We are having the time of our lives exploring Thailand, and as much as I want to share all of our fun adventures, I also wanted to take a minute to talk about some of the things that are happening politically in the country.
As most of you probably know, there are some changes happening in Thailand right now. The government has been relieved of some of its duties by the military, and there is a some uncertainty as to what this means for the elected officials, and whether this is truly a coup, which has happened 12 times before in the country’s history.
This creates some difficulties, since it was a government elected by the people of Thailand, but because a struggling economy and a feeling that the country was not on the right path had led to mass unhappiness and protests, the military stepped in, and declared martial law.
We were a little nervous about coming here during all of this, the U.S. State department put out a statement dissuading all non-essential travel to Thailand a couple of weeks before we were supposed to leave, but we already had our trip planned, and we knew this was probably our only shot at getting to visit Thailand, at least for a long time, so we decided to come anyway, and hoped for the best.
To be honest, it hasn’t really affected us, there is a curfew designating that everyone has to be home by midnight every night, it was originally 10 o’clock, but they saw a drop in tourism immediately after the curfew was enabled, and since a lot of the Thai economy is based on tourism, they have to do what they can to keep people coming here, even during this chaotic time.
We’ve noticed a military presence for sure, especially further north, in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Many of our tuk tuk drivers liked to point out the groups of soldiers stationed along busy intersections, and an increase in check points along main roads.
From talking to locals, and watching the news here, it seems that the media has been instructed not to speculate on the current political situation and many of the national Thai broadcasting channels were shut off by the military when they seized power. There are reporters covering these events, but they have to be careful what they write, and must stick to only the bare facts, or they can be accused of inciting riots.
Also, I heard that some news outlets are being censored via the internet, and a few times when I was trying to read an article, once from the Daily Mail, I was redirected to a rather official looking Thai page, and wasn’t allowed to access it, although I wasn’t able to read what it said.
From what we’ve seen, reporters are using social media to get the news out, and protestors are also using social media to let people know where to gather. Some Thai locals are in favour of the military intervention, and some are not, it’s a complicated situation.
We didn’t see any rioting or anything like that in Bangkok, but we met some guys from the UK a few weeks ago that were here when the military first took over, and they had to avoid the palace and all of the major temples in Bangkok because of rioting, and there had been incidents where pipe bombs were used, so they weren’t able to visit many of the landmarks of the city.
We’ve had such a wonderful time traveling around Thailand, and meeting its people. It’s hard to say what is going to happen with all this, the last time martial law was declared it went on for a year and a half, but I hope it’s resolved in the best interests of the Thai people.
You can read more about the situation here.