BANGKOK (eTN) – It has been in place since April when the Red Shirts movement took on the streets of Bangkok. As violence grew, the State of Emergency was imposed on two thirds of the kingdom, especially in northern and northeastern provinces where the Red Shirts benefitted from population support. It has been relaxed, step by step, since August. But the most important step comes now as the restrictive law will finally be revoked on Wednesday for Bangkok and three surrounding provinces. The cabinet of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has indeed acknowledged that the country is now peaceful. The government is due to release 104 detained Red Shirts with minor offenses.
The State of Emergency restricted people’s freedom of political speeches, curtailing the possibility of hosting political meetings or speaking their opinion in public forums. It also restricted media favorable to the opposition. However, the decree did not affect tourism and tourist movements. Shops and night entertainment venues operated as usual and few travelers to the capital would have noticed that the State of Emergency was still being enforced in the capital.
The lifting of this exception decree is then deeply symbolic for tourism. It will certainly have a positive effect on Asian travelers who are more sensitive to any negative development involving safety. Prior to the information about the lifting of the decree, the Tourism Authority of Thailand already had expressed its optimism, as Thailand tourism is back on track. The tourism agency recently published a forecast of 15.6 million tourists to the kingdom in 2010, representing a growth in double-digit figures over 2009.
The State of Emergency will, however, be replaced by the Internal Security Act, which still restricts freedom of opinion on locals as soon as it is estiimated to create a threat to the country’s stability. The Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) is due to set up a situation monitoring center in every province to coordinate work with all 14 security agencies active in the kingdom in coordination with the Royal Thai Police.