Embassies in Bangkok are closing and expats and tourists are being advised to avoid the city’s central area amid concerns at escalating violence between troops and red shirt anti-government protestors.
The British, US and Dutch embassies closed today (Friday May 14) as the Thai government extended the state of emergency in the capital to a further 15 provinces. Anti-government, red-shirted protesters have been occupying parts of Bangkok since March and are now surrounded by about 10,000 troops.
The UK Foreign Office said the demonstrations were close to the embassy and they did not want to put people in danger. It advises against all but essential travel to Bangkok and other areas and advises British nationals requiring consular advice to contact the embassy via its hotline — 02 305 83 33.
The Foreign Office website has more detailed advice and lists the areas that should be avoided. It says people should avoid the central Ratchaprasong area in Bangkok where the protesters have set up camp, and stay indoors if they live there.
‘Foreign nationals should carry their passport or some form of ID and evidence to show where they reside to gain access if they are stopped,’ it says.
‘We advise against all travel to specific parts of Thailand. We advise against all but essential travel to other specific parts of Thailand, including Bangkok. You should exercise caution, especially in the northern provinces and the eastern city of Pattaya. The political situation is unpredictable and throughout Thailand there is a continued risk that protests may result in violent disturbances. Travellers are advised to avoid political demonstrations and large gatherings,’ the website says.
It also advises against all travel to the Preah Vihear temple area, and all but essential travel to, or through, the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, due to the insurgency in these areas. ‘In recent weeks, protests and violent incidents have taken place in other parts of Thailand including popular tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ayuthaya and other locations There is a high threat of terrorism in Thailand. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign traveller,’ it adds.
The US has also closed its embassy in Bangkok. Philip Crowley, a spokesperson for the US State Department said the embassy will be operating with a reduced staff and will not offer American citizens services until the conflict is resolved.
The protesters want Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections. The red shirt barricade stretches from the city’s shopping district south to its business hub.
There were fresh clashes on Thursday as soldiers tried to seal off the protesters’ camp. The violence came after a deadline for the protesters to disperse expired.