SINGAPORE – Thailand’s lucrative tourism industry faced a rash of cancellations after several Asian countries urged their citizens on Tuesday to avoid travelling there during the current political crisis.
South Korea and Singapore issued advisories urging citizens to avoid non-essential travel, while Australia and Taiwan advised nationals to be extra vigilant.
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency in Bangkok earlier on Tuesday, giving the army control of public order after a man died in overnight clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters.
Under the sweeping emergency powers announced on television and radio, all public gatherings in the capital are banned and restrictions imposed on media reports that ‘undermined public security’.
Although the deployment of troops will come as welcome relief to the overstretched police — who have been dealing with anti-government protests for over three months — it raises the spectre of an army seizure of power less than two years after the military kicked out then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Samak later told a news conference the emergency action would not last more than a few days.
POPULAR WITH TOURISTS
Thailand is a hugely popular tourist destination for visitors from Asia and further abroad. It also draws hundreds of thousands of business visitors each year.
‘If Singaporeans do not have a pressing need to travel to Bangkok, they are advised to postpone the travel to a later date,’ the Singapore ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.
‘We ask those who plan trips to Thailand to please avoid travel there until the situation stabilises,’ South Korea’s foreign ministry said from Seoul.
The Australian government left its overall warning unchanged but urged travellers to take extra care.
‘Travellers should exercise a high degree of vigilance at this time because of the political unrest,’ the travel advisory from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
‘There have been instances of violence including one reported death and several injuries. Further violence cannot be ruled out.
‘You should avoid demonstrations, political rallies and concentrations of military personnel and follow any instructions issued by local authorities.’
China’s Foreign Ministry has not yet issued any travel warning to the many Chinese tourists who visit Thailand, but on Monday the Ministry issued a notice on its website (www.fmprc.gov.cn) noting that the protests and threatened airport closures ‘may create transport difficulties’.
‘The Foreign Ministry suggests that Chinese citizens and groups travelling to Thailand pay attention to the situation and accordingly adjust their itinerary,’ it said.