Saturday, 20 February 2010

Bangkok Today

If we listened to travel advisories, we'd never leave the front door of our homes ...

I can't stand politics, and usually steer well clear of the subject, but I've just watched online an ABC Lateline news report in which once again the the media fans the flames of impending doom and gloom for Thailand, especially Bangkok. And, in the background, file footage of what looks like the last Red Shirt rally, creating an unbalanced picture of the real scenario in Bangkok today.

Fact: yes, 26 February is looming as 'the day' when the court hands down a verdict on the status of the $2 billion assets of the fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra (whose supporters are known as the Red Shirts).

Fact: the Red Shirt/ Yellow Shirt issue is here to stay for quite some time.

Fact: it's a domestic political issue that has nothing to do with expat 'farangs' like myself and tourists.

Fact: Thailand has had more coups than most people have had hot dinners.

Fact: The Thai people are resilient to all of this, and so should we -- as guests of their country -- be.

Fact: life goes on.

If you examine the wording of Khun Pornthip Hirunkape, secretary of the Tourism Council of Thailand, who was wheeled out as the prime spokesperson parading the view that Australians should give Bangkok a miss, her wording was actually very soft: 'we just suggest that if they are coming on the 26th, they delay their trip to Bangkok.' She goes on to advise Australians 'to go to other beaches instead of the city' and the report finished by saying 'those who can't avoid Bangkok next week should at least stay clear of the city centre.'

This is far from the sensationalist 'Australians should avoid going to Bangkok in the coming weeks' spin that the Lateline presenter put on it.

I was in Bangkok last week when the two attempted bombings happened. But I didn't hear one word about it from anyone in or around my hotel or the city for that matter, and only read about it in the papers the next day. Bangkok is a BIG place (population 10,000,000) and there were no casualties from either of those attempts.

I have many local and expat friends living in Bangkok. Not one of them has said they will leave town just in case. Not one of them has even mooted the idea of missing work and staying at home on the 26th.

So here's a commonsense approach I suggest instead: if you're in Bangkok just give a wide berth to government installations where pre-emptive road blocks have been set up, parliament house, Silom Road, and supreme court judges' houses. You'll probably find it's business as usual around the rest of the city.

Alternatively, if you're not familiar with Thai politics and all this still concerns you, fly into one of Thailand's many other international airports, including Phuket, Samui and Chiang Mai (wow, what a wonderful choice of exotic destinations right there).

As for me? I will be flying to Bangkok this Monday before flying home to Chiang Mai (headquarters of the Red Shirts) on Thursday.

Life in Amazing Thailand, just as it has for millennia, goes on ... despite the political circus.

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