Deepening Thai troubles scar country

April 28th, 2010 in Asian travel by Terry Lee 0
Thailand's renowned for idyllic beaches like Railay, Krabi

This is a guest post by my husband Terry, for whom Thailand has become a much-loved destination.

As I write this post I’m feeling pretty sad. One of the countries I love most in the world is in a deepening political crisis that threatens it’s ruination. Thailand’s political situation has been worsening – last year pro-government protesters (yellow shirts) blockaded Bangkok’s airport, halting flights for days. Now it’s anti-government protesters (red shirts) that are shouting loudest and the ensuing civil unrest has resulted in a number of countries warning against all non-essential travel to Thailand.

For me this is a very sad day. Thailand is one of my favourite countries – one of the most beautiful places on earth, with kind, generally calm and placid people to match. Thai’s regularly speak in little more than a whisper as they fear raising their voice, in this largely Buddhist society, may cause offence. The country’s culture is as appetising as it’s amazing food and I’ve had many, many good times there. It’s a country Sarah and I love so much we were even married there. So this latest unrest is for me deeply disturbing.

In recent weeks I’ve been rather confused by the tourists holed up at Bangkok’s Suvarnambhumi airport complaining about the problems as they try to flee the capital and head home. I’ve wondered why they don’t head for one of the country’s other incredible destinations, which have been free from demonstrations and the ensuing violence. Places like the fascinating Chiang Mai far in the north, Kanchanaburi famed for the River Kwai,  or one of the idyllic beaches and islands such as Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi and Krabi’s Railey that have propelled Thailand onto that list of ‘dream destinations’.

I had intended this post to encourage people to get out of the capital to what seemed to be safer parts of the country, but the latest warning from the Foreign Office has put paid to that. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is dismayed at the Foreign Office’s blanket warning saying it goes too far. There are of course arguments to support this – Foreign Office warnings can sometimes seem a little heavy-handed or far-reaching.

But the fact is with that now the warning is in place travel insurance policies can become invalidated – so it’s just not worth the risk.

This is yet another tragedy for a country that is being torn apart by politics. It’s a tragedy for travellers who will miss out on one of the greatest treasures the world has to offer, a tragedy for Thailand’s international standing and a tragedy for the millions of Thais who rely so heavily on the tourist economy.

Whether you’re a red shirt or yellow shirt you can be sure of one thing – the country’s political problems are having a huge impact on tourism – one of Thailand’s principal industries. I just hope the country has democratic elections, sooner rather than later, as this appears to be the only way to resolve the current tensions.