Bangkok, the 11th of April 2010 [PDN]: Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reaffirmed on Monday the commitment that the government is making into restoring order on the streets of Bangkok ahead of the beginning of the popular Songkran festival this week.
Over the weekend the peaceful Red Shirt protests turned violent when security personnel including Thai Royal Army soldiers and police turned into a violent riot which caused the death of 19 people and over 800 injured. With repeats expected in the coming days, the already declining tourist population have begun leaving the city whilst ‘backpacker central,’ Khao San Road has already announced the cancellation of its official Songkran celebrations.
The traditional Thai New Year celebrations captures the imagination of travellers for both its cultural and fun attributes; the latter being enthusiastic bouts of water splashing between friends and relatives.
In Bangkok, the Songkran Grand Celebration will be held between 10 and 15 April around the Rattanakosin Island district, sometimes called “Old Bangkok.”
The main celebrations, in the capital, focus on bathing rites of replicas of revered Buddha images originating from various provinces in the North, South, East and central regions, interspersed with traditional food and dessert-making demonstrations and cultural performances. The opening ceremony will take place, 10 April, at Phra Chetupon Wimol Manklaram or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
The following is an official announcement from the TAT website regarding areas to avoid if travelling to Bangkok for Songkran
The Declaration of a Severe Emergency Situation covers areas of Bangkok and certain districts of five nearby provinces;
- Nontha Buri province
- The districts of Muang, Bang Phli, Phra Pradang, Phra Samut Chedi, Bang Boh and Bang Sao Thong Districts in Samut Prakan province
- The districts of Thanyaburi, Lad Lumkaew, Sam Kok, Lam Luk Ka and Khlong Luang in Pathum Thani province
- Phutthamonthon district in Nakhon Pathom province
- The districts of Wang Noi, Bang Pa-in, Bang Sai and Lat Bua Luang in Ayutthaya province
The anti-government rallies being staged by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)/’Red Shirt’ movement continue at the following demonstration sites
- Ratchadamnoen Avenue (Sapan Panfah/Panfah Bridge)
- Makkawan Rangsan Bridge near Government House
- Ratchaprasong intersection
Visitors and tourists are advised to avoid areas near all UDD rally sites. Both International Airports in Bangkok and all others throughout the Kingdom remain completely operational and are unaffected by the protests.
Statement by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand as of 11th April 2010
Thai Cabinet declares a severe emergency; measures will not affect ordinary people or foreign visitors
- On 10 April 2010 at 23.20 hrs: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva addressed the public, extending at the outset his condolences for the loss of lives during the incidents at Kok Wua Intersection early in the evening, particularly to their relatives.
- On 7 April 2010: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva appeared on television to inform the public of the Cabinet’s decision to declare a severe emergency situation. .
- In declaring the severe emergency situation, certain regulations and directives have been issued in accordance with the relevant law. It must be emphasised that in general the measures taken under these regulations and directives do not affect the normal way of life of people or their activities, nor do they affect foreigners residing in or visiting Thailand.
- For tourists visiting the Kingdom, they are advised to be vigilant, particularly in areas where demonstrations are held. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has a 24-hour English language hotline at 1672, from which tourists may inquire for further information. The tourist police can also be reached at 1155.
- In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a 24-hour operation centre, which can provide foreigners with further information at +662-575-1023, +662-981-7225, +66-88-022-1540 or +66-88-022-1541.
Reporter: John Weston/www.tourismthailand.org