Bangkok bombings: Is it safe to travel to Thailand?

THE smoke is only just clearing after the explosions in Bangkok Tuesday in which five people were injured, but no doubt travelers will already be revising or rethinking their plans about travel to the Thai capital.

For full details of what happened see Bangkok Pundit’s appraisal on Asian Correspondent.

We hope this article might give you a bit more information so you can determine what your plans should be about visiting Bangkok.

Where did the bombings take place in relation to tourist spots?
The bombs were accidentally exploded on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok’s longest and busiest street.

The explosions wounded five people including a man that was carrying them. The first blast took place at No. 66  Soi Pridi Bhanomyong 31 (close to Pridi Bhanomyong 35) on Sukhumvit 71 in a house that three Iranian males and a female were renting. After the explosion two men left the house quickly, a third followed shortly afterwards and made his way down the soi towards Sukhumvit 71. He reportedly threw explosive devices at a taxi and police; the second rebounded off a tree and destroyed his legs.

Given the length of Sukhumvit Road, it’s worth noting that at 71 it’s more residential than in the upper part where there is a major tourist district and numerous hotels, eating places and nightlife. And for those that know the Khao San Road, it was perhaps at least 10km away. Thai Travel News has more detail about the street makeup here.

Three Iranian bomb suspects, identified by police from left, as Saeid Moradi, Mohummad Hazaei and Zedhaghat Zadech Masoud were caught on CCTV. Pic: AP.

What is the risk of future bombings?
Official sources seem to think that the proponents were not particularly sophisticated and had poorly made bombs. According to The New York Times the attack, and the ones in New Delhi and Tbilisi, do not suggest a typical mode of operation by Iranian or Hezbollah agents.

There is as yet reportedly no proof of a connection between events in Bangkok, New Delhi and Tbilisi but there are similar components in all the bombs and all targeted Israel diplomatic individuals. There is some concern of future anti-Israeli violence around the globe and security has been beefed up both in Israel, Bangkok and other trouble spots in Thailand.

What is the danger for tourists?
,It is believed that the bombs were intended to target individuals not crowds or buildings, and certainly no tourists. However the National Security Council chief Wichean Potephosree said Thailand could be considered a “weak link” for terrorism “because we are open to foreigners”.

According to the AP:

Thailand itself has rarely been a target for international terrorists, but its main airport is a major hub for Asian air travel and its government — heavily reliant on tourism — is known for tolerance but criticized for corruption and graft.

Official travel warnings
The U.S, Australia and the United Kingdom are amongst those that have revised their travel warnings about Thailand, although not necessarily raised the level of the advice.

The Australian site gives this information:

A number of explosions occurred on 14 February 2012 on Soi Pridiphanomyong, in the area of Sukhumvit Soi 71, Bangkok. Reports indicate that 5 people were injured, including an individual believed to be the perpetrator of the incident. Thai authorities are investigating. Australians should monitor the media for further developments and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Australians should be aware that there is a threat of terrorist attack in Thailand, including in Bangkok. We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets, including locations frequented by tourists and foreigners.

Thai authorities have on a number of occasions warned of the possibility of bombings in Thailand to coincide with symbolic dates or holidays, including in Bangkok and the southern provinces.

In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. These include places frequented by foreigners such as embassies, shopping malls, markets, banks, clubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreation events, beach resorts and tourist areas. Public buildings, public transport, airports and sea ports are also potential targets for attack.

The tourism sector is worried about tourism in Thailand as a result of these warnings. The Bangkok Post quoted Ittipan Khaolamai, head of the Ayutthaya tourism association’s public relations service:

“The government must quickly explain the situation to the foreign media because if the government is slow with its response, even for a day, it could be too late to get foreign tourists back here,” Mr Ittipan said.

From the Jakarta Post:

Sisdivachr Chewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said it had been receiving questions from trading partners and tourists concerned over the bomb blasts. However, they have not cancelled their trips to Thailand yet, but are waiting for the government’s investigation.

“We have been informed that Thailand is not placed on the risk country from tourists but Thai travel agents instead,” Sisdivachr said.

He said that if the government did not come out with clear information and security protection measures, it would affect Thailand’s tourism industry in the long run.

The private sector cannot assess the situation but has to monitor the progress closely day by day.

“The government should control the situation as fast as it can and should be careful when releasing details [so as not] to create panic that leads embassies here to issue warnings,” Sisdivachr said.

While the bombs no doubt undermine security in a city already tense from political unrest over the last few years, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has asked people “not to panic”. She also said the situation was under control.