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Full coup and curfew in Thailand as army seizes control

May 23, 2014 Destination Thailand, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Thailand’s “coup that wasn’t a coup” of a few days ago turned suddenly into the real thing last night, with the country’s army chief announcing on television the imposition of a military coup d’état. 

The announcement and subsequent deployment of troops emptied city streets of their population, closed down bars, businesses and restaurants and forced tens of thousands at tourist resorts across the country to remain in their hotels.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued an immediate advisory update. DFAT says Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok are operating normally. “Authorities have advised that the curfew will not apply if travelling to or from an airport. Travellers should have passports and tickets with them when travelling to and from the airport.” Australians in Thailand should exercise “a high degree of caution”.

Tourists arriving in the country yesterday were greeted by fleets of vehicles commandeered to ferry visitors after the 10pm start of the curfew between airports and hotels, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.

The military, together with the police, “needs to seize control of the situation in the country, effective May 22,” General Prayuth Chan-ocha said. The move follows two attempts by the military to negotiate an end to the country’s political impasse.

Ominously for tourists and tourism, the coup comes accompanied by a curfew, which according to the new edict will close Bangkok and the rest of the country at 10pm. The military’s national peacekeeping committee declared a curfew throughout Thailand, hours after the coup was announced, the Bangkok Post reported.

The curfew will be enforced between 10pm and 5am “until further notice”, deputy army spokesman Winthai Suwaree announced on national television yesterday evening.

The military has suspended Thailand’s constitution.

Tourists might have been able to live with martial law, and even with a coup, but a curfew is not what they expect.

The Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) has seized power from the caretaker government to prevent further loss of life and ensure the conflict escalates no further, Prayuth announced on national television.

Government agencies would work normally during the 12th military coup d’état in Thailand since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, reports said yesterday.

The coup came just a couple of days after the army imposed martial law in Thailand. Earlier yesterday, leading hotel investors attending the Thailand Hotel Investment Conference in Bangkok expressed confidence in the kingdom as a tourist destination, saying the imposition of martial law would have only a minimal impact on tourism in Thailand. They will no doubt hope that the same applies to a coup.

Protests throughout Thailand over recent months have pitted largely rural supporters of populist former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck against Thailand’s traditional elites. Thaksin opponents want the Thaksin dynasty barred from power, for corruption. They fear that if elections go ahead otherwise, the Thaksin clan, with popular rural support, will win. The impasse has continued for years and has now come to a head.

Three people were killed in a grenade and gunfire assault on anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok on Wednesday last week. Remaining demonstrators were dispersing yesterday as military and police moved in.

Sporadic violence and outbursts of protest have had a dampening effect on tourism and hotel occupancies in Thailand, one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Overall, Thailand’s economy shrank more than expected in the first quarter of this year, prompting fears of recession.

Thai Airways International suffered losses in the first quarter of this year and expects to be in the red possibly for the next four months, the Bangkok Post reported. The net loss in the January-March period was put at THB 2.6 billion (AUD 86.3 million). It was a reversal of fortune from the same period last year when the airline made a THB 8.29 billion (AUD 272.1 million) profit. But the airline still suffered losses of about THB 13 billion (AUD 431.4 million) last year.

Written by : Peter Needham

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