South East Asia 16th June 2019

Thailand

Thailand remains politically stabel due to the fact that its under military governship. On a simplistic level the country is split between those who support the Shinawatra dynasty - the 'Red shirts', who are in the majority, rural based and in the north and those in the more traditional elements of society; military, judiciary, supporters of the Royal Family. This second group is broadly known as the 'Yellow Shirts' and whose power base is Bangkok. On 20 May 2014 the Army declared Martial law, followed by a full army take over on 22 May 2014.  The military has kept delaying elections but after months of delay the elections were held on 24 March 2019 but results may not be finally confirmed until May 2019.  Expect increased political tension and some political raliies after a year or so of inactivity.   The current military government is certainly more authoritarian, please check the FCO web site for latest information. 

Objective continues to be concerned over the continued threat of a terrorist attack against tourists in Thailand, a number of incidents have occurred, 4 local people were killed & 12 foreigners were wounded, in bomb attacks in Phuket and Hua Hin on 12 August 2016 & further attacks are expected.  Whilst to date Islamist attacks have been generally confined to the southern provinces, intelligence assessments are warning of the threat of further attacks against the major cities and popular beach resorts. Objective would urge travellers to avoid very popular nightclubs and restaurants in the most popular beach resorts.  The threat of terrorism by seperatists will remain in the 3 southern states, approx 60,000 Thai troops are deployed in this area and whilst attacks are directed against security forces tourist should adhere to FCO advice and avoid the area. A bomb in Bangkok on 17 Aug 2015 killed 20 people, no claim of responsibility has been made, initial suggesting is it maybe politically motivated and not by Islamist insurgents.

Be aware that the Monarchy is held in very high regard and open criticism is likely to result in a prison sentence. On 13 Oct 2016 King Bhumibol died. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed the new king on 01 Dec 2016 and is due to be crowned in early May 2019.  Away from security, we strongly advised travellers not to have tattoos done in Thailand or elsewhere in SE Asia following numerous stories of people contracting HIV and other blood related diseases/infections. Whilst Thailand has its problems most visits are trouble free but visitors should stay alert and speak to the locals for advice. Most people have trouble free time but be aware of petty scams and theft in areas where there is a high concentration of tourists.

Cambodia

For those going to Cambodia its recommended to have some knowledge of the genocide conducted by the Khmer Rouge in the period 1978-82. Approximately 25% of the population were killed. Do watch the film 'The Killlng Fields' or read 'First they killed my father'. In early March 2018, the government introduced new Lese Majeste laws making it a criminal offence to criticise the King & possibly the Government. So take care. 

Laos

Within Laos there have been an number of incidents of local and tourist being attacked and robbed in the Vang Vieng area. In the past Vang Vieng was very popular with gap year travellers, less so now, the government has responded by increasing police presence, expect to see some police checkpoints. On 24 March 2016 some Chinese visitors were wounded in an attack on a bus.

Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar (Burma) has really opened up to both business and tourism although many areas are still off limits (due to regional conflicts). Aung San Suu Kyri NLD party won November's election and the country first democratically elected government was sworn in at the end of March 2016. The standard of food hygiene is poor.  For many years the country has been plagued by regional conflicts. Currently there is severe unrest in the Rakhine province where there are clashed between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist. The violence spiked at the end of August 2017, thousands of Rokhingya have fled to Bangladesh.  However its a highly rewarding country to visit, the central area is safe and Objective highly recommend visits to Myanmar but research is essential to understand the local issues. Burma is our favourite country in SE Asia, although internationally action is building against Burma's military leaders. Travelling around is getting easier, there are now ATMs, most places accept credit cards, the best exchange rate for cash is using prestine $100 notes. 

China

Most visit to China are trouble free however both business and leisure travellers need to be aware of the high level of pollution in many cities, especially between January and March and also be aware that most of China is an active earthquake zone.  Few people in China outside the major cities speak English so be prepared. The Chinese government does not take kindly to criticism and data security is certaily an issue in China - business travellers should consider their cyber vulnerability.  

Indonesia

Indonesia remains a popular destination both for business and pleasure. There is a threat form terrorism and in the past there have been significant attacks in Jakarta and on the island of Bali. The threat level tends to rise over the Christmas period when a lot of tourists flock to the tourist areas. The eruption of Mount Agung on Bali in November 2017 has resulted in thousand of locals being evacuated and it has caused many flights to be cancelled. The situation has now stabilised and the exclusion zone has been reduced but the situation needs to be monitored. In late August 2018 and late September earthquakes on Lombok and a tsuanami on Sulawesi killed hundreds of people.  

In mid to late 2018, both Vietnam and Myanmar experienced a significant increase in cases of Dengue Fever and the risk will continue into 2019.
 

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