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About the true situation in Bangkok…

The situation is confused. Tourists are generally safe in the Kingdom, including Bangkok. Maybe just slightly annoyed by a few museums and attractions closed – due to current anti-government protests taking place in the midst of Bangkok historical districts. Nothing to really worry about so far!

BANGKOK- It is turning a pretty common situation those days in Bangkok: as a foreign visitor, you might walk on your way to a shopping mall or along the streets, just disturbed by the usual noises of the big town: cars, tuk tuk and the honking carts of sellers. Then, suddenly, whistles are blowing all over you and a forest of Thai flags just emerge from the crowd. This is generally the way tourists might be involved into the current protests against the Government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Nothing really to be worried about. But this is Thailand – a highly popular and exposed destination in the public image.And  past experiences of some protest movements turning violent are prompting some foreign governments to call for tourists to remain prudent when travelling into Bangkok.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has been prompt to publish a bulletin to highlight the real situation. It is true: Bangkok is mostly peaceful and according to TAT,  “all of the locations occupied by  anti-government protesters in Bangkok and other provinces are not tourist attractions”. This assumption is almost correct. Asking some officials at the Ministry of Tourism, although the Royal Palace is open to the public –but best to be accessed now by public boat as roads around the palace are closed, Vinmanmek mansion and other attractions around Dusit Garden are for now close to the public.
Meanwhile, foreigners and/or tourists have not been targeted in the ongoing political protest. TAT advise however tourists to be vigilant and avoid areas where crowds may gather.
Apart from causing heavy road traffic during the anti-government marches to government offices, there has been no report of chaos or violence en route or at in any of the protest locations.

In Bangkok, the anti-government protesters are staging their protests at the following locations, which are not tourist attractions:
• Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue (in the vicinity of Khaosan Road)
• Nang Lerng Junction on Nakhonsawan-Phitsanulok Roads (in the vicinity of Dusit Gardens)
• Sanam Luang on Ratchadamnoen Nai Avenue (in the vicinity of the Royal Palace)
• Makkawan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
• Ministry of Finance on Rama VI Road
• Government Complex on Chaengwattana Road
• Ministry of Information and Communication Technology
• Ministry of Justice and its Department of Special Investigation

The anti-government protesters are also gathering at the following government agencies, which are not tourist attractions:
• Ministry of Tourism and Sports on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
• Ministry of Transport on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
• Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives on Ratchadanoen Nok Avenue
• Ministry of Commerce on Nonthaburi Road
• Ministry of Energy on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road
• Ministry of Labour on Mitmaitri Road
• Ministry of Industry on Rama VI Road
• Ministry of Social Development and Human Security on Damrong Rak Road
• Ministry of Culture on Borommaratchachonnani Road
• Ministry of Public Health on Tivanond Roa

Meanwhile, the pro-government supporters are staging their campaign at Rajamangala Stadium on Ramkhamhaeng Road. The area is in the eastern part of Bangkok and far off from the above areas occupied or targeted by the anti-government protesters.

Outside of Bangkok, TAT indicates that anti-government protesters are campaigning at provincial city halls of, such as, Trang, Songkhla, Satun, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chumphon, Yala, Ranong, Pattalung, Surat Thani, Phuket, Phang-nga and Chai Nat. Officials have confirmed that none of the provincial halls have been seized by the protesters. No chaos or violence has been reported.
Beside Vimanmek Mansion, all other tourist attractions in Bangkok, such as, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on Na Phra Lan Road, Siam Paragon on Rama I Road, river tours along the Chao Phraya River, as well as elsewhere in Thailand, are open and operating as per normal.
Tourist activities in Pattaya, Hua Hin, Ko Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phang-nga and Krabi, for instance, are operating as per normal. These provinces’ administration halls are located in official designated areas, and are not where tourists normally go to or where tour companies include in the tour programme.

In Bangkok, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) has temporarily rerouted 12 city bus routes to avoid getting stuck in the areas where large crowds gather. In addition, given the large number of protesters, roads around or within the vicinity of Democracy Monument, Government House and the Parliament may be temporarily closed to traffic.

International and domestic airlines are operating flights between Bangkok and Thai cities, as
Tourists need not be alarmed of the presence of security forces and checkpoints in Bangkok. Police are deployed to provide security in the city. Security has been stepped up to prevent ill-intentioned people from inciting violence. Traffic police are also stepping up efforts to ensure traffic flow in the city.

The Thai Government has announced the enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in all districts of Bangkok and Nonthaburi, Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan and Lat Lum Kaeo district of Pathum Thani until December 31, 2013 to maintain law and order. The ISA was implemented on November 25. Decision was taken by the Prime Minister after she indicated to strengthen security measures. She however promised to refrain from using force to end the protests.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.