The anti-government protests in Pattaya today forced the cancellation of an ASEAN summit meeting and in doing so captured international headlines for Thailand and Pattaya for all the wrong reasons. With a state of emergency* being declared in Pattaya, tourists can be forgiven for asking whether the popular Thai beach resort is safe to visit right now.
What Does a State of Emergency Mean?
A state of emergency sounds ominous, but in the past they have been issued by various Thai governments to enable the legitimate use of tougher crowd control measures. The issue of emergency decrees in Pattaya today enabled Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to use the army if required to escort the ASEAN leaders to safety. The red-shirted anti-government protesters made it clear they meant no harm to anybody at the ASEAN summit. After the protesters entered the venue for the meeting, local television coverage showed the red shirts apologizing and waiing to various delegates from the ASEAN nations. The aim of the protest was to bring embarrassment and loss of face to PM Abhisit and his government.
*Update: State of emergency lifted on Saturday evening.
Will Bars and Clubs Still be Open?
I’ve just spoken to a friend who arrived in Pattaya this evening from the UK and was completely unaware of today’s events. He said he had no problems getting from Bangkok airport to Pattaya and there were no traffic hold-ups. He and his wife have checked into their hotel near Beach Road in central Pattaya and are about to go out for some food and drink and enjoy their holiday as planned. Bars, clubs and restaurants are open as normal. I told him about the clashes between pro- and anti-government groups in the Jomtien area of Pattaya and said that from what I saw on Thai television, I’ve seen worse at football matches in England. That’s not to make light of it, but just to try and put it in some perspective.
When Will the Protesters Leave Pattaya?
The anti-government protesters have achieved their aim and look set to leave Pattaya by tomorrow at the latest. There was some traffic disruption in Pattaya this morning and there may be some more temporary traffic disruption as the red shirts disperse for the Songkran holidays. Most of today’s events have been non-violent, with just brief skirmishes between small groups of red shirts and blue shirts. Apart from that, Pattaya is no more dangerous to visit than it was last week, last month or last year.