Thailand travel: Lessons from 2010’s military coup

What travellers can take from Thailand’s political unrest and recent military coups.

Holiday-makers in Thailand should not underestimate the seriousness of the military coup, despite it being bloodless and rather ‘soft’ –declaring martial law on Tuesday and then a coup on Thursday has made it a ‘relatively’ smooth transition of power.

But the coup is the 18th time the military has intervened in the country’s government since its inception as a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

Historically travellers have been far removed and somewhat untouched by the troubles.

The frequency of such upheaval has made the Thai’s almost immune to the effects and reports today demonstrate that life continues almost as normal in the capital. We are hearing reports that Thai language Twitter has a new hashtag that roughly translates to ‘show me a cute soldier’

Yes, the Thai local women are so unfazed that they are posting selfies with hot soldiers.

Currently the Thai military has banned political gatherings of more than five and a blanket overnight curfew (between 10pm and 5am) has been imposed. Importantly military leaders seem to understand the importance of the tourism business to Thailand and have categorically stated it will provide security to foreigners, including holiday-makers.

The 2010 troubles serve as the most recent precedent. In 2010 the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (Red-Shirts) and the government of the day clashed. A reported 80 civilians and 6 soldiers were killed (and around 2,100 injured) during the unrest.

The only foreign death reported then was that of a Japanese journalist near one of the protests in Bangkok and most if not all of the trouble was centred around certain flashpoints within Bangkok, Phan Fah and Ratchaprasong areas in particular.

So today, the Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok are operating “normally”, according to Australian government advice.

Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Pongsak Kanittanon says as long as travellers heed curfew times and directions from the authorities, their safety should not be in question, as in 2010.
“People should be back in their hotel by 10pm, but you are exempt if you are travelling to the airports for a late flight,” he said “Remember to have your passport and ticket on you.”

“As long as people are careful, the action will not affect many areas, especially the main tourist resorts.”

What to do/what not to do during a coup:

1. Monitor local and international media for information on safety and security risks.

2. Heed the 10pm and 5am curfew, but authorities say this does not apply if travelling to or from an airport – have your passports and tickets on you.

3. Follow instructions from local authorities and avoid demonstrations, protests, political events and large gatherings

4. Do not travel to the areas Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla (see SmartTraveller).

5. Regularly check Australian government advice – see Smart Traveller.