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.