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This is a very un-Christmasy post, but considering we’re now deep into what’s supposed to be the high season and protests are still going, it’s definitely needed. If you’re currently in Thailand or planning to visit within the next couple of months this post is for you. If not, you can disregard it and check out one of these fun posts instead!
Since early November there’s been ongoing protests throughout Bangkok. They started when the government was trying to pass a controversial amnesty bill that, among other things, would have allowed Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, to return to Thailand. While the bill that started it all was quickly taken off the table, the protests have continued to escalate and are still going on.
A quick rundown – in the past two months the amnesty bill was canceled, demonstrators ‘took over’ the police headquarters protesting the current government and calling for change, the house of representatives was dissolved, and new elections were called to take place on February 2nd. That means, right now, this country doesn’t have a working government. It’s not just a temporary shutdown, it’s gone. And yet, while the protesters have gotten everything they’ve asked for, protests are still going on as they call for Thailand’s current Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra (Thaksin’s sister) to step down. It’s a big, complicated mess and one that gets more confusing by the day as the ‘Democrat Party’ (the one doing all the protesting) threatens to boycott the proposed election and instead institute a temporary council of politicians it chooses for the country – not very democratic.
What does this mean for travelers?
It’s hard to tell…but at the moment nothing really. Many countries have issued travel warnings and people have canceled their tickets/trips, but – at least now – there’s really no reason for travelers to be concerned. (For a clear, quick breakdown on what’s going on and traveler recommendations check out this post from Travelfish.) Up here in the north, in Chiang Mai, we haven’t had any issues – if it weren’t for the news, you wouldn’t know anything is going on. In Bangkok, there hasn’t been any threat to travelers and compared to the last riots in 2010, which turned bloody, violence has been kept to a minimum. Massive mobs of protesters around the city though are sometimes making it difficult to get around, blocking the already congested traffic and clogging public transit lines like BTS. If you stay away from those areas however, particularly around Government House and often Victory Monument, you’re fine and everyone I know living in Bangkok have had no problems.
While Thailand has a huge number of English-speaking expats and travelers, it’s still surprisingly difficult to get accurate, up to date information and news in English. Don’t even bother with the Bangok Post website which seems to only be a updated a couple times a day without much info. Many of the English articles I’ve read from Thai outlets have limited information, little analysis or explanation (unlike this article from the New York Times). Foreign outlets like the NYT and AP have helped me get a better understanding of what’s going on while Twitter has been useful for
Also the articles linked in the post (and below) have helpful general information.
Twitter is great for getting play by plays of what’s going on and where the protests are being held.
These articles help piece together the background story of what is going on and explain how and why Thailand is in this situation now.
Have you been in Bangkok during this time? What was your experience? Did the Bangkok protests affect your stay?