Martial Law and Military Coups in Thailand – Will it affect tourists?

Will Thailand's Military Coups & Martial Law affect tourists or our TruTravels Tours?

Two nights ago I received a very worried message from my old dear regarding ‘all this trouble in Thailand’, she went on to explain that martial law has been put in place and they’ve imposed a curfew of 10pm and the protestors were kicking off again and it’s not safe to walk in streets AND everybody wants to cancel their holidays because there has been a military coups in Thailand……this message went on for quite some time. The irony of it all was that I received at the message whilst I was walking down the street, at 12:30am surrounded people smiling and drinking quite happily and I wasn’t quite sure why my mum had sounded so worried until I got home and read the news online…

Now, ‘Martial Law’ always tends to put images in my head of the Wild West and shootouts at dawn and the term ‘Military coup’, ones of army’s ransacking towns and cities in an attempt to take control of a country by force. What I was seeing for myself was nothing like either of these scenes and what I found the funniest was that people back in the UK knew about it all before I did and I was in Thailand!

In recent years Thailand has seen much political unrest with coups, demonstrations and states of Martial Law imposed. For the past 5 months at least there have been ongoing protests which I have walked past and seen nothing but smiling faces, Thai flags, people blowing whistles and playing some really nice music….in fact I even stopped to listen and didn’t feel in danger at any point. We have been in Thailand ourselves for much of the current demonstrations and those a few years back when the media was making it look like a war zone and foreign offices were advising people not to travel to Thailand and none of us have ever seen a shot fired or bottle or fist thrown other than on the news and neither have the vast majority of tourists to Thailand. We are not saying it hasn’t happened on very rare occasion, what we are saying is that we have only ever seen groups of demonstrators peacefully sitting around trying to make their point in a non violent way and if you come then this almost certainly all you will see of any of the unrest.

The fact is that as with the demonstrations over the past months and most similar ones around the world, the media likes to sensationalise things in the news and make it look much worse than it is, I was watching the news yesterday and saw nothing but images of mounted guns, none of them being shot, no clashes of people in the street, just footage of unmanned machine guns…..well of course this image to going to make people freak out as that’s now the picture they are going to see in their heads when they hear the word ‘Thailand’! This time round the army has actually taken control of the government in a completely non violent coup, and while some of the mainstream media is giving a more accurate picture this time around, others continue to sensationalise.

Regardless of the media coverage, the effect that these events are going to have on visitors to Thailand is very small and if you are joining us on a TruTravels tour we imagine they will be almost non existent… Any ongoing demonstrations are still confined to very small areas of Bangkok which most tourists do not go anywhere near, even so the demonstrations are nearly all peaceful. The state of martial law, and military presence is just a precautionary measure and a way to try and control the demonstrations by imposing a curfew and giving the power to ban public gatherings. The terms ‘Martial Law’ & ‘Military Coup’ make it sound a lot worse than it is, and we very much doubt the demonstrators have any intention of clashing with the military.

A quick mention for all future TruTravels group members: the safety of you and our staff is our number one concern and we will not take you anywhere where you would be in any danger! Although we have no plans to cancel any groups at present, we are keeping a very close eye on the situation in Bangkok. It is only really Bangkok that has seen any effect of these events, the curfew has been put in place sporadically in other parts of Thailand but we do not expect it to last for very long. Nothing has put any tourists in danger and at the moment it is widely believed that the military action is actually likely to reduce the chance of any clashes between political protestors and therefore increase the safety of the public in and around the affected areas of Bangkok. You are still allowed to travel from the airport during curfew hours so you don’t have to worry about that, the only effect it may have on us is that we may need to alter the Bangkok itinerary slightly but this is very unlikely!

Our groups will not be in any danger as we will not be going near any known protest sites and that the chances of any members of the public either Thai or foreign getting caught up in any trouble away from these sites is slim to none. As mentioned above, I and several colleagues have been in Bangkok for large periods of time this year in the midst of demonstrations and media hype (and when the foreign office was advising against travel to Thailand earlier in the year) and neither us nor any group members have felt threatened at all.

All in all we don’t think you should worry too much if you are coming to Thailand soon, the foreign office still hasn’t advised against travel to Thailand even though they frequently do this during times of unrest even when there doesn’t seem to us to be too much of a threat to tourists (and certainly none to our group members). Tourism is one of Thailand’s biggest markets and they know how important it is to the economy. The Thai army/government would not jepordise this by putting tourists in danger in any way, this has been the case for many years and is backed up by the statistics. Despite many years of political unrest, tourism in Thailand is still at an all-time high and is breaking records year on year. This would simply not be the case if tourists felt endangered by these events, they would just go somewhere else…

For more information, we have included a link to an article by the Independent below as well as some quotes from the comments section of a BBC News article from both journalists and members of the public.

To sign off though, I personally am sitting here quite comfortably in Thailand with an ice cold mango shake whilst sitting by the beach and soaking up the sun and most people here in Thailand believe that every day life for most Thai’s and tourists alike will continue on as normal with many saying that Bangkok is probably safer now than it has been for ages as mass demonstrations are being controlled by the military presence and curfew. In fact, I might go and play some Frisbee in the ocean, I would ask the military to join in but I can’t see any here on Koh Phangan… So the question is, do YOU want to come and play some Frisbee in the crystal clear blue ocean or are you going to let what you see on the TV ruin the trip of a lifetime?

See you on the beach!

Further Viewing/Reading…

Thai coup: ‘Life going on as normal’

‘In most of Bangkok life is going on pretty much as normal…’ Simon Calder, BBC,

How will coup affect Thailand’s tourists?

‘Resort areas such as Chiang Mai, and the Gulf Islands (Samui, PHngan, Koh Tao) are relatively calm and life here is likely to continue as normal…’ BBC Travel expert Simon Calder, (article by Simon Calder for Independent).

‘We’ve seen all this before, neither tourists nor expats feel unsafe at times like this and we are all fairly sure that things will continue on as before as they always do’. Comment on BBC News website from en expat in Thailand