Thailand coup d'etat: How bad is the security threat to tourists visiting the country?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Thursday 22 May 2014
Tourists in Bangkok, and people with imminent travel plans to Thailand, are watching the increasing political turmoil in the country with growing alarm following the army's coup d'etat.
The Foreign Office said: “The Chief of the Royal Thai Army has assured the safety of all foreigners in Thailand. A number of media outlets have been taken off air and there is a risk that this could extend to the Internet. The military media channels are continuing to broadcast. As the situation is evolving you should monitor local news and social media for developments.”
“There is a risk of a violent reaction to the Army’s announcement. We recommend that you exercise extreme caution and remain alert to the situation. If you’re in any doubt about your safety, stay in your accommodation.”
The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) issued a statement saying that the army’s coup d’etat was aimed “to help the country move forward and resolve political uncertainty as quickly as possible”. It warned tourists throughout the country that they “must return to their accommodation before 10pm and not leave again until after 5am” in order to comply with the nationwide curfew. The only exception is for travellers who need to travel to or from the airport. They are being told to have their passports and tickets ready for inspection at army checkpoints, and are urged to allow at least four hours for check-in.
The TAT advises tourists in Bangkok to avoid areas where rally sites are situated, and added: “Army announcements on television are being broadcast in English for the benefit of international visitors.”
The Foreign Office has not updated its travel advice since the army staged a coup. It is still warning travellers: “There have been indiscriminate attacks involving weapons and explosives at protest sites and at protest marches causing casualties and deaths. Attacks have taken place during the daytime and at night. Protest action has caused significant disruption to roads in affected areas, with knock-on effects across the city. The situation is unpredictable and further protests are expected.”
Until and unless the Foreign Office advice changes to warn against “all but essential travel” to Thailand, or specific areas that would hinder travel, holidaymakers with trips booked will be expected to travel as normal. Neither tour operators’ booking conditions nor travel insurance allows for cancellation without penalty.
British Airways’ daily flight from Heathrow to Bangkok departed as normal today.
About 800,000 British travellers visit Thailand each year, and tens of thousands UK expatriates are resident in the country.
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