No delay in travel warning for Bangkok, says Taiwan foreign minister

No delay in travel warning for Bangkok, says Taiwan foreign minister
PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Foreign Minister David Lin yesterday defended the ministry's decision to raise its travel alert for Bangkok on late Tuesday following a deadly explosion in the capital city of Thailand, a move that was criticised by local media as not soon enough.

Answering questions on the sidelines of a ministry event in Taipei, Lin said he believes the ministry made a timely adjustment to the travel alert issued following the deadly blast that occurred at a tourist hotspot in downtown Bangkok late Monday.

"No, I don't think there is any delay on the ministry's part in raising the travel warning for Bangkok," Lin told reporters, when asked to comment on the criticism leveled at the ministry over the decision made at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The ministry made the adjustment swiftly in the wake of a series of explosions that took place in the Thai capital city, Lin said.

Lin said he has full confidence in his colleagues stationed at the nation's representative office in Thailand.

"The ministry has to take many factors into consideration before making the travel warning adjustment," Lin said.

The ministry has to study the firsthand information reported by the representative office in Bangkok; take into account the Thai government's evaluation of the latest situations; and check if other countries have also raised travel warnings before making the adjustment, he said.

Lin made the comments in response to a Chinese-language Apple Daily report yesterday which accused the ministry of failing to make more swift action in raising the travel warning.

Taiwan's Tourism Bureau relies on the Foreign Ministry's travel alert to decide whether to allow travel agencies and airliners to grant a full refund to travelers who plan to visit a travel destination but decide to cancel the trip due to natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

The newspaper said many Taiwanese travelers decided to cancel planned trips to Thailand but could not receive a full refund because the ministry did not raise the travel alert to orange from yellow until late night Tuesday.

Under MOFA's four-colour travel advisory system, an "orange" alert is the second-highest level of warning - one level below red - and means Taiwanese travelers should take precautions and avoid the area if possible.

Asked to comment, Lin said the ministry has been in talks with the Tourism Bureau over the travel alert issue.

"The travel warning is only meant to reflect the latest situation in a foreign country and to serve as a reminder for Taiwanese travelers before visiting a certain country or area," he said.

"It was not meant to serve as the only indicator for a refund," Lin noted.

Injured Taiwanese in Stable Condition

More than 20 people were killed and more than 100 injured during the deadly explosion near the Erawan Shrine late Monday, among them six Taiwanese. Two small-scale explosions occurred on Tuesday, leaving no casualties.

Meanwhile, MOFA spokeswoman Eleanor Wang yesterday said that the four R.O.C. citizens currently hospitalised in Bangkok following the blast have seen their situations stabilize.

There were originally six R.O.C. nationals who suffered injuries during the Monday blast.

A father and his daughter, both surnamed Chang, returned to Taiwan on Tuesday afternoon after undergoing initial medical treatment at a Bangkok hospital.

Family members of the other four Taiwanese hospitalised in Bangkok have arrived in the Thai capital to take care of their families, Wang said.

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