Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged Australians to continue travelling to Thailand, despite the deadly bombing which hit Bangkok on Monday.
The feeling is echoed by tourism industry bodies throughout the world, which have condemned the evil act that killed and hurt so many innocent people.
Abbott addressed Australia’s Parliament to express condolences to the relatives of those killed, and to those and injured, in the Erawan Shrine bombing in Bangkok on Monday night.
Australians should continue to travel to Thailand, as the object of such acts is to “scare us from being ourselves”, he said.
“Attacks such as this only strengthen the resolve of the Government and the people of Australia … and the Parliament of Australia, to do whatever we can to counter extremism and combat terrorism,” Abbott said.
The Prime Minister confirmed that no Australian citizens had been reported dead or missing, adding that Australia had offered police assistance to Thailand.
Britain has confirmed that one of its citizens, Vivian Chan, 19, was among those killed in the blast.
Abbott spoke after Qantas issued a statement saying its passengers visiting Thailand could book earlier flights home if they wanted to leave Bangkok.
Travellers who want to cancel future flights into the city can opt to change their destination, or get a credit on their unused tickets. The special provisions are available for tickets issued on or before 17 August 2015, for travel to and from Bangkok between 18 and 25 August 2015.
Monday’s massacre, slaughtering locals and tourists alike at one of the city’s most revered shrines, is an unprecedented atrocity. Thailand had previously been spared major terrorist outrages of the sort that have scarred other countries.
Thai monks led prayers yesterday for the reopening of the Erawan Shrine, as police hunted a man shown on security footage calmly planting a backpack there. The backpack is believed to have contained the bomb.
No one has yet claimed responsibility. Suspects include Islamic separatists in the south of Thailand, “red shirt” protesters involved in demonstrations in Bangkok and Uighur Muslims.
Police sources say Uighur militants, aggrieved after Thailand deported 109 Uighurs back to China in July, may be responsible for the blast, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Uighur Muslims have been involved in violent attacks in China and Uighur militants object to the actions of both Thailand and China, so the attack could have been seen as a way of getting at both. But that is just one theory.
The Bangkok bombing deliberately targeted foreign tourists in a bid to hurt the Thai economy, of which tourism is a major part. It took place in the central Ratchaprasong luxury retail district, home to lavish shopping malls, popular with Chinese tourists, who also visit the Erawan Shrine.
Sadly, the attack came just as Thailand’s tourism industry was doing really well. The visitor arrivals count recently surged by one million in only nine days, with the arrival of the country’s 19 millionth visitor just a few days ago. (See photo.)
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said it was “deeply saddened and shocked” at the terrorist atrocity.
“On the behalf of the global tourism community, UNWTO offers its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and reiterates its full support to the people and the Government of Thailand.
“These are direct attacks on the livelihood of the Thai people and their economy which is strongly linked with tourism. We stand by the Government and the people of Thailand in supporting its tourism sector as a vital pillar of the wellbeing of Thai people”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“Terrorism is a global threat impacting our societies, taking the lives of innocent people around the world and aiming to destroy our economies and our way of life. Thailand has a long tradition of being a hospitable and welcoming country and we fully believe it will continue to be so”, he added.
Tourism chiefs in Thailand have expressed cautious optimism that any downturn may be brief if no more violence occurs.
“We think if there are no further incidents the impact on tourism will be short-term,” Ittirit Kinglek, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, told Reuters.
Written by Peter Needham