With the escalation in violence yesterday and also fraud charges being raised against the Thai Prime Minister Yingluck it seems that more blood may yet be spilt in the streets of Bangkok and possibly elsewhere in the country.
The leader of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Suthep Thaugsuban, has called on PDRC activists to march to the Office of the Permanent Secretary of Defence, located on Chaeng Watthana Road, in Bangkok, on 19 February. The protest should now be under way and was scheduled to start at 10:00 local time. PDRC activists are expected to march from protest sites at the intersection of Silom Road and Rama IV Road at Lumphini Park, the Pathum Wan intersection, the Asoke Intersection and the Ratchprasong intersection.
This latest call for protest action against the Thai government has come after four people were killed and dozens more injured on 18 February. The incident occurred after unknown assailants opened fire on security forces that were using teargas. Although the scale of the protests and number of protesters at protest sites have diminished considerably since late December and mid-January, the possibility of further clashes between police and protesters occurring on today cannot be ruled out.
The police are under the control of the Government and until yesterday had policed the protest sites peacefully. The army operate as such under the king and the elite party (Yellow) and have yet to be involved in any action, however there may be a call for military intervention should things become very violent.
We are advising our staff in Bangkok and clients based there or considering travelling there to monitor local media for developments and to avoid the protest areas in the near-term. All politically motivated gatherings should be avoided as a precaution. Anticipate severe disruptions to travel near shutdown barricades across Bangkok. Avoid all large public gatherings, plot route bypass alternatives and allow for additional travel time. If travelling to Bangkok we recommend to avoid doing so unless absolutely necessary to. Check the location of you hotel if staying in Bangkok to the proximity of central Government buildings and existing protest sites.
Although foreign nationals are not typically targeted during incidents of unrest, the incidental risk to bystanders remains credible. In addition, localised travel disruptions in the vicinity of Office of the Permanent Secretary of Defence, as well on routes to this location from central Bangkok, are likely.
Advice if caught up in Civil Unrest:
Violent instances of civil unrest occur frequently in many countries. Unrest can happen for a variety of reasons; most incidents are related to labour disputes, social or political issues. Countries undergoing widespread political upheaval may experience sustained bouts of politically motivated unrest.
Civil unrest can range from small, unorganised rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting. Demonstrations can easily evolve into civil disorder with little to no warning; a seemingly orderly crowd can become unruly or violent when stimulated by agitators or security forces. However, it is rare for foreign nationals or visitors to be directly targeted during incidents of unrest. Nevertheless, the risk of being inadvertently affected by violence cannot be ruled out.
Travellers should be alert to possibility of civil unrest in their destination countries. Before departing, clients are advised to monitor local and international news sources and if a client of AAI Global Secure the relevant AAI country intelligence page for up to date information.
Avoid or reduce the threat
- If intending to visit a potentially volatile region, clients are advised to familiarise themselves with local conditions. Ascertain if there have been any recent violent demonstrations in the area, what the demonstrations were related to and how the authorities responded.
- Monitor local and international news. Contact AA International and/or your embassy to receive up to date information if travelling to an area where civil unrest may occur.
- Upon arrival, clients are advised to register their presence in the country with their respective embassies.
- If a demonstration is taking place, avoid the area or stay indoors until it becomes clear that the situation has stabilised.
- If inadvertently near a protest or demonstration, don't be inquisitive. Leave the area and find an alternate route to the intended destination.
- If the need arises to travel to an area where there is a strong likelihood of demonstrations, it is advisable not to go alone. Keep close and maintain visual contact with the person you are with.
- Authorities in some countries do not tolerate dissent and may use excessive force in an effort to quell unrest. Avoid any situation where police or security forces action is in progress.
If caught in a civil disturbance
- Keep to the edge of the crowd, and stay away from leaders and agitators. Try to avoid be identified as one of the demonstrators.
- Create a space for yourself in the crowd by grasping your wrists and bracing your elbows away from your sides. Bending over slightly will allow breathing room.
- Stay clear of glass shop fronts, stay on your feet and move with the flow.
- If pushed to the ground, try to get against a wall, roll into a tight ball and protect your head with your hands until the crowd dissipates.
- At the first opportunity, break away and seek refuge in a nearby building. Alternately, find a suitable doorway or alley and remain there until the crowd passes.
- Remember to keep calm, as crowds are likely to dissipate in a short period of time.
- Avoid drawing attention to yourself. When leaving the area of a demonstration, walk away slowly and avoid the temptation to run.
- If shooting breaks out, try to find cover.
- If arrested by security forces, do not resist. Go along peacefully and contact AA International and/or your embassy to resolve the situation.
If in a vehicle
- Never drive through a crowd unless there is absolutely no alternative.
- If in the path of a crowd, turn down the nearest side road or turn around and drive away calmly.
- If you cannot drive away, park the car, lock it and leave it. Take shelter in a side road or doorway.
- • If you do not have the time or opportunity for the actions recommended above, stop the vehicle and turn the engine off, lock the doors and remain calm. Do not show hostility or anger.
Action after an incident
- If it is unsafe to stay where you are, seek a place of safety in a less volatile area.
- If injured, seek medical assistance immediately.
- If required, provide all necessary assistance to law enforcement authorities.
- Report your situation or whereabouts to family, friends, or business associates.
- Report any loss or damage of property to the police.