Governments warn travellers to avoid Bangkok

14th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

As Thai troops fired warning shots and tear gas in clashes with petrol bomb-hurling protesters in Bangkok, leaving 70 injured, foreign ministries across the world issued travel warnings to their citizens.

Governments around the world urged their citizens to stay away from the protest-hit Thai capital Bangkok, and in some cases the whole of Thailand, unless absolutely necessary.

As Thai troops fired warning shots and tear gas in clashes with petrol bomb-hurling protesters in Bangkok, leaving 70 injured, foreign ministries across the world issued travel warnings to their citizens.

So far however, there have been no reports of tourists being hurt.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday issued a state of emergency in the capital, after a similar measure was imposed the day before in the popular resort city of Pattaya, 150 kilometres (90 miles) away.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith urged his country's nationals to reconsider any travel plans, as the situation in the "Land of Smiles" deteriorated.

"Those Australians who are in Bangkok, we urge them to stay within their homes or their hotels, to certainly avoid demonstrations and to certainly avoid large gatherings of people," Smith added.

Smith's warning echoed an official travel advisory issued Monday, the fourth time in three days that the Australian government's advice on Thailand has been revised in the face of a rapidly evolving crisis.

Japan's foreign ministry warned travellers to be on high alert and to avoid government buildings and street rallies.

It also advised against wearing red or yellow T-shirts, so as to avoid being mistaken for either anti- or pro-government protesters.

A particular feature of the unrest in the past year has been the strong allegiance to colours, with the current anti-government demonstrators wearing red, while last year their opponents adopted yellow as their signature colour.

The Philippines, Malaysia and South Korea on Monday also told travellers to stay away from Bangkok or exercise extreme caution there.

Hong Kong stepped up its travel advisory strongly urging against travel there.

Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council estimated there were around 8,000 visitors from Hong Kong currently in Thailand, many who had jetted there over the long Easter weekend holiday.

After an Asian summit in Pattaya was cancelled because of the protests Saturday, Moscow quickly issued a warning.

"Russia's foreign ministry recommends that Russian tourists refrain from visiting Bangkok as long as protests continue, and those who stay in the town of Pattaya not to leave their hotels if possible," a ministry statement said.

Bangkok has become increasingly popular with Russians in recent years.

Britain meanwhile also urged its citizens to steer clear of the capital.

"In view of the deteriorating security situation, anyone considering going to Bangkok should urgently review their plans," said a statement from the foreign office.

"British residents in, and visitors to, Bangkok are advised to avoid any areas where demonstrations are taking place and to stay indoors as far as possible."

It was a similar message from several other European governments.

Describing the situation in the country as "very unstable", Spain's foreign ministry advised against travel to Bangkok, or even using the airport as a transit point to other destinations.

Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all advised against non-essential voyages to Bangkok and urged anyone already there to avoid the protests.

Portugal advised anyone wanting to travel to Thailand to contact the consular authorities first.

AFP/Expatica

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