Thailand remains politically stable due to the fact that it's 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. The election, was not viewed as being bias in favour of the military elite, was won by the party with close ties to the militray and the leader of the military coup Pray Chan Ochan, has been elected as Prime Minister. The current military government is certainly more authoritarian, please check the FCO web site for latest information. In August 2020 and throughout the autumn there have been a series of pro democracy marches, led mainly by students, demanding political change and even challenging the role of the monarchy.
Objective continues to be concerned over the continued threat of a terrorist attack against tourists in Thailand, a number of incidents have occurred, four 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 three 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 October 2016 King Bhumibol died. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed the new king on 1 December 2016 and was crowned in early May 2019.
Away from security, we strongly advise travellers not to have tattoos done in Thailand or elsewhere in South East 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. Nineteen cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed and if that number increases travel restrictins are likely to come into place.
For those going to Cambodia it's 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' by Loung Ung.
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.
Within Laos there have been an number of incidents of locals and tourists being attacked and robbed in the Vang Vieng area. In the past Vang Vieng was very popular with gap year travellers and those backpacking, 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 but since then the area has become much safer.
A military coup was launched on 1 February 2021 and civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyri have been detained. The military's associated political party polled poorly in the November election in which the NLD party won an overwhelming majority. The military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, has claimed voter fraud as justification for its move. The military have stated its military rule will last 1 year but this is unlikely to be the case. 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, it's a highly rewarding country to visit and its possible that travel may be safe again once the Covid restrictions have been lifted. Burma was our favourite country in South East Asia, travelling around was getting easier, there are now ATMs, most places accept credit cards, the best exchange rate for cash is using prestine $100 notes. The FCDO is currently advising against all travel to Myanmar. Protests against the militray rule are escalating by the day. By 28 Feb protests were becoing mre frequent and the police and army more violent in thier response.
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 remains a popular destination both for business and pleasure. There is a threat from 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 August 2019 a Dengue Fever epidemic was called by health officials after over 146,000 cases and over 100 deaths. The SE Asian games are being held in the Philippines in early December 2019
26 Sep, 2021
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