A new bomb explosion in the southern Thailand province of Narathiwat yesterday and more bombings expected over the New Year holiday has tourists asking is Thailand safe to travel to over New Year? With 2010 in Thailand seeing violent anti-government protests with more than 90 people killed, and more protests also expected in 2011, should tourists travel to Thailand for vacation or go somewhere else instead. Is Thailand safe?
As a long-term western resident of Thailand, I believe it’s one of the safest countries in the world. Thais are remarkably relaxed and friendly people, who love to welcome visitors to their country no matter where they come from. That Thailand now is getting a reputation as a dangerous place, usually due to news media only showing negative events, and often making them look much worse than they are is, is a shame.
New bombings in Narathiwat are also feeding into the news media hysteria about ‘danger’ in Thailand. If the truth be known, these types of bombings in southern Thailand in provinces like Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani have been ongoing for decades, with an increase in violence for at least the last 10 years. The violence and bombings are as a result of extremist Muslim separatists who want the southern most part of Thailand to become an independent state, although 87% of the population want it to remain as part of Thailand.
Bombings and executions increased in the southern part of Thailand after Prime Minister Thaksin was illegally ousted by a military junta. Thaksin had been about to crack down on the south but, after his ousting and subsequent exile, the military junta refused to follow through on his policies and deaths in the area almost doubled.
Now, current prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems to have little clue how to handle the insurgency, with the violence getting worse not better since he took office. This violence never escalates to the rest of Thailand though.
As far as tourists visiting Thailand goes and safety issues, the three southern provinces affected by the violence are not usually visited by tourists as they are warned to stay away. The rest of Thailand is safe, and you’re as likely to be attacked, shot or be the victim of a bombing in Thailand as you are of a gang shooting in the middle of Beverly Hills. That would be…. highly unlikely.
For those who are still worried about visiting Thailand over New Year’s, and any potential dangers, a small warning – Bangkok did have several small bombings on New Year’s Eve in 2006 with several Thais killed. The culprits were never found but suspicion fell on the military junta government, who could possibly have been trying to implicate anti-government groups (for all its ‘development’, Thailand is still a third-world country in much of its mentality and most Thai governments don’t always think things through before acting. I would not put it past them to think a bombing would turn public sentiment against anti-government groups, and many of my Thai friends agree).
With this in mind, if you are still worried about safety in Thailand over New Year’s, don’t be. The easiest thing to do to allay the fear is don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in Bangkok in extremely crowded and popular places, as they would likely be targets if, in the unlikely event, other bombings were to occur.
Stay in your hotel, have a nice dinner at a local restaurant, or go to a nightclub or a bar for some fun. There are hundreds of thousands of places you can celebrate New Year in Bangkok alone, and millions outside the capital city, so ignore any fears about safety and come to Thailand to have fun over New Year. I intend to.