Update: What Tourists Should Know About Protests in Bangkok

by  Alex Schechter | Jan 10, 2014
Bangkok / awanlubfah/iStock

UPDATE: January 20, 2014: If your travel plans have you passing through Bangkok this month, it would be wise to use caution, consult your tour operator, or check the State Department for further updates. At demonstration sites around the city, things took a turn for the worse this weekend, when three separate instances of violence escalated an already-chaotic situation.  A grenade exploded on Friday, killing one man, and over Saturday and Sunday, gunfire and separate explosions have left many injured.  As of now, protests haven't reverted to "war-zone" proportions of 2010, and the AP reports that Bangkok "remains calm." However, it's hard to predict what will happen through February 2, when a government-sanctioned election is slated to take place. 

Government buildings, large public squares, shopping malls, and major intersections in the city center are all active demonstration sites. And while the Tourism Authority of Thailand discouraged visitors from venturing into demonstration sites due to the inconvenience of traffic and large crowds, safety has now become a real concern. Even if the violence is contained to particular demonstration sites (Victory Monument was the site of explosions on Sunday), there is always the possibility it could spread to other parts of the city.

Originally published on January 10, 2014: Once again, Thailand is the focus of some tourism-related concern as protests ramp up in the capital, Bangkok. Earlier this month, news sources began reporting that an anti-government demonstration would take place on January 13 – almost two months since the initial upheaval – and, as expected, the increase in hotel and flight cancellations has been significant.

We reached out to a tourism spokesperson, who explained that, should the demonstration occur, all city buses, vans, water transport, BTW skytrain, MRT subway, and the Suvarnabhumi Airport rail link would remain open as normal. Evidently, this is founded on a promise by one of the main anti-government demonstration groups that public infrastructure would not be disrupted during protests...

Responding to the issue of traffic, the government has planned to open a special tourists-only lane on main roads throughout Bangkok, allowing group or independent travelers to pass freely in their tour buses or vehicles, despite whatever protest-related road blockage might occur.

The bulk of demonstrations have been taking place at three main sites: Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue, Chamai Maruchet Bridge, and Makkawan Bridge. However, some attraction sites remain demonstration-free. They include the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Siam Paragon, CentralWorld Shopping Complexes, and most of the city's other parks, temples, and theme parks.

If you're the adventure-seeking type and are deliberately seeking out the demonstrations in order to view or photograph them, a recent report published by the Tourism Authority of Thailand says that they aren't likely to be dangerous. But traveling to these places would prove unpleasant due to traffic and crowds. The tourism board continues to emphasize that the demonstrations have remained peaceful. Most likely, they will stay that way, and will affect tourists in a minimal way.

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