Security Bureau raises Thailand travel warning to red 'significant threat' level
The Security Bureau raised the travel threat level in Bangkok on Monday afternoon to ‘red’, the second highest warning.
Travellers should consider changing their existing plans or to avoid all non-essential travel to Bangkok, the Security Bureau urged.
“Those already there should monitor the situation, attend to personal safety and avoid protests and large gatherings of people,” a government spokesman added.
The rest of Thailand, largely unaffected by demonstrations, remained on ‘amber’ alert.
It is the latest blow to Bangkok’s beleaguered tourist industry, as Hongkongers shun the Thai capital as it is no longer safe for tourists.
Last year, Hongkongers made more than 604,000 trips to Thailand.
Fresh warnings came as anti-government protestors clashed with police on the streets of Bangkok in a renewed attempt to seize Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s office, the Government House, and other key government buildings.
Emboldened by the vows of the opposition leader to topple Yingluck by Wednesday, demonstrators threw rocks at police and tore away sections of barbed wire and concrete barriers outside the prime minister’s heavily fortified office.
At least three people were killed and 103 injured in violent skirmishes over the weekend.
A change in the travel threat for Bangkok has prompted a flurry of large travel agents and tour operators to amend their cancellation policies.
The executive director of the Travel Industry Council Joseph Tung Yao-chung announced the cancellation of most travel tours to Bangkok starting from Tuesday to December 13.
Some 80 tours involving around 1,000 people who had planned their visit to the protest-hit country will be affected.
Tung said they could either choose to visit another destination, or receive a refund minus a HK$150 administration fee to the tour operator.
“All members of the tour groups currently travelling in Thailand are safe, and the situation in Bangkok has now seemed to quiet down,” Tung said.
Since the protests mainly took place at government buildings, the sightseeing schedule for tour groups who are currently in Thailand had not been affected.
“We will monitor the situation very closely. If any tourist wants a change of schedule or to depart the country early, they can discuss it with their tour operators,” he said.
Three tour groups travelling with Wing On Travel, who were planning to visit both Pattaya and Bangkok on a five-day itinerary, will remain in a Pattaya hotel, a popular beach resort on Thailand’s east coast, as it remains unaffected from political unrest.
Another 14 people on tour with Wing On Travel were due to fly on Monday to Bangkok, but will instead stay in Pattaya.
Asked why the tourists would not be staying in a Bangkok hotel tonight: “We want to ensure they will be safe,” a spokeswoman for the travel agency and tour operator, said. The decision affects more than 50 people on the tour.
Wing On said all tours from Tuesday until December 12 were cancelled. Travel money can be used for future bookings within six months, or alternatively, only a HK$150 administration fee would be charged for cancellation. The cancellation affects 15 tours, or 249 people.
The tour operator will provide an update on December 6 regarding tours arranged for December 14 onwards.
A spokesman for Hong Tai Travel announced the cancellation of 14 tours to Bangkok starting from Tuesday until December 10, affecting 250 people. Customers can choose to change their tour up to six months or refund but an HK$150 administration charge applies.
The operator currently has 15 tours currently in Thailand, or 200 people. All of them have called in safe. Their schedules remain unaffected.
Suzanna Lau Mei-sze from TravelExpert.com said with 500 travellers on the agency’s books in Bangkok, they were currently trying to contact all their customers in Bangkok by email, WhatsApp or telephone to offer their assistance.
From Tuesday until December 10, the agency is allowing customers to change their destination or reserve payments for six months for a future booking. Otherwise customers can get a refund, deducting airline and hotel penalty fees.
If customers want to return earlier and if airline seats are available, they can do so after the company assesses the situation.
“We have to see what their situation and emergency is now, then we can offer help accordingly,” Lau said.
Additional reporting by Associated Press