IMPORTANT SAFETY AND SECURITY ADVICE - TRAVEL TO THAILAND MAY 2010
You will no doubt be aware of the news from Thailand of Political Unrest, Riots in Bangkok, and a Government led Military Crack Down - Well just a whole lot of bad news.
This page gives some advice on things you should consider and steps you should take if you are planning a holiday to Thailand while these troubles continue.
Something to Understand
The root cause of the current political unrest in Thailand is not a fight for Democracy - Thailand already is a Democracy. It is a fight between factions within Thailand's political elite for power and vast amounts of money. Very real grievances have been played on to raise support and inevitably emotions.
There are essentially two sides to the conflict, both sides have called on the age-old battle cry of 'Them and US' to mobilize support. Emotions within and between the two camps are extremely high - as witnessed by the violence on both sides. Foreigners need to understand there is a nasty streak of nationalism on both sides of the battle lines.
There are foreigners involved in both camps, and while that is their personal choice they nevertheless stand out like a sore thumb.
My personal concern is that the salve for "Them and Us" has throughout history far too often been to point at 'The Other".
I'll address some of the ways to avoid getting embroiled in this later down this page.
Your First Point of Call
My first piece of advice is that you visit your own Government's Travel Advice website for their upto date assessment. I've put links to some of these below, but obviously not all.
There is an important point here - The advice your government gives may impact on the validity of your Travel Insurance. I'll add more on that later.
British Government Travel Advice - Thailand
I suggest that you visit your respective Government Advice Page frequently before and during your visit to Thailand. It's also worth visiting other Government Travel Advice pages just to broaden your view - But remember, it is your own Government's advisory that will impact your insurance and provide information specific to you and your family.
Government Travel Advisories and Insurance Cover
The advice given by your Government may impact your insurance cover. Typically if your Government advises against Travel to a Country, City or Province your insurance will be invalid for travel to that 'Country, City or Province'.
There is an important distinction here: Your Government might advise against travel to Bangkok but not against travel to Phuket. Your insurance might therefore be invalid of Bangkok but valid for Phuket.
Don't cancel your holiday and loose a lot of money before you have checked the validity of your insurance with your insurance provider.
Tip: Email your insurance provider and get them to confirm where you are and are not covered on your insurance. Use email so that you have the confirmation in writing. Ask your insurers to provide a statement of cover and cover restrictions in the policy.
Having Trouble Getting Insurance:
I've had a few emails from people who are reporting having trouble getting insurance - The difficulty hangs on this issue of Government Health Advisories and Cover.
WORLDNOMADS deserve recognition for putting important information (including information on their Insurance Cover Validity) on their webiste.
For now my advice is talk to the insurance companies directly - Brokers often do not make the effort dot the I's and cross the T's and will therefore come back with a blanket 'Not Available".
STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE
Remember what I said about emotions on this issue - There is a great deal of resentment, there is no middle ground, and the resolution to the "Us and Them" conflict might very well be to pick on 'The Other" - Don't set yourself up for 'The Other"
Rule No. 1 - Follow your own Government's Travel Advice - Stay away from the trouble spots.
Rule No. 2 - Do not get involved in political discussion regarding the troubles - Don't discuss this openly amongst yourselves where you can be overheard by others, DO NOT Discusss the troubles with Thai people.
A real risk is discussing the political situation in taxis or limos/mini busses- Your driver will almost certainly be on the Red side of the line - but of course may not be.
Advice if you feel you are being invited to comment
If you feel you are being invited to comment or being drawn into a discussion on the poliical problems - Do what ever you need to do to avoid the conversation, play dumb, play the 'I don't understand card' - Play the 'I hate politics card'.
DO NOT BE FOOLED BY 'I'M GETTING THIS FIRST HAND' - You know the one, spoken in a low voice so that others don't over hear what you and only you are being told.
STAY OUT OF THE AREAS
STAY OFF THE SUBJECT
It's not all bad news
In the last two months we have travelled to - Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Uttaradit, Phrae, Nan, Pattaya and Kh Samet. - We have seen zero trouble.
We've had similar feedback from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Kho Tao.
Outside of the areas where your Government is warning you not to go, there is no indication of any trouble - Life in the rest of Thailand is going on as normal.
Some Final Advice
Visit the "Safety" and 'If Things Go Wrong' pages and remember, you are someone's child, your children are someone's grandchildren - Your own parents will have a set of legitimate concerns - Take a look at 'If Things Go Wrong' page for ideas of how to get them on board with your trip and involved in your planning for problems.