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Thairath's front page headline: 'Aussies point to risk of war.' The report refers obliquely to ''foreign news agencies'' on August 3, the date of Amsterdam's report

Travel Warnings: Thaksin's Lawyer Misuses Aussie Alert

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
News Analysis

AUSTRALIA'S travel warning about Thailand is being used by a lawyer for on-the-run Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to try to score political points against the present Thai government.

Thaksin lawyer Robert Amsterdam writes on his website: ''The obvious reading of this warning is that the Australian Government has little faith in the Thai regime's badly conceived attempts at resolving the present political crisis and that the Abhisit-led government's actions are actually exacerbating the crisis rather than creating a solution.

''Thailand's international reputation as a stable, safe place to visit is now, clearly, not taken as a given by Western governments.''

In the online column at, dated August 3, Mr Amsterdam begins: ''The Australian Government released a heightened travel warning today for its citizens planning to travel to Thailand.''

However, Amsterdam appears to have got his facts wrong from the start. A spokesperson for the Australian embassy told Phuketwan tonight that the Australian government warning had not been heightened - just the opposite.

''The warning was adjusted to take account of the reduction in the number of provinces to 10 under the state of emergency,'' the spokesperson said. ''There has been no recent heightening of the warning.''

Mr Amsterdam, a Canadian, is one of several lawyers employed by Mr Thaksin, the disgraced former Prime Minister of Thailand. Mr Amsterdam constantly attempts to argue that the verdict of fraud handed down by a Thai court against Mr Thaksin was politically motivated.

His views are increasingly disparaged in some news outlets in Thailand but his criticism based on the Australian Government travel warning presented a ''fresh angle'' that was carried prominently this evening on the online front page of one popular Thai language news outlet, Thairath.

Thairath refers obliquely to ''foreign news agencies'' on August 3 saying the Australian Government was warning their citizens about travel to Thailand. It goes on to repeat much of the detail from Amsterdam's online site.

Did Thairath bother to check the facts with the Australian embassy?

The Amsterdam viewpoint is likely to gain airplay in Thailand because public debate about the activities of Mr Thaksin and his red shirt supporters remains a hot topic. Almost 90 people died in the violent protests that took place in Bangkok in April and May, incurring widespread travel warnings.

Simmering resentment will be fanned among those who take the comments of Amsterdam as gospel without checking the facts.

Ironically, the Australian Government's warnings about Thailand have always been so far over the top that they are no longer taken seriously by many Australian travellers.

Now the exaggerations, which have already caused unnecessary damage to tourism in Thailand and in Australia, are being twisted for political advantage.

Australians, with a national election coming on August 21, are concentrating intently on their own national politics.

One can imagine what the reaction would be, though, if some other government dished out false reports about the safety of tourists in Australia, and the exaggerations were so great that a criminal politician's legal mouthpiece misused them.

The Australian Government advice can be found at

Declaration of interest: Phuketwan believes that national travel alerts belong in the 19th century and that it's time for all countries to adopt a global system to protect travellers without creating unnecessary fear and needless economic damage.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


I have not heard the idea expressed here in your "Declaration of Interest" previously. You're right, there has to be a better way; I'll be thinking about this way.

Posted by donmphkt on August 4, 2010 21:38


where's the link to the original article??

Posted by another steve on August 5, 2010 07:56

Editor Comment:

The Amsterdam argument is at


19th century? long long time ago. I can't remember it. have to ask my grand grand father how it was then...where back then any travel warnings anyway?

Posted by Richard on August 6, 2010 00:23

Editor Comment:

I think the warnings came as people began to travel in numbers, for the sheer pleasure of seeing new sights. The diplomats would probably have been a bit annoyed at having to look after those who got into trouble.


Travel warnings are probably driven by a desire for governments to be not held responsible if their citizens go somewhere dangerous, its the opportunity to say.. see we told you so.... so if a citizen is in trouble they are not responsible, also gives insurance companies an "out" if they choose... Perhaps its a joint conspiracy??

Posted by cris mango on August 8, 2010 19:30

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