The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advisory, following a series of growing political protests and unrest in Thailand. But Thai tourism officials are remaining calm over the concerns.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is trying to reassure tourists that Bangkok and the rest of Thailand are, as always, open for business as usual.
“Although there are some protests taking place in the capital city of Bangkok, the TAT would like to reassure tourists that these are being held by local Thai people, in relation to civil political matters, and are by no means targeting international travellers,” the authority says in a statement.
“Demonstrations so far have been lawful, peaceful, and have only seen the gathering of large crowds in particular areas of the city. Bangkok, and across Thailand, remains open for business as usual and the tourism industry such as hotels, attractions and activities, are not affected.”
Tourism officials are created a question-answer session for customers:
Q: Is it safe to travel to Thailand at this time due to the protests in Bangkok?
* There is no reason to avoid Thailand, which remains a popular tourist destination and open for tourism business as usual. The demonstrations in Bangkok remain peaceful. Life in Bangkok, and all other areas of Thailand, continues as normal.
* Tourists need not be alarmed by the presence of security forces and checkpoints in
Bangkok. Police are providing additional security at this time and traffic police are also stepping up efforts to ensure traffic flow around the city.
Q: Which areas of the city are demonstrations taking place in?
* The demonstrations in Bangkok are peaceful, and within the bounds of the law, and are taking place at the Democracy Monument, Phan Fa Bridge and Makkawan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.
* Tourists are advised to avoid these areas, where crowds may gather.
* Tourists are advised to check travel routes and the traffic situation with their hotel concierge, local travel agent provider or via the TAT as there may be disruptions to traffic. Public transport in Thailand such as the MRT and BTS are a cost efficient and quick way to travel around the city and well connects the main tourist areas for attractions, nightlife and shopping as well as the river.
* Given the large number of people attending rallies on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, as well as near the Government House and Parliament, roads around or within the areas may be temporarily closed to traffic.
Q: Is it safe to travel to Bangkok, and around the city, while the demonstrations are taking place?
* Tourists can travel to Bangkok and get around the city as normal. Tourist attractions and activities in the Thai capital are open and operating as normal.
* Mass transit networks in Bangkok, including BTS Skytrain, MRT Subway and city buses are operating as usual.
* Transportation to and from Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airports into central Bangkok as well as into tourist destinations southeast and southwest of Bangkok such as Pattaya, Hua Hin, Ko Samet and Ko Chang are operating as normal.
* International and domestic airlines are operating flights between Bangkok and Thai cities, as well as destinations around the world, as usual.
Q: Is it safe for tourists to go to the demonstration areas for observation and taking photographs?
* Tourists are advised to use common sense and avoid areas where the demonstrations are taking place or where crowds may gather. This is because there may be traffic disruptions or delays, thus causing inconvenience to your holiday plans.
* Bangkok offers a wealth of tourist attractions and activities, so tourists should better enjoy their time visiting these. If tourists have an interest in the local political situation we advise them to follow the newspapers for latest updates.
Q: Why has the Thai government invoked the Security Act in Bangkok?
* The Thai Cabinet has approved the use of the Internal Security Act in three Bangkok districts - Dusit, Phra Nakhon and Pom Prap Sattru Phai or areas surrounding Government House and the Parliament - until 30 November, 2013 as a precautionary step to ensure order during the demonstrations.
* This law does not prohibit nor obstruct peaceful demonstrations held within the bounds of the law, but they enable security agencies - police, military and civilian - to effectively prevent and mitigate, as much as possible, undue disruption or impact on the safety of the general public.
Q: Is there a chance that Suvarnabhumi Airport will be closed by the protestors as in late 2008?
* The current demonstrations are taking place in inner Bangkok, which is located 30 km from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Thai authorities are working to ensure that there will not be any recurrence of the airport closure or any disruption to public infrastructure and transportation.
* At this time, both international airports in Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang) and all other international and domestic airports throughout Thailand are open and operating normally.
Q: Is it safe and convenient to travel to other parts of Thailand?
* Tourists can travel in and out of, and to other parts of Thailand, directly from Suvarnabhumi International Airport:
* Chiang Mai, located 716 kilometres north of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport or 8 hours by car or 1 hour by air
* Phuket, located 865 kilometres south of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport or 10 hours by car or 1 hours 25 minutes by air
* Pattaya, located 120 kilometres southeast of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport or 1 hour by car
* Hua Hin, located 227.5 kilometres southwest of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport or 2 hour 40 minutes by car
* Koh Samui, located 804 kilometres southwest of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport or 10 hours by car and ferry or 1 hour by air
[pictured: Wat Pho, Bangkok; courtesy TAT]