Asia Minute: Thailand: Protests Escalate and Tourists Arrive

Oct 22, 2020

Thailand’s Prime Minister says he’ll make “the first move to de-escalate” a growing protest movement in his country. He made that comment in a nationally televised address last night, on the same day the country welcomed its first tourists in more than six months.

Tourists arriving in Bangkok Wednesday got a different reception than those arriving in Honolulu or Kahului.

In Thailand, they were greeted by a group dressed in full personal protective equipment — whose first move was to spray the passengers’ luggage with disinfectant. The visitors were then whisked away to a 14-day stay in a tightly-controlled hotel quarantine — on top of the negative COVID-19 tests that were required before arrival.

The numbers were also modest — 39 arriving direct from Shanghai.

Reuters quoted the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand as saying the anti-government protests in the capital city have not disrupted any travel plans, although he said, “people are following the news.”

Wednesday night, that news was topped by a nationally televised address from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who said he’s “preparing to lift the state of severe emergency in Bangkok and will do so promptly if there are no violent incidents.”

He gave no indication of what that time line might be.

Demonstrations involving thousands have been going on for days in the Thai capital. Protestors want three specific actions: the resignation of the current government, amendments to the constitution, and reform of the constitutional monarchy.

The Prime Minister has urged opponents to shift the confrontation from the streets to Thailand’s parliament, which is meeting in special session starting on Monday.