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Thailand Crisis

Bangkok state of emergency will primarily impact Asian visitors

StĂ©phane Hanot  Sep 03, 2008

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) - Calling for state of emergency in Bangkok following violent confrontation on Monday night between government partisans and protesters, embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej threatens now tourism activities as the kingdom prepares itself for the high season due to start in October.

The PM vowed that the State of Emergency would only last for a few days, until the situation settles down and protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) vacate government’s premises. Sundaravej indicated in a press conference on Tuesday morning that he has no intention to impose a curfew in Thailand’s capital.

The website of the Ministry of Foreign Affaires gives details on the measures contained in the Emergency Decree. Designated for a timeframe of three months, the decree can, however, be rescinded earlier once the situation returns to normal.

During a press briefing, Virasakdi Futrakul, Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary reaffirmed that tourists should not cancel their travel plans to Thailand and that tours can still take place as normal.

However, such a development is likely to deter tourists to come to Thailand, at least for a short period of time. By early afternoon on Tuesday, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said to prepare an official statement to reassure that Bangkok was not affected in its daily life.

However, on Wednesday morning, only general information with contact numbers had been issued. According to TAT, the State tourism agency must stick to advices from the Ministry of Foreign affairs. Emergency meetings were already conducted on Monday and Tuesday by TAT governor, Phornsiri Manoharn, to look at contingency plans with the private sector to soften the negative impact of the political crisis.

Voices in the tourism industry express their concern as images of Thailand’s turmoil spread all around the world. Some countries, including Britain, Canada, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, have already issued travel warning advices. Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, advised their citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" when traveling to Thailand.

A big blow for Thailand would be China joining the list. Already first cancellations are coming from Asian travelers, which remain more sensitive than European on security issues. If unrest was due to continue into October, it would then impact on European markets as well. During the high season, Thailand braces for 1.5 to two million international visitors each month.

The closure over the weekend of Southern airports with over 10,000 travelers stranded–especially in Phuket and Krabi- had already a negative impact on the country’s image. The Nation newspaper reported that South Korean airline Korean Air has already to suspend temporarily its Chiang Mai-Seoul flight until the situation improves.

Since Monday, airline activities at Phuket airport are back to normal but sporadic closure due to protesters still went on in Krabi and Surat Thani on Tuesday noon. However, Hat Yai airport was again close to the public on Tuesday afternoon with no flights starting or landing in the Southern city.

The situation in air transport has remained difficult on Wednesday with a general strike conducted by unions at public companies. At Thai Airways International, strikers delayed all international departures and arrivals. Traffic jam in Bangkok is most probable, as 80 percent of public busses will stay in their depot. Trains were, however, returning to normal especially from Bangkok to the Northern and North-Eastern part of the country.

Bangkok state of emergency will primarily impact Asian visitors
Image via BBC

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