x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE citizens urged to avoid travel to Thailand following coup

Though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised against travel to Thailand last month, airlines have not cancelled any scheduled flights.

Tourists visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The Thai army's imposition of martial law is another blow to the country's tourist industry, adding to the economic pain from six months of destabilising street protests. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Tourists visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The Thai army's imposition of martial law is another blow to the country's tourist industry, adding to the economic pain from six months of destabilising street protests. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

ABU DHABI // UAE citizens are being advised against travel to Thailand after the military overthrew the civilian government in the country last week.

“The advice right now for UAE citizens is not to travel to Thailand because of the coup,” said an employee at the UAE embassy in Bangkok yesterday.

Since martial law was imposed across the country, a daily curfew is being enforced from 10pm until 5am, severely restricting the movement of Thais and visitors. All broadcast media has been suspended.

So far there have been few reports of violence since the coup, but public resistance to the military takeover is becoming increasingly assertive. As of yesterday, no further word had been issued by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi, but last month it advised against travel to Thailand “due to the tense political situation in the country, unless in cases of extreme necessity”.

“The Ministry is closely following developments in Thailand and has assigned, in coordination with the UAE embassy in the country, an operations room that works around the clock to follow citizens’ conditions there,” said Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the time.

Etihad and Emirates airlines have each issued their own advice to travellers on their websites. Both companies’ scheduled flights remain unchanged at present. Etihad said: “The Thai military has imposed a night-time curfew in Bangkok, Thailand effective immediately from 22:00 to 05:00 local time.

“Etihad Airways guests booked on flight EY407 are advised to present their passports and tickets if requested by the military on the way to Suvarnabhumi Airport to catch this flight during curfew hours. Guests are advised to allow extra time to reach the airport.

“All overground and underground rail links will be suspended from 21:00 local time. Taxi availability may be limited and hotel guests are advised to consider airport limousine services through their hotels.

“Etihad Airways is maintaining its current three times daily schedule to and from Bangkok, and no delays are anticipated.”

Etihad has waived cancellation fees and conditions for tickets issued on or before May 21, with travel before June 5.

The company asked all passengers to check its website www.etihad.com before travelling.

All charges for rebooking, re-issue and cancelling will be also be waived for Emirates Airlines passengers who are travelling between May 22 and 29. Rebooking to the same destination will be permitted for travel on or before June 10.

Despite the widespread warnings, many travel-insurance companies state that customers will not be covered in the event of a coup.

Travel insurance provider World Nomads indicates that any disruption caused by the coup will not be covered: “It’s a bit tough, but because the hotels and resorts are still open (at the moment) and the airlines are still flying to Thailand, and the airport is still operating, nothing’s been ‘cancelled’ so there’s no coverage,” its website states.

“Deciding to cancel your trip yourself is called ‘change of mind’ and is not covered either.

“If you feel uneasy about going to Thailand now (and who wouldn’t) talk to your travel provider about postponing, or re-scheduling or re-arranging (Vietnam’s nice at this time of year). But if it costs you money to make those changes, sorry it’s not covered because a military coup is a general exclusion.”

Axa Insurance Gulf, in Dubai, stated its standard travel insurance policy would not cover cancellation caused by the coup. However, if customers opted for a more advanced plan, then cancellation would be covered.

Governments around the world have been issuing similar warnings against non-essential travel to Thailand.

The British foreign office said it advised “against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border”.

“On 10 April 2014 the Australian authorities indicated that extremists may be planning to target westerners in the southern border provinces.

“The FCO advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple area located on the Thai-Cambodian border due to the presence of troops in the area and the risk of outbreaks of fighting,” it said.

ksinclair@thenational.ae