This article refers to the problems in Thailand during 2008. If you are looking for information on the current political problems, please check the regular updates and advice on the home page of this site. Alternatively, take a look at the news section or politics section for more background and explanations.
Understandably, many people planning to visit Thailand in the near future are concerned about the current situation so I wanted to answer a few questions that people have raised.
Is Thailand Safe to Visit at the Moment?
There have been disturbances and violence in a small area of Bangkok close to Government House which is the Thai equivalent of the White House. The matter is very much an internal political affair and Thailand remains as safe to visit as it was before the protests started. The main problems for tourists at the moment will not be threat to safety, but the chance of possible travel disruption within Thailand. Industrial action halted rail services last weekend and some domestic flights were cancelled because of the closure of some regional airports.
Is Bangkok Airport Open?
Yes. Bangkok’s international airport at Suvarnabhumi and the domestic terminal at Don Muang have remained open. Some domestic flights in and out of Bangkok were cancelled or delayed as a result of protests at other regional airports in the south of Thailand including the popular tourist gateways of Krabi and Phuket. Both of those airports were temporarily closed over the weekend but have since re-opened. The airport at *Hat Yai remains closed at the time of writing. There was the threat of industrial action today by Thai Airways International staff that could result in disruption to some Thai Airways flights. I will continue to post developments as soon as I am able.
*(Update Thursday September 4th: Hat Yai airport re-opened today. All Thai airports are currently open.)
Is Bangkok Safe to Visit?
The trouble that has occurred in Bangkok is limited to a very small area of the city close to Government House and there is an increased police and army presence in that area. Tourist sights such as Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace remain open and are safe to visit. Hotels, guest-houses, restaurants, bars and clubs also remain open and life goes on as normal. The main impact on tourists in Bangkok will be increased traffic congestion when travelling by taxi or tour bus. Bangkok traffic is bad at the best of times, but with some roads closed in the Dusit area of the city, it is having a knock-on effect on traffic elsewhere. If you are staying in the popular backpacker area of Banglamphu (Khao San Road) you may notice temporary road closures close by.
What Does the State of Emergency Mean?
It’s a dramatic term, but visitors need to get this in perspective. The state of emergency only applies to Bangkok. It was issued by the government following the recent violence between rival political groups. The emergency measures give power to the army to disperse protests and demonstrations and unarmed soldiers have been deployed to assist police. From a tourist point of view it is likely to have little impact on your visit other than the fact that you will probably notice an increased police and army presence. Amongst the emergency measures is the banning of large groups or gatherings. This is aimed at political protesters and agitators. It is not aimed at tour groups visiting the sights or a group of foreigners visiting the bars and nightlife areas.