Many Malaysians still travelling to Bangkok

BANGKOK - MALAYSIANS continue to visit Bangkok despite the Foreign Affairs Ministry's travel advice following the worsening situation here.

Vincent Chee, from Puchong, Selangor, said not every part of the city was dangerous. He said he avoided the Rajprasong shopping district on Saturday and went to Chinatown instead as a hotel receptionist told him the area was filled with protesters.

"As I walked to MBK Centre today (yesterday), I was shocked to see the situation in front of the mall.

"I was told the protesters were clearing the shopping district and heading for Lumphini Park. What a chance to see the protesters as it wasn't on my itinerary."

Chee was accompanied by his wife, Josephine. They arrived on Friday via a low-cost airline and were scheduled to return to Kuala Lumpur next Monday. He said he did not cancel his visit to Bangkok as he would not get a refund by the airline for flight cancellation.

"In fact, we were not alone. The plane was almost full and I could tell that more than 80 per cent of the passengers were Malaysians. "We just had to exercise extra precaution."

Yesterday, the usually congested Rama 1 Road, Ratchadamri Road and Phaya Thai Road were turned into pedestrian walkways after anti-government protesters barricaded several roads, paralysing traffic.

People had to walk as taxi, bus and tuk tuk drivers avoided the areas.

Those spotted there were mainly protesters, workers from the shopping centres and tourists.

Some shop operators were seen distributing free food to protesters. Hawkers continued their trade by squeezing their carts into every available space along the roads.

The Erawan Shrine, which is always packed with tourists, had few visitors despite yesterday being a weekend.

Another Malaysian, who wished to be known only as Priscilla, 24, said she travelled here with several varsity friends.

"We planned this trip six months ago and decided to go ahead as we had looked forward to it. We visited Chatuchak market on Saturday, which was crowded as ever.

"Today (yesterday), we went to the shrine to offer prayers before going to the Pratunam shopping area. I was told it was safe there." A Thai protester, identified only as Thip, said the only area tourists should avoid was Lumphini Park.

Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman had, on Jan 22, advised Malaysians to postpone or avoid travelling to Bangkok because of the unrest in the Thai capital, adding that his ministry would monitor the situation closely.

Yesterday, news agencies reported that protesters, seeking to unseat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, had gathered at Lumphini Park, where hundreds slept in tents along boating lakes and under trees after protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said they would abandon other sites in the city.