand: Update--British Foreign Office Advises Against All But Essential Travel

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel in parts of Thailand as violence escalates and the risk of terrorist attacks grows.

The provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border are too risky for traveling in, the Foreign Office cites, based upon Islamic extremism.

Travel to Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple compound on the Thai-Cambodian border because of the presence of security forces.

Political demonstrations are ongoing in and around Bangkok and elsewhere in the country. Firearms and grenades have been used and the death roll has risen since anti-government protests began.

Demonstrators took to the streets at the end of an eight-year dispute, which placed supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46, and her elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, who was ousted in 2006 by a royalist establishment and Bangkok's middle class.

Since anti-government protests broke out in November 2013, 21 people have been killed with as many as 300 injured.

COMMENT: The main protest site is at Lumpini Park, with smaller sites at Ratchadamnoen, government buildings at Chaeng Watthana, at Government House (the PM's offices) and the the Ministry of the Interior building. Some streets have been closed off to vehicles.

The British government has urged travelers to avoid protests, political gatherings and marches and to give themselves extra time to get to the airport.

Martial law is still in place in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla where security forces are able to detain suspects without being charged, censor the media and conduct lawful searches and seizures.

Since November 2013, it is estimated that 900,000 visitors have stopped traveling to the "Land of Smiles."

The Thai government has set up a telephone line staffed by English speakers to answer questions of visitors 24/7: The number is +66 (0) 2 314 1212.