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Greater Phuket has plenty to offer for audacious tourists

Phuket's Letter to the Leery World of Diplomats

Saturday, May 1, 2010
Phuketwan Opinion

GOVERNMENTS are supposed to inform their citizens when they might be venturing into danger, which is why at first glance the national travel alerts about Thailand appear to be justified.

From outside Thailand, looking in, it may even seem that the travel alerts are a realistic assessment. After all, there have been more than 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries in the red rumpus in Bangkok.

Yet from inside Thailand, the travel alerts are a shameful travesty. As far as we can tell, two tourists, one from Australia and another from Japan, have been slightly injured. A Japanese journalist has been killed, but then, he was doing what journalists are supposed to do: reporting from a frontline.

So suddenly, almost overnight, all of Thailand is a dangerous place. Tourists from Australia, from Britain, from Hong Kong and from many other nations are being told to avoid the Land of Smiles. Some nations are even telling their citizens in Thailand to leave, at the earliest possible opportunity.

What a farce, what a fiction. What a failure of diplomacy.

Most of these countries, it has to be noted, are the same countries that tell their citizens not to bow down to terrorism. To keep travelling the world, to keep acting without fear, to show the Bin Ladens and their ilk that, whatever they say, whatever they do, we are not afraid.

So what do these countries, all supposedly ''friends'' of Thailand, do? At the mere hint of a tourist possibly, through ignorance, finding himself or herself close to a dangerous situation, they pull out all stops . . . and all their countryfolk.

Red alert, red alert, red alert. Please leave Thailand . . . now. This minute. We insist.

We will stay on, mind you . . . but then we really know what's happening, and it's not that dangerous.

Let's not worry about Thailand's tourism industry and the fact that the alerts are also likely to cost thousands of innocent people their jobs, and their futures.

Let's not worry that these people may come to despise Australia, Britain, the US and other countries when they realise how wanton, how generalised, how foolish, their travel alerts have become.

Let's just guard our own sweet butts. OK?

If it takes a couple of injured tourists to generate a mass wave of travel alerts, then perhaps the embassies should be warning tourists to Thailand off motorcycles, and sex.

If Thailand is about to be consumed by civil war, if tourists who seem perfectly content in Phuket and other tourist destinations are seriously at risk, please tell us what you know that we don't.

Or has the fear of terrorism got to you?

We've had many responses from readers and this one especially deserves prominence:

I'm a travel consultant in Australia. I see it from a different perspective. It's all about protecting self interests.

I love Thailand, especially Bangkok. I have been telling people to go there when the whole issue started years ago, from the yellow shirts protests to now the red shirts protests.

But since reports about the hand grenades in Silom, I had to protect myself as I see fit. What if I encourage clients to go and what if they are caught up? I will be blamed, won't I?

Same with the countries. If they didn't say anything about it and if their people are caught up in it, then they will be blamed, too.

Don't get me wrong. I love Thailand and will still promote it, and will be visiting it again.

You cannot blame people for not going to Thailand because of the travel advice. Look at the situation how the world sees it. I wish the whole situation will be resolved soon as I do not want the lovely people of Thailand to suffer.

I do promote Phuket and Chiangmai but people are weary of Thailand as a whole. Who would want to go to holiday and getting stressed up about the holiday? There are a lot of alternatives they can choose without the stress.

I hope it will be alright soon.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Excellent perspective. I live near Baltimore MD (USA) and the murder rate for 2009 in just the city alone was 238 (552 for the whole state), but I haven't seen travel advisories for going into town or other countries suggesting to avoid "non essential travel"! I have a flight to Chiang Mai on May 6 and can't wait :)

Posted by Dan M. on May 1, 2010 22:39

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Part of the problem is self inflicted. What do you expect the reaction to be when the expressions "terrorist" and "terrorism" are flung about so casually? I disagree that there is terrorism at the Red Shirt protests.

Yes there have been violent illegal acts. Call them what they are: criminal acts. The fact of the matter is that aside from the government forces firing live ammunition into the civilian populace, there have been limited acts of violence and no looting.

In the south of Thailand there are bombings and murders on a weekly basis. That is terrorism. The UDD has not advocated a violent overthrow of the government and it certainly has not told its members to go on a killing rampage. That is the difference.

There are obviously rogue criminal elements engaged in opportunistic acts of violence. Call it what it is. There are no suicide bombings, no mass murders (with the exception of the army shooting into the crowd) and no taking credit for the deaths.

What we have is a civil protest, which for all intents and purposes, excluding the tragedy of 1 day has been peaceful. I do not see this as a negative but as a testament to the peaceful nature of the population. If this had been the EU, buildings would be in ruins and billions of baht of property damage incurred.

If it had been Pakistan or the middle east, thousands of lives lost. Thailand is still fairly safe and its up to the local media to explain that aspect of the protests. Tourists are not being targeted and are not in harm's way if they avoid the protest zones.

I do not support the current government's position but I respect General Anupong's prudence, caution and desire to spare the loss of life.

Editor: I did not say there were terrorists among the reds, or use the word casually. I simply posed a rhetorical question. You seem to be defending the protest. I am questioning the travel alerts.

Posted by Ryan on May 1, 2010 22:42

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As a British visitor to Phuket who is returning soon, I agree with you. This whole-country alert seems ridiculous. Avoid Bagkok, OK, but the whole of the Kingdom?

It's volcanic ash panic all over again!

Posted by Anonymous on May 2, 2010 02:34

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No, it has certainly not. What you have written is confirmed by friends living in Phuket.

See you all in three weeks, if only for an extended weekend!

Posted by rfdunedin on May 2, 2010 03:45

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I'm a bit surprised at the impact that these travel advisories from various nations are purported to be having. After all, there is no shortage of legitimate press coverage from Thai-based sources that address this type of over-reaction.

Regular travellers to Thailand would also be aware that these types of protests generally only have impact in the physical location in which they occur. The problem, I suppose, is that a percentage of tourism involves travel by folk who have never been to Thailand in the past and know nothing of the place other than the information conveyed to them by their local travel agents, media and foreign affairs instrumentalities.

Perhaps the Tourism Authority of Thailand should be more pro-active in conveying the message of safety to these various overseas sources. As for me, I'll be back to Phuket in three weeks, where those who know anything about the place will realise it's business as usual.

Editor: There's nothing ''purported'' about it. Travel alerts mean insurance companies won't insure tour groups, and many travel agencies have removed Thailand from their list of ''coming attractions.'' The result will be the Thai tourism industry deeply wounded . . . by friendly fire.

Posted by Ping on May 2, 2010 07:40

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They are all a bunch of hypocritical slimeballs

However, my opinion is that the warnings have been given so if/when people need help here from their government, their governments have a reason to put the issue on the back foot with a ''well we did warn you'' attitude and perhaps make them foot the bill.

OR insurance companies, many who's shares are owned by high up people worldwide, are putting pressure on, so they won't have to pay out in the case of mass scale injuries etc. with a ''well your government did warn you and in our clause blah blah ...''

Posted by Sean on May 2, 2010 09:33

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i hope some European people read this.

But do all the same countries coming with red alerts for Greece ! Thay have already had big protests in many bigger cities and we also know there are many to come in this week. Also here one died and many got injured.

The funny thing I heard late from a friend. Denmark has also said ''Don't go to Thailand,'' but its okay to travel to some places in Iraq and Iran. I can't believe that, that Thailand is dangerously to travel to.

Posted by Thomas on May 3, 2010 08:44

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I'm a travel consultant in Australia. I see it from a different perspective. It's all about protecting self interests.

I love Thailand, especially Bangkok. I have been telling people to go there when the whole issue started years ago, from the yellow shirts protests to now the red shirts protests.

But since reports about the hand grenades in Silom, I had to protect myself as I see fit. What if I encourage clients to go and what if they are caught up? I will be blamed, won't I?

Same with the countries. If they didn't say anything about it and if their people are caught up in it, then they will be blamed, too.

Don't get me wrong. I love Thailand and will still promote it, and will be visiting it again.

You cannot blame people for not going to Thailand because of the travel advice. Look at the situation how the world sees it. I wish the whole situation will be resolved soon as I do not want the lovely people of Thailand to suffer.

I do promote Phuket and Chiangmai but people are weary of Thailand as a whole. Who would want to go to holiday and getting stressed up about the holiday? There are a lot of alternatives they can choose without the stress.

I hope it will be alright soon.

Editor: Thanks, Merv. The point is that the travel alerts are over-protective and non-specific. This works against your best interests, against the best interests of your customers, and against the best interests of Thailand. There is no reason why Australia could not say, for example: ''Direct flights to Phuket remain safe.'' They are not concerned about you, or your customers. They prefer to destroy Thailand's tourism industry and guard their own butts.

Posted by Merv on May 3, 2010 09:07

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You're right about the proerpy market. My son had a good plan for developing and selling properly in Thailand but I don't think he was well connected enough because it didn't really go well. You need the connections and the research behind you.

Posted by Petruk on February 26, 2012 00:22


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