Anti-government rallies are being planned by the red shirts in Bangkok from 12th-14th March 2010. They are hoping for a million protesters though the final figure is expected to be less than half that. However, it is still a sizeable protest and precautions should be made by both residents and tourists. Normally, when we get questions posted on our Paknam Web Forums asking “Is it safe to visit Thailand?” I usually answer “Yes, Thailand is mainly a peaceful nation.” Nothing has really changed about that, but after the violent crackdown last April in Bangkok and the rumours coming out of government offices, I think we should all be very cautious this time round.
Security reports are suggesting several major bomb explosions being planned for Bangkok this weekend. Key government members are now driving around in bullet proof vehicles and this weekend they will be hiding out in safe houses. As they are also starting to evacuate certain areas of Bangkok then I think we should follow their example. I strongly urge you not to travel to Bangkok this weekend unless your journey is absolutely necessary. That may sound a bit dramatic, but why run the risk of getting caught up in the protests or a bomb explosion? I am not so much worried about the red shirts but the unseen elements that are intent to stir up trouble.
The Thai government have approved the use of the draconian Internal Security Act B.E. 2551 (2008) in the areas of Bangkok and certain districts of seven nearby provinces from 11 to 23 March 2010. These include all of Bangkok and Nonthaburi Province; Thanyaburi, Sam Kok, Lam Luk Ka, Khlong Luang, Lad Lumkaew and Muang Districts in Pathumthani Province; Kra Tum Ban and Muang Districts in Samut Sakon Province; Bang Phli, Bang Sao Thong, Bang Boh, Phra Pradang and Muang Districts in Samut Prakan Province; Phutthamonthon, Sam Phran and Nakhon Chai Si Districts in Nakhon Pathom Province; Muang District in Chachoengsao Province; and Bang Pa-in, Bang Sai, Lat Bua Luang and Wang Noi Districts in Ayutthaya Province. This law restricts movement and actions of people in the affected areas.
Foreigners have never been targeted in any of the political rallies in the past. However, it would be wise if you make an effort to be aware of the main protest sites and to leave an area immediately if it is occupied by protesters. Tourists should be careful of any abandoned bags that could contain bombs. Litter bins and telephone booths have been targeted in the past. The Tourist Police are advising foreign tourists to avoid the following areas:
- Ratchadamnoen Avenue (Royal Avenue)
- Vibhavadi Rangsit Road
- Rama 9 Road
- Samsen Road
- Victory Monument
- Rama IV
- Silom Road
- Ratchadamri Road
In addition, police reports suggest that the red shirts might have rally points in the following areas around Bangkok. They are suggestiong that tourists avoid these areas too:
- Klong 4 in Thanyaburi district in Pathum Thani
- Klong 4 Rangsit in Pathum Thani
- Laksi democracy monument in Bangkhen
- Thung Song Hong police station
- Nonthaburi City Hall
- Tha Phra Chan Pier
- Thailand-Japanese Sports Complex in Din Daeng
- Lumphini Park
- Wongwien Yai, Thonburi
- Bang Na intersection
- Samut Prakan City Hall
If you are in Bangkok this weekend then it is important that you keep up with the latest developments. We will be posting updates on our Paknam Web Forums. You can also visit our Google Map of Danger Zones in Bangkok which we will update over the weekend as events unfold. According to the latest rumours, people should now rush out to fill up with petrol, empty their bank accounts and stock up with food. Sometimes it is difficult to know what exactly is rumour, but we have heard petrol stations in Bangkok will close, red shirts will glue up all ATM machines and there will be a food shortage. There are also rumours of a coup. Obviously you cannot believe everything you hear. Even from government sources. But, please be safe this weekend. Either stay at home or go away for the weekend.