Travelling to Thailand? What you need to know about the protests
Above: Paul Johnson is on the streets of Bangkok as protesters continue to try and shutdown Thailand’s capital. But peaceful protests could escalate into more violent ones as this drags out.
Tens of thousands of people blocked the streets of Bangkok again on Tuesday, after an estimated 200,000 people filled the streets of the Thai capital on Monday as they fulfilled a promise to shut down central Bangkok.
The protests have stopped traffic along major roadways, but organizers say the actions aren’t meant to disrupt life entirely for the city’s 12 million residents.
But with seven major intersections blocked off and the streets flooded with people, traffic has reportedly cut in half.
Here’s what you should know about travelling to Thailand while the protests are going on.
Should you travel to Bangkok?
According to the Bangkok Post the protesters plan to keep the shutdown going “every day until [they] win.”
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Development and Trade (DAFDT) isn’t advising against travel to Thailand, but is encouraging Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution.”
There have been eight reported deaths in previous protests in the past two months. The Associated Press reported protesters had thrown rocks and homemade explosive devices at police.
The Thai military has reportedly been “satisfied” with the conduct of the PDRC and said “there has been no violence, as people feared might happen.”
DAFDT also noted on its website the travel disruptions could mean the Canadian embassy in Bangkok may not be easily accessible. But DFADT is, as always, advising Canadians to register with the embassy.
Is the airport affected?
While the protests have hampered travel in and out of the city centre, arrangements and recommendations have been made for people arriving at Bangkok’s main international airport.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport officials anticipated Monday’s blockades and issued a statement saying it had set up an 24-hour operation centre to help coordinate with transportation agencies and other services to assist passengers affected by the Bangkok protests.
The airport’s community relations department is advising travellers to use the SkyTrain and MRT Metro to connect with the Airport Rail Link and recommends travelling there four hours prior to departure.
There could be interruptions moving forward. One of the protest groups, the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT), said it would set its sights on Aeronautical Radio of Thailand — or Aerothai — the country’s air traffic control and aeronautical communication service.
Thailand’s Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt told Thai media that would be “tantamount to taking the entire country hostage,” adding it would affect not only Thai air traffic but international flights passing through Thai air space.
The PDRC distanced itself from that threat and said it had no plans for any action at AeroThai.
As of Tuesday, no such action had taken place.
Air Canada, which partners with Thai Airways and other Asia-based airlines to offer flights to Thailand, said it is “monitoring [the protest] situation very closely, including the actions of other airlines operating there.”
The airline said its “current ticket conditions continue to be applicable.”
What about getting around the city?
The Bangkok Post reported that traffic in the city had been cut in half on Monday, but added that might not have been a bad thing for some people.
“Those who did travel by car, however, were pleasantly surprised as traffic on most roads flowed more smoothly than normal,” The Bangkok Post wrote.
The Thai government also warned people seeking non-emergency medical treatment to head to areas of the city not affected by the protests.
As the protest are centred on the downtown area, many parts of the 1,569 square-kilometre city are relatively quiet.
Motorbike and taxi drivers have reportedly promised not to take advantage of the situation and hike their fairs during the protests. Drivers raising their prices above those set by the country’s Ministry of Transportation could face a 5,000-baht ($167 CAD) fine or have their licence revoked for up to six months.
Are the protests happening anywhere else?
There have been protests outside government offices in various parts of the country including the popular tourist destination Phuket and in Surat Thani, the jumping off point for people travelling the islands of Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui and Ko Tao.
*With files from the Bangkok Post and The Associated Press
© Shaw Media, 2014