BANGKOK – Twenty-three countries have issued special travel advice urging citizens visiting Thailand to be cautious, but protest leaders insist their actions will not damage tourism and are offering to explain their cause to international observers.
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday unveiled a survey of 68 countries, of which 23 are warning travellers about political protests in Thailand.
The countries that have issued travel advisory notices include the United States,Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.
Only South Korea had updated information to its citizens on Tuesday, while the United States, France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and China last amended their information for travellers on Monday, according to the ministry.
Most of the 23 countries have issued general warnings telling their citizens about ongoing political protests in Thailand, although a number have specified areas to be avoided, including the US which suggests Americans should be careful near government agencies. Brazil has cautioned its nationals against visiting the Grand Palace and areas surrounding protest rallies at Democracy Monument.
Diplomats from 56 countries and representatives of six international organisations were at the ministry on Tuesday for a briefing on the political situation after the government decided to impose the Internal Security Act (ISA) across all districts of Bangkok and Nonthaburi. Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan and Lat Lum Kaeo district of Pathum Thani have also been placed under the act.
Sihasak Phuangketkao, permanent secretary for foreign affairs, told the diplomats why the ISA had been invoked and urged them not to alarm potential visitors to the country by making sure any travel advisory statements are factually correct.
Mr Sihasak said the 23 countries that have issued travel warnings have not prohibited citizens from visiting Thailand, but merely told travellers to avoid protest locations.
The US government expressed concern Monday about the rising political tension in Thailand where anti-government protestors staged demonstrations in Bangkok with some occupying government offices.
The United States “is following the ongoing demonstrations in Bangkok closely” and “urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law”, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The demonstrators, led by the opposition Democrat Party, held marches seeking to remove the government, while Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she is imposing an emergency law throughout Bangkok and a few other parts of the country to ensure law and order.
Protest spokesman Akanat Promphan said the rallies would not deter tourists from coming to Thailand since they are being help peacefully without weapons.
He said protesters will not try to shut down Suvarnabhumi airport to force government out of office. The airport is in Bang Phli, which is already under the ISA.
Demonstrators continued a symbolic occupation of the finance ministry today after erecting a permanent protest stage overnight. Workers were told to leave the transport and energy ministries and the headquarters of state energy company PTT Pcl (PTT) as groups of protesters arrived and blocked access to the compounds, government officials said.
The government extended the use of the Internal Security Act to provinces near Bangkok including Nonthaburi and some districts of Samut Prakarn and Pathumthani until Dec. 31, Yingluck said yesterday. The ISA, which has been in effect around Parliament House since Oct. 9, lets authorities close roads, make arrests and take action against any security threats.
The SET Index (SET) of stocks has fallen 6.3 percent in the past month, the most in Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The baht was little changed at 31.970 per dollar as of 3 p.m. in Bangkok. It reached 32.11 earlier, the weakest level in 11 weeks.