Thailand goes to the polls on July 3 and no one can predict the precise outcome of the country’s divisive political battle. How carefully should business travellers tread, pre- and post-election?
Since populist former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in a military coup in September 2006, the world has watched Thailand and its capital Bangkok – a long-stable travel and business hub – grapple with political and civil conflict.
Though this is a country pulled passionately, occasionally violently, between the warring urban, middle-class, royalist, anti-Thaksin, ‘People’s Alliance for Democracy’ yellow-shirts; and the pro-Puea Thai party, Thaksin-enfranchised, rural, working-class red-shirts (each side has myriad internal divisions and many Thais find favour and fault with both), travellers and in-country expatriates tend not to be much put off by the frisson.
It’s hard to pin down why this is. I was based in Bangkok between 2000 and 2007; the biggest inconvenience I suffered during the 2006 coup was a sudden dearth of taxis to take me home from an amateur dramatics production I was rehearsing the night it was called; three years later, between March and May 2010, my friends’ Facebook status updates complained of a slightly more complicated school run to avoid the besieged central areas of Bangkok held to ransom by red-shirt protesters. At least 91 people lost their lives during this mayhem; blocks away it was business as usual.
(This is the second part of a column on business travel to Africa. To read the first part, click here)
It is hard to generalise the security situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tim Willis of Travel Security Services (TSS) points to the criminality concerns in Nairobi, Freetown and Johannesburg, separatist activity in Nigeria and various political situations in others. For many, going to the continent for the first time, fear of the unknown will be the pressing factor. The key is to keep abreast of current situation in countries where events such as elections can have a significant bearing on the security situation.