Is Thailand safe to visit after the military coup on May 22 2014? Currently the short answer is yes, provided you think ahead and exercise caution
What does the military coup in Thailand mean for tourists? At the moment, it’s essentially an inconvenience. There are no violent protests, airport closures or flight cancellations – the country is pretty much running the same as normal. So much so that a recent Associated Press story was headlined From beaches to Bangkok, tourists ask ‘What coup?‘. Similarly, a Sydney Morning Herald story on 28 May was titled ‘Nothing’s Changed’: Tourists lapping it up at Moon parties, Bangkok attractions despite Thai curfew. Tourist numbers have dropped by 20% apparently, but there are still thousands of visitors coming to Thailand.
That said, there are two important consequences about the coup for tourists:
1) There is a curfew in place across Thailand from 12 midnight until 4 am.
UPDATE: As of June 14 2014, there is NO CURFEW in Thailand. It has been lifted everywhere in the country, including Bangkok and Chiang Mai. See this Curfew Lifted Everywhere story in the Bangkok Post
2) The fact that Thailand is now ruled by a military junta means you need to be very careful about what travel insurance you have. Many insurers’ policies are not valid if a coup has occurred. World Nomads provides a good explanation of what you are covered for (and their own travel insurance is valid during the coup for any non-coup related issues).
Other than that, everything is running pretty much the same. Flights in and out of Bangkok continue to run as normal. Both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muaeng airports are operating as normal. The curfew does not apply to traffic going to and from the airports. If you arrive at the airport after 12 midnight there are still plenty of taxis to take you to your hotel. At most you may be required to show your passport and tickets at a military checkpoint, but this seems to be a rare occurrence.
There have been some fairly small, peaceful protests at Victory Monument and MBK in Bangkok, which have started and finished within a couple of hours. It is fairly simple and always advisable to avoid being in a protest area.
Outside Of Bangkok
In Bangkok and Chiang Mai soldiers are visibly present in some areas, but it’s a very low key presence. On popular islands like Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Tao there is no military presence and the curfew is not rigidly enforced. Friends living on Koh Tao and Phuket tell me it’s basically business as usual.
So at the moment, while it is a bit weird to be living under a curfew and military rule, the reality is it’s not anywhere near as as scary as it sounds.
What Happens Next?
If, in the future, there are protests or demonstrations, the biggest problem for tourists is likely to be inconvenience – e.g. stuck in a traffic jam. There is very little risk to your personal safety if you exercise caution. Of course, it goes without saying that tourists should always avoid any protest situation in order to stay safe.
However, bear in mind the situation in Thailand is fluid – if you decide to visit I’d strongly recommend you check daily on the situation via Google News, Bangkok Post and also follow @richardbarrow on Twitter. Travelfish is also doing regular updates on the situation. Don’t forget that access to BBC and CNN TV news is currently blocked in Thailand, so referring to Twitter is the easiest way to stay up to date. (The BBC and CNN websites are still accessible however).
Today (28 May) access to Facebook and Instagram in Thailand were temporarily blocked for about 30 minutes. This was blamed on a “technical glitch” by the authorities but it’s possible it may happen again.
When Will The Coup Be Over?
As to how long the military junta will be in power before holding democratic elections again – no one is sure. The last military government after the 2006 coup in Thailand was in power for over a year, so it’s a fair bet to say that Thailand will probably be under military rule well into 2015. No doubt the curfew will be lifted within the next few weeks and life will basically go on as normal. What happens next in terms of Thailand’s politics is anyone’s guess.