5 reasons Singapore tourists are unfazed by Bangkok protests

SINGAPORE - For weeks, Thai anti-government protesters were seen entering major government buildings in throngs, closing roads and ministries in the capital city of Bangkok.

Thousands of yellow-shirted protesters blew whistles, banged drums and flooded the streets as riot police looked on.

In a show of defiance, the protesters, who had taken to the streets since the first week of this month, even managed to cut power to the national police headquarters on Thursday.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since issued a travel advisory for travellers to stay away from large crowds, monitor the local news closely and take all necessary precaution for personal safety.

But these did not seem to faze many Singaporeans who seem largely undeterred from travelling there. We spoke to three Singaporean families who are travelling to or are in Bangkok.


For leasing executive Wong Man Ling, 27, this is a rare opportunity to see a mass protest.

Ms Wong witnessed protests in front of Bangkok's Asok Bangkok Mass Transit Station (BTS) yesterday and outside CentralWorld Shopping Mall on Thursday.

She was on a five-day holiday trip there with six of her family members - her mother, father, brother, uncle, uncle's wife, and her niece.

She said: "It is an eye-opener for a first-timer like me to witness the protest on a first-person basis."

But she said that the protests were non-violent and did not seem to affect tourists and locals, as people went on with their day unhindered.

Ms Wong and her family arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday amid the protests as they did not want to cancel their holiday plans.

She said: "The plans were made back in May this year. We thought the protests would not cause any harm to tourists. So we went ahead with the trip."

Despite staying close to the Asok protest site, she still felt safe travelling around the area.

"At stations with protests going on, there are police officers and guards on standby to guide the commuters."


Mr Tay Choon Huat, 47, had made plans a few months ago for a four-day holiday to Bangkok with his family.

Despite his concerns for safety, his family of four, including his daughters, aged 12 and 14, left for Bangkok yesterday afternoon.

Said Mr Tay, who is self-employed: "We are not too worried about the protests since it is quite a common occurrence.

"However, we have registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and bought travel insurance just to be safe."

A Singaporean mother will also be heading to Bangkok on Dec 13, joining her daughter, 27, who is already there for a shopping trip.

Madam Aw, who was born in Thailand and came here 30 years ago, is not worried that she could be harmed by the protesters.

The frequent traveller to Bangkok said she is not afraid of the protests because they happen almost yearly: "I'm not scared and I'm not concerned. Their protests won't affect me.

"Bangkok is very big and I'll be at the shopping malls where it's completely safe."

She will be flying to Bangkok with three friends, but said she might cancel or postpone the trip if the protests turn violent.


The protesters are only interested in targeting the Thai government and not Singaporeans, said an expert in Thai politics here.

Political scientist Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, 30, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University, believes the protesters are not out to attack Singaporeans as that is not their purpose.

Said Dr Pitakdumrongkit, who has been in the field of international political economies for nine years: "This is a domestic protest. It is a symbolic move against the government, not a provocation against foreigners coming into the country."


Dr Pitakdumrongkit believes this is also why the protests have been and will be non-violent, even though Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is considering a state of emergency to deal with the situation.

This emergency decree gives more power to the prime minister to handle situations - it means security officials can ban public gatherings and act against them, with force if necessary.

Said Dr Pitakdumrongkit: "I don't think violence will happen. The government has learnt much from the bloody 2010 protests (which claimed more than 90 lives).

"If she (Ms Yingluck) pulls the trigger first and bloodshed happens, there will be terrible consequences for her."

Led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, previously from the opposition Democrat Party, the protest movement was triggered by the ruling party's proposal for an amnesty bill which would have allowed controversial former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand from his self-exile without going to jail.

The bill was unanimously defeated in Parliament two weeks ago, but failed to quell the protests.


Dr Pitakdumrongkit believes that with the amnesty bill being rejected, there is not much cause for the protesters to fight for.

With revered Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday approaching on Dec 5, she believes the protesters will wind down their efforts by then.

Said Dr Pitakdumrongkit: "Mr Suthep knows what he wants, and his former party knows what they want too. But I don't think either of them want to continue protesting forever."

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