UPDATE: for the latest information about the May 2014 military coup in Thailand, please see Is Thailand Safe After The Military Coup?
Thailand’s Election on July 3rd 2011 could mean unrest in Bangkok once again. Travellers should be aware of possible disruption but not be put off about coming to Thailand.
With Thailand’s General Election on July 3rd to choose a new government, there has been heavy speculation that there will be disruption and trouble on the streets of Bangkok before, during or after Election Day. The likely outcome of the Election is a victory for the Pheu Thai Party, which is led by exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra. Thaksin was deposed by a military coup in November 2006, and if his sister comes to power it is feared the military will intervene again within Thailand’s electoral process. Even if the military stay out of the elections, there may be conflict again between the largely pro-Thaksin Red Shirts and the anti-Thaksin Yellow Shirts in the wake of the election. (For full, in-depth coverage of the political situation, google Thai Election at Google News for a wide spread of news stories and op-eds from different sources).
[Update 10th July: as expected, the Pheu Thai party won a decisive electoral victory on July 3rd that was deemed free and fair by international observers. At the moment the opposition parties and the Thai Army are abiding by the result and not contesting it. As such, there have been no protests and life currently continues as normal in Bangkok and throughout Thailand].
What does this mean for travellers to Thailand in July 2011? First, it’s important to emphasise that there has been very little trouble in Thailand in the run up to the election. Even if trouble breaks out after the election, it will probably be confined to Bangkok – the rest of the country will be unaffected. So if you want to go to the islands, (Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan etc) or Chiang Mai or anywhere else in Thailand outside Bangkok you won’t notice any difference at all. Therefore, travellers need to be aware that there’s a potential for disruption but also balance that with the fact that any trouble in Thailand is quite avoidable and unlikely to affect tourists beyond some street demonstrations to circumnavigate in Bangkok. It’s very unlikely that Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport will get shut down again as it did back in November 2008. However, it’s important to realise no-one can really guarantee or predict what’s going to happen next, so you must be comfortable with a certain level of uncertainity and be able to change your plans if necessary. It’s certainly important to ensure you’ve got Thailand travel insurance to cover you for any disruptions or missed connections to your travel plans. Be advised that you are very likely NOT covered by insurance if you deliberately go to the scenes of street protests.
Hopefully this pre-emptive warning will prove unnecessary and all parties involved will respect Thailand’s electoral process and keep any protests completely peaceful. The best way to keep up to date with what’s going on is through Twitter.com – in particular, I recommend following @richardbarrow as he provides comprehensive links to numerous news sources. There is also the Thailand Breaking News page here on Travelhappy which shows constantly updated tweets from several news sources about Thailand.