US Embassy warns Americans to avoid Thai protests
BANGKOK, Thailand — The U.S.
BANGKOK, Thailand — The U.S. Embassy warned its citizens on Tuesday of the potential for violence in Bangkok, while Singapore and South Korea urged against any travel to Thailand after the government imposed a state of emergency.
The travel advisories came after overnight clashes between government supporters and opponents left one person dead and dozens injured and raised concerns the ongoing political crisis could damage Thailand’s crucial tourist economy.
American and Canadian authorities advised citizens to avoid demonstrations in the capital.
“We wish to remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence,” the U.S. Embassy said. “American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.”
The state of emergency only added to the uncertainty that has dogged the Thai economy for much of the year.
Thailand’s economy — which is heavily dependent on tourist dollars and foreign investment — has struggled to regain its footing since a September 2006 coup ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Tourism in Thailand brought in about $27 billion in revenue last year, or about 6.5 percent of Thailand’s GDP, so a blow to the reputation of the country that promotes itself as the “Land of Smiles” could have a ripple effect through the rest of the economy.
The tourism industry suffered a setback over the weekend after protesters forced the closure of three airports in Phuket, Krabi and Hat Yai.
Protesters have also threatened action at the country’s main international airport Suvarnabhumi.
“People who are probably potential tourists will say ‘Hey, what is going on?” said Kobsidthi Silpachai, the head of capital markets research Kasikorn Bank. “‘There is a state of emergency issued, maybe it’s not the best place to go.’ It will have a big impact.”
Singapore and South Korea urged their citizens to postpone nonessential travel to Thailand, while Australia and New Zealand advised that visitors “exercise a high degree of caution.”
Thai protesters stepped up their demonstrations a week ago when they stormed Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s office and took it over. They have occupied it ever since, contending they will remain until Samak resigns — something he has repeatedly refused to do.