By Paul Myers
Bangkok, March 4, 2014- The swathe of negative headlines about safety in Bangkok that has swamped international media in the past three months should now disappear as protestors dismantle barricades in key parts of the city.
Despite the impression that Bangkok has been a city under siege, nothing could have been – or is – further from the truth.
And despite a delicate political impasse that has put a question mark over the future of Thailand’s (now interim) government, life and business in Bangkok and the rest of the kingdom has been perfectly normal.
Hopefully, selective images and footage of street marches, police battling protesters and barricades at intersections will now be replaced by reality: tourists and locals eating, socialising, shopping and enjoying all this vibrant city has to offer.
The negative publicity, caused by perception swamping reality, has hurt Thailand’s tourism, even outside Bangkok where there hasn’t been the slightest hint of trouble.
To be sure, there are political issues in Thailand. There have been protests, mostly peaceful, which may continue. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee has moved its supporters to Lumpini Park in Bangkok’s business district where they are gathered, quietly and orderly, listening to speeches and watching a giant screen.
There isn’t the slightest hint of trouble.
Bangkok is a far cry from the situation in the world’s real trouble spots: Kabul, Kiev, Baghdad and Beirut. It’s not even close to the situation in New York, Chicago or many major cities where assaults and concerns about personal safety are everyday issues and occurrences.
It’s likely that Thailand’s political issues will be solved in coming months. The two sides are talking and there is confidence the impasse will end soon.
Meanwhile, it is perfectly safe to visit Bangkok and the rest of Thailand and do the same things tourists always have done in this friendly, welcoming city and country.
Mark Siegel, who operates Golfasian, one of Thailand’s leading inbound golf tourism companies, says sensational journalism has adversely affected people’s views about the safety of visiting Thailand.
“In actuality, life, golf, and tourism are normal across Thailand. I live in Bangkok and other than some minor traffic inconveniences, everyone is going about their daily lives completely normally,” he says.
Even during the height of the “trouble”, tour operators were puzzled by all the fuss. Australian, Sheri Yu, the principal of AYM Golf Tours, brought a group to Bangkok and Hua Hin in early February, but didn’t have the slightest problem.
“We had some non-golfers in the group who went shopping during the day while others played golf. We went out at night in Bangkok without difficulty or concern. Not once was anybody worried about anything. In fact, people were asking ‘where are the protests?'”
Exactly. But you wouldn’t have known this from the world’s selective media reporting.