Demonstrations continue peacefully, key tourist destinations largely unaffected
The demonstrations led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) in Bangkok (Thailand) on 15 March 2010 continued largely peacefully, despite the passing of the deadline of its ultimatum demanding the Government to dissolve the House of Representatives by noon. One isolated incident which occurred in the early afternoon was the shooting of M 79 grenades into a military regiment. The demonstrators have denied their involvement, and the incident is being investigated.
Earlier in the morning, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced at a press conference that the Government could not agree to the protesters' demands, as contrary to what the protest leaders had claimed, the present Government came to office through constitutional means, and that the dissolution of the House could take place under the democratic system but it must have valid reasons and help resolve the situation. Be that as it may, the Government stands ready to listen to the views of the demonstrators as well as those of the general public in order to address the present political situation. He also reassured the public that the Government would not use violence against the protesters and that the Government would do its best to return the situation back to normalcy as soon as possible without causing any losses.
The anti-government demonstrations, which began on 12 March 2010, have been largely concentrated along Radjadamnern Avenue in Bangkok. This has not affected popular tourist destinations, particularly those outside of Bangkok, nor the safety of foreign tourists visiting Thailand as foreigners have never been targeted in the on-going political conflict. Meanwhile, the country's transportation system operates as usual. The Government has made it clear that while the constitutional right to peaceful assembly will be respected, the authorities would take action, in accordance with international standards, should the demonstrators attempt to blockade government buildings or key locations, including airports. The Government considers the well-being of the public, including the foreign visitors, as a matter of utmost importance and will continue to step up measures, as necessary, to ensure their safety.
Meanwhile, a line of communication has been established between the Government and the demonstrators to avoid any misunderstanding or confrontation which could cause the situation to escalate. The Government has also continued to disseminate information to the public, including through a newly launched website www.capothai.org to keep them informed of the situation.
For tourists visiting the Kingdom, they are advised to be vigilant, particularly in areas where protesters may gather. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has a 24-hour English language hotline at 1672, from which tourists may inquire for further information. The tourist police can also be reached at 1155.
In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand has a 24-hour operation centre, which can provide foreigners with further information at +662-575-1023, +662-981-7225, +66-88-022-1540 or +66-88-022-1541.
(Updated by Songchai Chaipatiyut on 16 March 2010 at 08.30 am Austrian time)