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Phuket, still a haven for holidaymakers . . . and a vital link to speed recovery

Phuket, Safe Half of Amazing, Blazing Thailand

Thursday, May 20, 2010
News Analysis

AMAZING, blazing Thailand. Bangkok and some 23 northern provinces are today still under a state of emergency, with concern about the extent of a red uprising that lit up landmark buildings yesterday.

Yet on Phuket and around the Andaman region, paradise remains picture-perfect. Tourists breakfast in five-star resorts and contemplate a day lounging by the pool, riding an elephant or tripping to a coral reef.

Today there are two Thailands, separate in terms of safety and security, but united by pain and uncertainty.

For Phuket, now Thailand's safest city as well as its only truly secure tourist centre, the prospect of what part it can play in the recovery of the whole country should be firm in the minds of authorities on the island, and in Bangkok.

Keeping the tourism industry going must be a top priority. Without tourism, which accounts for the jobs by some estimates of one in five Thais and much of its foreign currency, the country will slump into a politically-induced recession.

Despite the frightening images from Bangkok and beyond, the Land of Smiles remains a welcoming place on Phuket and the neighboring provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi.

This is not the message being delivered by a brace of intensifying travel alerts from Britain, Australia, Canada and other countries. According to the travel alerts, all of Thailand is a no-go no-no.


Thousands of tourists who have come to Phuket on board direct flights could tell their nervous governments there are two Thailands.

To ignore this duality increases the chances of well-meaning alerts being ignored in future, and of prolonging Thailand's misery.
Phuket Stays Safe, Says Island's Police Chief
UPDATE Police numbers are down because of reinforcements being sent to Bangkok, but Phuket remains a safe place for residents and tourists, says the island's chief of police.
Phuket Stays Safe, Says Island's Police Chief

MediaWATCH: Red Dawn Over Thailand, Counting the Cost of Chaos
Phuket News UPDATE Torched Bangkok awakes; Pondering Thailand's future; Counting the cost of chaos; Thaksin rejects violence but warns of rising anger. Phuket Events
MediaWATCH: Red Dawn Over Thailand, Counting the Cost of Chaos

Phuket Flights Cancelled, Travel Alerts Bite
News Analysis Thai Airways cuts flights between Phuket and Bangkok as passenger arrival and departure figures drift lower, towards a desolate June.
Phuket Flights Cancelled, Travel Alerts Bite

LIVE UPDATE Looters, Arsonists Loose; Curfew in Bangkok Extended to 21 Provinces; Central World, Stock Exchange Set Ablaze by Mobs; Thaksin Blamed for Tragedy
LIVE UPDATE Thaksin blamed; Central World, Stock Exchange set on fire; Bangkok curfew extends to 21 provinces.
LIVE UPDATE Looters, Arsonists Loose; Curfew in Bangkok Extended to 21 Provinces; Central World, Stock Exchange Set Ablaze by Mobs; Thaksin Blamed for Tragedy


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Phuket is far and we hope it stays this way...but like what happens with anarchy it can spread..these red shirt terrorists that are burning and ravaging Thailand don't care...Let's hope they stay away from PHUKET...

Posted by barka on May 20, 2010 09:13


Dear Friend ... is this true? Phuket is still i plan to visit Phuket with my kids in the second week of June ... I am worried but after reading your article I am a little confident ... so you think it is wise of us to travel?

Editor: There are no signs that the trouble will reach Phuket and many tourists here are enjoying their holidays as usual. While the situation is uncertain, violence on Phuket seems unlikely.

Posted by gitta on May 20, 2010 09:17


I appreciate Phuket is safe right now, but claiming it as "Thailand's safest city as well as its only truly secure tourist centre" is a bit unfair on other resorts like Koh Samui, Koh Lanta etc. They are safe, too.

And a lot of people's livelihoods depend on tourists visiting those places. If you were you'd be claiming Samui was Thailand's only truly secure tourist centre.

Editor: Samui may also be safe but it's not city-sized, nor does it have as many direct flights. Maintaining Phuket as a strong air hub can help the whole country recover more quickly, including Samui. That theory makes sense.

Posted by Dave Taylor on May 20, 2010 11:13


"Only secure tourist centre" ?? please...

Samui had a grenade delivered to their local news station ?? Or an airport blockade and closure ?? How has Phuket show itself any more secure than Jomtien ??

Editor: the full context is ''For Phuket, now Thailand's safest city as well as its only truly secure tourist centre . . .'' Bangkok? Chiang Mai?

Posted by LivinLOS on May 20, 2010 12:15


I will be in Phuket in under two weeks, the trouble of Bangkok doesn't worry. The chance of violence spreading to Phuket is slim at best... Enjoy your holidays in Phuket, I will definetely enjoy mine.

Posted by Sam on May 20, 2010 15:32


Editor, you're somewhere between Nelson putting a telescope to his blind eye and seeing no ships and Nero fiddling while Rome (Bangkok?) burns. The whole country is on the verge of civil war and your commercial interests - your blog is not based on news - override the potentiality of what might occur. It's irresponsible of you to say that all is well in Phuket, because there is a high chance it might not be, and soon.

One-third of the provinces are under emergency law; now is not the time to come here! It is, though, time to avoid Thailand and let's hope it recovers soon. Me? I'm leaving for the duration and for the safety of Langkawi. I await your snide, evasive response on the pages of your site.

Editor: Run where you like. Direct flights to Phuket remain perfectly safe, and tourists are not the target of the present unrest. All is calm on Phuket and around the Andaman region, and likely to remain that way.

Posted by Tracey Kelly on May 20, 2010 15:38


We are very lucky that Phuket is with 99,99 percent of Democrat or yellow shirt sympathisers.
What would happen if we had a 50:50 ratio?
Do not forget also that many non educated local Thai folks and many northeast workers working in the tourism industry in Phuket may turn violent very quickly if an opportunity of lawless is perceived.
Do not forget that 6,000 to 10,000 baht salary is not not enough to feed a whole family and with the too much advertising along road and on TV as well large department stores full of expensive products have been building up a lot of frustration for those penniless people.

Editor: Most observers have rejected the concept of this uprising being about rich versus poor. What would happen if Phuket had a 50:50 red-yellow ratio? It doesn't, so why speculate. Some of the people I know from other provinces who work in the tourism industry would find your view of their morals objectionable. The rest would have a good laugh. In any case, Phuket with its 206 baht minimum wage is the least-poor province in the country.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 20, 2010 17:03


Re Tracey Kelly: ''All is calm on Phuket and around the Andaman region, and likely to remain that way.'' Do you have crystal balls, Alan? Thailand may be a big country and you may be right about it remaining safe here.
But civil strife has a habit of spreading rapidly. Parts of Iraq are calm, so too are areas of Afghanistan. I've been in both and other countries [because of my career] to which travel is not recommended by various governments because there is a chance of disturbance and violence spreading.
You put in a ''likely'' to exonerate yourself should it go tits up and one must be prepared for this. The best way of being prepared is by not visiting Thailand for a while. I'd much rather that the Thai economy suffers than more people than necessary become caught up in a maelstrom of violence and maybe a civil war.

Editor: This is not Iraq or Afghanistan. To compare what's happening there to here would be unreasonable. Suicide bombers? Nah. Foreigners being targetted? Nah. Bureaucrats writing travel alerts are happy to let economies and individuals - from other countries - suffer. Meanwhile, travel alerts are often treated with disregard by people who do their own research.

The world needs a universal and reliable system that is not based on 19th century knee-jerks. To say, as national alerts have said in recent days, that citizens of one country are safe while the citizens of other countries are in danger is plainly ridiculous. Yet that's what the mish-mash of travel alerts have been telling us.

In the 21st Century, fear is never the answer. Considering the future from every perspective is vital. As a friend wrote today: ''The tourist figures should be interesting. The Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts are likely to become No Shirts, No Trousers and No Underpants.''

We talk regularly on Phuket to the authorities, to red leaders, and to yellow leaders. The tea leaves at Phuketwan report that Phuket is safe, and likely to remain so.

Posted by Ben Goldman on May 20, 2010 17:11


Phew. Good job no one compared Thailand to Afghanistan or Iraq, isn't it? Of course "Bureaucrats writing travel alerts are happy to let economies and individuals - from other countries - suffer." Their job is to protect their citizens. "Meanwhile, travel alerts are often treated with disregard by people who do their own research." Have you surveyed everyone and asked them, or is this based on your own assumptions? BTW Nice use of "likely" again. Who knows, you might just get another Scoop of the Year award if, having overused that word, the balloon goes up here!

Editor: We are urging reform of a travel alert system based on 19th-century ideas, an outmoded concept that should be revised to take account of international rights and global technology. Readers can judge for themselves, as they inevitably must in the absence of a trustworthy universal travel alert system.

Posted by Ben Goldman on May 20, 2010 17:53


To answer your comment about my writing:
Do you remember what had happen with Tantalum processing plant in Phuket on May-June 1986? A mob of 50,000 local residents had burnt down the factory with the support of Phuket influential people.
So, any greedy politician with large cash money in hand to finance transportation, food, petty cash and alcohol may be able to set up a revolt or uprising as we saw in Bangkok.
We see it at small scale with tuk-tuk drivers and local communities on regular basis when they want to win by force some sleaze advantages.

Editor: 1986 is more than a generation ago. Phuket has changed in that time. There is no indication that the kind of violence in Bangkok will be repeated on Phuket.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 20, 2010 18:29


What are the "19th century ideas" you are referring to and what or whose "international rights" are you talking about? On rereading your latest response, it seems that you have no clue what you're talking about. You also appear to be stating the bleeding obvious ("readers can judge for themselves"), or being patronising to us, and passing it off as opinion. Weird.

Editor: The 19th century idea is that each nation looks after its own citizens when they travel. In the 21st century, that's a bit ridiculous in most circumstances, where all citizens are equally exposed. An international system should be introduced. We've written about it elsewhere on this site. I think that's a Nobel Prize winning idea. Don't you? By the way, when you use the word ''us'' . . . have you surveyed all Phuketwan readers?

Posted by Ben Goldman on May 20, 2010 18:37


The issue for many tourists may not be whether Phuket actually is going to become part of the larger troubles of Thailand. The issue from a tourist's point of view is whether it is worth the risk when there are so many other countries that have no political strife to choose from.

Assurances are all well and good until someone dies.

Editor: Sure. Which is why it's time to change the present unreliable system to make it work with greater authority and sophistication. It's possible to have a country where it's safe in one part, and risky in another. The current system brands all of Thailand as dangerous. That's inaccurate. And because it's inaccurate, it undermines faith in the system.

Posted by Gus on May 20, 2010 19:04


It was actually brought to my attention by one of my foreign colleagues at work, who found it "patronising". When shown it, so did a further 7. Not scientific, but representative of their different nationalities, genders, income - and that's what samples are based on. "I think that's [i.e. your idea] a Nobel Prize winning idea"? Good grief, air must be a bit thin at the top of your ivory tower leading to delusions of grandeur! Scary. Enough of your comedy site and good luck.

Editor: What nationality is your ''foreign'' colleague? Why is the fact that your colleagues are different to you even worth mentioning? You seem to have a few problems, Ben, with supporting national travel alerts yet treating people everywhere as equals.
How's your memory? You made the jibe about Scoop of the Year, personalising the debate: The Nobel Prize thing was a jokey riposte. Please show your colleagues my response. Enjoy your travels.

Posted by Ben Goldman on May 20, 2010 19:47


You make a big song and dance about your journalistic integrity but this article is shamelessly self-serving and frankly absurd.

Thailand's 'only truly secure tourist centre'? What evidence do you have to make this claim? The international profile of Phuket and the obvious political allegiance of its ruling class make it a likely target for any sort of insurgency.

And have you forgotten about the PAD airport takeover? The grenade at ASTV earlier this month? What you're writing is not in the least bit objective and looks like a pitch to please 'potential' advertisers. It will come back round to bite you in the ass.

Editor: It's a News Analysis piece. Is your aim to stop journalists from expressing informed opinions? Or are you happier with guesswork and supposition? There is no evidence of red violence, or any other kind of violence, coming to Phuket. We talk to leaders of both sides, and police, and local authorities regularly. Our opinions are based on day-to-day dealings with the key people involved. We were at the airport during the yellow invasion. It was violence-free, and it will not be repeated. There has also never been violence as a result of the southern insurgency, either. With Bangkok and Chiang Mai remaining at risk, common sense dictates that Phuket should be supported as the only safe air hub of any size and consequence. By supporting Phuket, and with traffic through the island also feeding on to Phang Nga and Krabi (and even Samui) it's possible to keep Thailand's tourism alive. There is no logical alternative. Live in fear? No thanks. My integrity is in good shape. How's yours?

Posted by Dick Pintsman on May 21, 2010 09:38


This isn't analysis, it's advertising.

Posted by Dick Pintsman on May 21, 2010 11:09


Hey Ben Goldman, do you not have work to do ? Your posts are very boring. Please get back to work.

Posted by R Sole on May 21, 2010 11:44


Barka, Dick (a suitable name no doubt), Whistlerblower, indeed all of the same ilk, grumpy old farang men, TVTs thai visa types with nothing better to do. What shallow and lame lives you lead, living so unhappy in Thailand. Leave if you don't like it, but your antics are so boring, and negative.

If only you'd live in the light of day, using real names and taking account for what you write. It's so easy for you to live in the closet of anonymity. How's the space in there, room for more...perhaps get the next plane out, dear unhappy sirs.

Some of us like it here on the sunny south side of Phuket, the centre of the universe. Rawai rocks, and you simply blow into the wind.

Posted by michael prince on May 21, 2010 12:00


Barka, Dick (a suitable name no doubt), Whistlerblower, indeed all of the same ilk, grumpy old farang men, TVTs thai visa types with nothing better to do. What shallow and lame lives you lead, living so unhappy in Thailand. Leave if you don't like it, but your antics are so boring, and negative.

@Michael Prince
Chatting on the net is part of a free world and definitely you do not like those who post personal opinion.
Up to us and up to you to read or post comments but do accept diversity in opinions otherwise Republic of China would be a better home country than Thailand if you wish, we speak the same language as you.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 21, 2010 13:27


"R Sole"? Good to see that the art of self criticism is not dead.

Posted by Ben Goldman on May 21, 2010 14:56


Ben when you write to me, please use polite grammar and my name is Robin ok ?

Definitely enough commenting for me on this topic.

Posted by R Sole on May 21, 2010 17:38


Hey R Sole, back off; I didn't saddle you with that moniker! Anyway, I thought that a name as fitting and ironic as yours would have blessed you with a sense of humor.

Posted by Ben Goldman on May 21, 2010 18:58


I think if I would stay right now in Phuket, I would feel the same like the - last man standing - editor. Perception of danger through media hammering pictures in your brain, that you cannot counter with real life experience does the trick. Getting killed on a motorbike is a real danger for tourists in Phuket.

I stayed home this time, did not fly to Phuket with my kids. My partner told me, everything was fine, only unbelievable hot some times. Besides work and heat it was pleasant as every time. So next time I think I go again.

One more observation: On the flight to Phuket the plane was literally empty, everyone could sleep over three seats. Back home the plane was FULL. Overbooked. So everyone looking for a not crowded and cheap on price but not value holiday experience should consider Phuket.

Posted by Lena on May 21, 2010 23:15


his isn't analysis, it's advertising.

Posted by Dick Pintsman

I agree with you, and i am sick of reading the Editor's smart ass comment's. I like to read phuket wan but i do not like to see an Editor typing smart ass comment's and thinking they no everything when really they don't. Now if they media did not make such a hype up about the bangkok attack's then the travel alert's would have not been as bad. Media outlet's like to show bad thing's, it get's viewer's watching.

Posted by James on May 22, 2010 00:44


ome of us like it here on the sunny south side of Phuket, the centre of the universe. Rawai rocks, and you simply blow into the wind.

Posted by michael prince

Really?? You do no that Rawai is one of the most dangerous place's to live in Phuket :)

Posted by James on May 22, 2010 00:46


RE M PRINCE ESQ, Thank you for your comments,if you don't like what we all say, don't bother to read them..your choice.

I have lived on this island of Phuket for 20 years and been involved in many things and still am.

I for one am not negative but a little more realistic.. if you feel this way about us all, why don't you make some positive suggestions?

Don't forget, if we want to call ourselves R SOLES etc it's our choice... good night

Posted by barka on May 22, 2010 06:58


barka my name is Robin to you. My parents did not see anything wrong when I was named ok! So it is Robin Sole to you, got it?

Posted by Robin on May 22, 2010 09:14


Safety is a very vague word. You cannot say that there is a single 'safe' place on the planet. What we deem as danger come many in forms such as an earthquake, a pandemic, or at the hands of a madman.

All in all, we cannot predict when these dangers will arise but we should be aware of the possibility or risk of danger in a certain area. I was in Phuket during and after the tsunami and I was delighted and in awe of the people of Phuket.

They bonded together to overcome many obstacles such as the loss of loved-ones and more importantly the stigma of being a 'dangerous' place to go to.

I know it is hard to compare danger (man-made vs. mother nature) but what we have to do is go... go to Phuket and return to Thailand as tourists. What they need the most is us, and yes, our money, too.

I booked a trip to Phuket months ago... I think it was in January, way before the red shirt problems arose. All I can say is that regardless of the dangers around us, I know what the people of Phuket are made of, for I have seen it first-hand.

Posted by BigA on May 22, 2010 09:56


Sorry Phuket Wan,

I and many others I know, believe this entire situation - as with most political conflicts, is about nothing BUT rich vs poor. And since nothing has been actually resolved, I'd be surprised to NOT see this spread throughout the country.

Editor: That's because it's not rich versus poor. And it's not a ''popular uprising.'' Most political conflicts do not become violent, and most people abhor violence. You need to talk to more Thais.

Posted by Christy on May 22, 2010 10:12


Christy, rich vs. poor... hahah how naive you are, Thaksin is rich and the rest of the country is poor after he looted the country. THIS IS ONLY ABOUT ONE MAN'S GREED and paid followers, nothing more, nothing less. It's not a social issue it's a THAKSIN issue.

Posted by guenter on May 22, 2010 12:58


I'd like to have some latest information about how safe is phuket? because I have planned to go to phuket on 30 of may 2010... I was very concern about whats going on in Bangkok the last few days.

Editor: Phuket is the same safe tourist destination it always has been. The Taiwan travel alert is the only one that gets it right: Parts of Thailand are a concern, but Phuket is safe. The media neglects to report the good news.

Posted by nita on May 22, 2010 14:07


Sorry if i offended you future..i promise i will use your full name.....ROBIN, R, SOLE.

Posted by barka on May 22, 2010 14:28


BOTH Christy and guenter's assessments of the red shirt issue are simplistic and wrong.

guenter: "Thaksin is rich and the rest of the country is poor after he looted the country." This is utter nonsense. Thaksin may have been corrupt but the country got much richer on his watch. Thai GDP in 2000 was 4,922,731 million baht. In 2005 it was 6,924,273mn baht.

To say that red shirts are all Thaksin's paid followers is also nonsense. Thaksin has genuine support in the north and north-east because of his policies. He is perceived as being the first Thai PM who actually DID something for those people.

The red shirts are rightfully pissed off at having their man removed by a coup and the whole system rigged to keep their chosen parties out ever since.

Christy is also wrong to say this is just about "rich vs poor". There are rich people - not just Thaksin - who stand to make a lot of money if Thaksin or a pro-Thaksin government gains power. And there are many poor people who support the Democrats and yellow shirts.

It is a complicated situation that rabid leftists and braindead expats find it hard to get their heads around.

Posted by Dick Pintsman on May 22, 2010 14:55


Seriously... I love Thailand but I can completely understand the warnings. I wouldn't suggest my friends and family visit now, it's just not a good time.

Airports were shut before and the wrong words from the current bunch in charge could get the yellow mob out again. Give it some time to settle, and things will be back to normal.

Posted by Colin on May 22, 2010 23:47


I have been to Phuket twice, the first time with my Thai girlfriend and the second time with her as my wife, we will be going again in February 2013 and I will be bringing my wife's sister and brother inlaw down from Udon Thani for a holiday.
I feel safer walking around in Phuket than in Sydney Australia - in fact I don't walk at night in Sydney!

Posted by Francis Weber on July 7, 2012 14:45

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