Is Thailand safe to visit in 2019?
Concerns over security after failed bombing in Bangkok
Concerns have been raised over the safety of visiting Thailand after at least four people were injured when “several small bombs went off” in Bangkok during the morning rush hour earlier this month.
The city was hosting a number of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with representatives from the United States, China and Russia, when the explosions went off on 8 August.
A spokesperson for Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha announced that he had “ordered an immediate investigation” and “security measures have been tightened”, adding: “The public is urged not to panic”.
Thai authorities have been keen to stress that despite the incident, the country is still safe for visitors and the threat of terrorism is generally low. But are they right?
Here’s a look at how safe Thailand is to visit in 2019.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to the provinces on the Thai-Malaysia border, including Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Southern Songkhla province.
The FCO reports that, since January 2004, there have been “regular attacks” in these provinces, which have included arson, bombings and shootings.
“Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, government offices, tourist hotels, discos, bars, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains. Over 7,700 people, including civilians, have been killed and several thousand more injured,” its says.
Despite listing the remainder of Thailand as “safe for travel”, it also warns that “indiscriminate attacks” could occur across the country, including in the capital, Bangkok, where a terrorist bombing in 2015 killed at least 20 people.
Safety and security
The US State Department (DOS) reports that “crimes of opportunity”, such as pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and burglary, are common across Thailand.
Lonely Planet advises: “Ensure your room is securely locked and carry your most important effects (passport, money, credit cards) on your person.
“Follow the same practice when you’re travelling. A locked bag will not prevent theft on a long-haul bus.”
Furthermore, the DOS states that taxi and tuk-tuk drivers “may attempt to charge excessive fares or refuse passengers” and that vigilance should be maintained around drivers.
Parts of Thailand have developed a reputation for what the DOS calls “sexually motivated violence” in recent years.
“Violent sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks have been reported in popular tourist destinations, including in the Koh Samui archipelago and Krabi province,” the FCO adds. “These are particularly common during the monthly Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars.”
Drink spiking has also been reported around Thailand, with tourists often targeted. “Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and at clubs and parties, or leaving your drinks unattended, particularly in Koh Samui, Pattaya and at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan, where date rapes have been reported.”
The DOS reminds visitors that Thai police do not look kindly on drug use, and being embroiled in any form of drug-related crime involving dealing or smuggling can result in severe punishments, including the death penalty.
The main rainy season between May and October can cause flooding and landslides in some regions. In the south-east of the Thai peninsula the rainy season runs from November to March.
Earthquakes are rare but the country was hit by a series of tsunamis following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Although the majority of deaths were in Indonesia, more than 5,000 people were killed in Thailand.