Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thailand: Australian Government Travel Warnings

There is a high threat of terrorist attack in Thailand. We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets, including tourist areas and other places frequented by foreigners.

Thai authorities have on a number of occasions warned of the possibility of bombings in Thailand to coincide with symbolic dates or holidays, including in Bangkok and the southern provinces. On 31 December 2006, a series of bombs exploded in various locations in Bangkok, killing three people and injuring more than 30 others, including six foreigners. In recent years, there has been an increase in politically-related violent incidents, including the use of firearms, grenades and other small explosive devices (see below under Civil Unrest/Political Tension). Further incidents cannot be ruled out and may occur at any time without warning.
In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. These include places frequented by foreigners such as embassies, shopping malls, markets, banks, clubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreation events, beach resorts and tourist areas. Public buildings, public transport, airports and sea ports are also potential terrorist targets.
The increase in violence in southern Thailand (see below) may lead to attacks elsewhere in Thailand, including Bangkok and other tourist areas, such as Phuket and Pattaya.
Due to security concerns, security at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok is at a high level.
Southern provinces - Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla: We strongly advise you not to travel at this time to the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla, or overland to and from the Malaysian border through these provinces due to high levels of ongoing violence in these regions, including almost daily terrorist attacks resulting in deaths and injuries. Attacks have taken the form of bombings, shootings, arson and beheadings. The Thai Government has warned foreign tourists not to travel to these areas.
Australians may be caught up in violence or terrorist attacks directed at others. If you are in these provinces, you should consider leaving. If you decide to stay in the southern provinces, you should ensure you have the appropriate personal security measures in place.
Since January 2004, there has been heightened tension in these four southern provinces, where there continues to be violent incidents. Several thousand people have reportedly been killed and many more injured, including foreigners. Bombings can occur in close succession and proximity to target those responding to the initial explosions. Over the past few years, there have been a number of instances of multiple explosions occurring across a range of locations in southern Thailand.
Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, tourist hotels and bars, banks, cinemas and other entertainment venues, shops, markets, supermarkets, schools, places of worship, petrol stations, transport infrastructure including Hat Yai international airport, railways and trains.
In June 2009, gunmen killed at least ten worshippers and injured 12 others in a mosque in Narathiwat province. In March 2008, two people were killed and 13 others injured when two bombs exploded in a car park near the CS Pattani hotel in Pattani province, which is known to be used by government and security officials, non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers, foreign visitors and journalists. An Australian was one of seven people injured in a bomb blast in Yala province in May 2007.
Further terrorist attacks cannot be ruled out and could occur at anytime, anywhere in Thailand.
Civil Unrest/Political Tension
We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the possibility of further violent civil unrest.
Large-scale political demonstrations and related incidents in Thailand over the past couple of years have resulted in fatalities and injuries. Firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices have been used at various locations. Political protests, civil unrest, and violent incidents occurred in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand in the period between March and May 2010. More than 80 people were killed and over 1900 injured.
In early April 2010, the Thai Government declared a state of emergency in a number of provinces. The state of emergency remains in place in Bangkok and six other provinces including: Khon Kaen, Nakhon Rachasima, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakarn (including Suvarnabhumi International Airport), and Udon Thani. The Thai authorities have stated that the overall state of emergency is expected to remain in place until 4 October 2010, though the area covered by the state of emergency may be subject to further change.
The state of emergency gives broad powers to the military and can affect civil liberties by limiting the right to assembly, and by imposing other restrictions. You should ensure you are aware of any relevant provisions at your planned destinations. You should obey all curfews and other restrictions imposed by the Thai authorities. You should monitor local media for further information about the state of emergency and follow the advice of Thai authorities.
Since July 2010, a number of small explosive devices have been detonated in Bangkok, including in central business districts. Thai officials have warned that further incidents in Bangkok are possible.
A number of grenade and improvised explosive device attacks, including against government buildings, military installations, banks and infrastructure, have occurred in 2010. Further attacks could occur at any time. States of Emergency, martial law and curfews have been implemented in parts of Thailand over recent years during periods of unrest. The Internal Security Act has also been applied in Thailand by the authorities.
Demonstrations have occurred at a number of government buildings in Bangkok, including Government House, the Parliament building, police headquarters, and in commercial areas. Demonstrations have also taken place in a number of provincial centres outside Bangkok.
Further demonstrations and protests could develop quickly and with little warning. In the event of protest action, disruptions could occur in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, including to air, rail and other transport infrastructure. Access to key buildings and roads may also be blocked. Further civil unrest and violence could occur anywhere in Thailand with little warning.
You should avoid protests and political rallies, and security deployments associated with such events. You should also exercise a high degree of caution when approaching security checkpoints and avoid any protests, demonstrations or areas subject to operations by the security forces.
Australians should also avoid any prominent buildings associated with the Thai Government and military, such as Government House, the Parliament Building, the Supreme Court and all military installations (particularly those located in central Bangkok).
Border regions: There have been instances of fighting and banditry along some sections of the Burma/Thai border. This includes fighting between the military and armed opposition groups as well as clashes between Thai security forces and armed criminal groups, such as drug traffickers. Bandits may target foreigners travelling through national parks or border regions.
Tension along the Thai-Cambodia border continues and armed conflict or outbreaks of violence at other points along the border cannot be ruled out. You should be particularly vigilant if travelling to these border areas and are advised to monitor local information sources.
There is an ongoing border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia relating to land near Preah Vihear Temple (Khao Pra Viharn temple in Thai) located in the border region between Sisaket Province in Thailand and Preah Vihear Province in Cambodia. Fighting between Thai and Cambodian military troops over recent years has caused some injuries and fatalities and landmines have been reported. Military activity has decreased, but tensions remain high and protests have occurred. The temple, the surrounding area and some border crossings have been closed on a number of occasions. Australians are urged to be particularly vigilant if travelling to this area and to monitor local information sources.
Travellers who have attempted illegal border crossings have been detained and deported from Thailand.
Sexual assault, food and drink spiking, assault and robbery against foreigners occurs in Thailand, including around popular backpacker destinations such as Khao San Road in Bangkok and the night-time entertainment zones of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
Over the past two years, Embassy consular officers have assisted several Australians who were victims of sexual assault. See our brochure Sexual Assault Overseas for further information on how to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault and the assistance available to victims.
The Full Moon Parties at Koh Phangan and in other locations regularly result in reports of sexual assaults, deaths, arrests, robbery, injuries, drug abuse and lost travel documents. Travellers contemplating attendance should carefully consider personal safety issues and take appropriate precautions. See our Partying Overseas travel bulletin for advice on the risks you may face when attending Full Moon parties and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.
Petty crime is common. Money and passports have been stolen from rooms (particularly in cheaper hotels and hostels) and from bags on public transport (including on overnight bus services, particularly between Bangkok and Surat Thani). Items have been removed from luggage stored below buses and travellers have reported being drugged and robbed during bus journeys. Tourists have also been robbed after the bags they were carrying were sliced open by razor blades in tourist areas.
Australian travellers have reported harassment and threats of violence by jet ski operators on tourist beaches, particularly in Phuket. Some travellers have reported that, after returning hired jet skis, they have been confronted by gangs claiming that the tourist damaged the jet ski. There have been reported instances of such gangs threatening violence, including at knifepoint, if a large sum of money in compensation for the alleged damage is not paid.
Credit card and ATM fraud involving 'skimming' machines, which can store card data, can occur. You should monitor transaction statements and only use ATMs in secure locations such as banks, shops or malls.
Many travellers fall victim to scams after accepting offers from people recommending or offering various goods or services, particularly with shopping for jewellery and gems. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) can provide official advice on purchasing jewellery and gems.
Travellers have also lost large sums of money through bogus investment, property rental and time share schemes, card game scams and other fraudulent activity. There have been recent complaints from Australians who have lost money in time share schemes in Phuket. Australians should be particularly careful and thoroughly research any company offering such arrangements before entering into an agreement.
Local Travel
The Suvarnabhumi International Airport, also known as the New Bangkok International Airport (NBIA), is located in Samut Prakan Province, 25 kilometres east of Bangkok. Some domestic flights, particularly with budget airlines, are operating from Bangkok's Don Muang airport. Transfers between the two airports could involve delays. Travellers should contact their airline for flight information and transfer arrangements.
You should only travel in authorised taxis in Thailand. Some foreigners who have used unauthorised taxis have been robbed and assaulted. Service counters at Bangkok International Airport may provide information on transport to the city and hotels.
Motorcycle and other road accidents are very common in Thailand, including in resort areas such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui. Under Thai law, motorcycle riders and passengers are required to wear helmets, but they are often not provided by motorcycle taxis. For further advice on road safety, see our bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.
To legally hire a car or motorbike in Thailand, you need a valid international or Australian driver licence of the correct class. Be aware some rental companies will try to tell you otherwise.
If you intend to hire cars, motorcycles, jet skis or any other motorised water sport equipment, talk to your travel insurer to check if it is covered by your insurance policy. In addition to the jet ski incidents noted above, there have been a number of serious accidents involving jet skis in Thailand. Foreigners are regularly detained and arrested by police following jet ski and motorcycle accidents until compensation can be negotiated between parties. Many vehicle hire companies do not have insurance and any damage or loss will be your responsibility to negotiate or pay.
There have been instances of train derailments in recent years. Some have resulted in deaths and injuries.
The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities (e.g. scuba diving and bungee jumping), are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. If you intend participating in adventure sports, you should talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy.
Ferry travel in Thailand can be dangerous, as vessel passenger limits are not always observed or sufficient life jackets provided. Australians have been killed and injured in ferry and boat accidents in coastal areas, including near Samui Island. You should ensure that any vessel you intend to board is carrying appropriate safety equipment and that life jackets are provided and are worn. You should avoid travelling in ferries and speedboats after dark. Australians attending full moon parties should try to secure accommodation on the island where the party is being held to avoid the need to travel by boat at night. See the Partying Overseas travel bulletin for further information on travel issues.
Severe undercurrents (rips) are common in coastal areas and have caused deaths and injuries. Lifeguard services are rarely available. In some locations, red flags are displayed to warn swimmers not to enter the water and these warnings should be heeded. If in any doubt, Australians should check with local authorities before swimming.
Airline Safety
Please refer to our travel bulletin for information about Aviation Safety and Security.
Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
Severe storms and widespread seasonal flooding, including flash floods, can occur without warning in Thailand, particularly during the local wet season from June to December. The Mekong River Commission website contains information on flood levels for the Mekong River. Travellers should follow instructions from local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas. For the latest information, visit the Thai Meteorological Department website.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
Money and Valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
For Parents
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling Parents brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas, we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in Australia.
Ideas on how to select childcare providers are available from the smartraveller Children's Issues page, Child Wise and the National Childcare Accreditation Council.

Local Laws
When you are in Thailand, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that may appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
In Thailand, penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty. The possession of even small quantities of "soft drugs" for recreational purposes can result in lengthy jail sentences and deportation.
The death penalty can also be imposed for murder, rape, crimes against the state including treason, and certain offences against the monarchy.
Lengthy prison terms up to 15 years can be imposed for insulting the monarchy or defacing images of the monarch and his family. This includes destroying bank notes bearing the King's image.
Foreigners are required to carry identification at all times.
Almost all forms of gambling (other than at a few major race tracks) are illegal in Thailand. There can be heavy penalties for illegal gambling of any form.
Penalties for shoplifting, including at airports, include heavy fines and detention.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 17 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia. A number of Australians have been arrested in Thailand for these crimes.

Local Customs
Deliberate transgressions from local customs, such as showing the soles of your feet or touching the top of a person's head, are likely to cause grave offence. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for Dual Nationals
Australia/Thai dual nationals may be liable for conscription. Australian/Thai dual nationals who are unsure of their military obligation can consult the nearest embassy of Thailand.
Our Travel Information for Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.

Entry and Exit Requirements
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Thailand for the most up-to-date information.
Australian tourists travelling to Thailand through one of the international airports on an Australian passport may currently enter Thailand for up to 30 days without obtaining a visa in advance. This is referred to as a “visa exemption”. Australian tourists travelling overland into Thailand through a border crossing may enter Thailand for up to 15 days without obtaining a visa in advance. A visa is required for longer stays or for travellers intending to work or to travel for other than tourism purposes in Thailand.
Thai authorities require all travellers to have at least six months validity remaining on their passports. You may be refused entry to Thailand, or may not be permitted to board your Thailand-bound flight, if your passport has less than six months validity.
The Australian Embassy cannot help you to get entry permits or visas, visa extensions or work permits for Thailand or other countries. Make sure you obtain visas, entry permits and extensions of stay from Thai immigration authorities or a Thai Embassy or Consulate.
Avoid individuals advertising visa extension services, as they may stamp passports with fake or illegally obtained exit and entry stamps. Australians with illegal stamps in their passports can be arrested and jailed for up to 10 years. Thai authorities will vigorously prosecute offenders.
Overstaying your visa in Thailand is considered a very serious offence and may result in arrest and prolonged detention. Travellers who overstay entry permits may not be allowed to leave Thailand until a fine is paid. The fine is currently 500 Baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. If you cannot afford to pay the overstay fine you may be arrested, taken to court, charged with a visa offence, and required to serve a lengthy prison sentence in lieu of the fine. Travellers who have overstayed their visas may be imprisoned, deported and placed on an immigration blacklist to prevent them from returning to Thailand.
It is illegal to work without a work permit. In the past, some employers (particularly schools, fitness centres, securities telemarketers, currency traders, and other businesses) have not fulfilled promises to arrange work permits and their employees have been arrested, jailed and deported from Thailand.

Health Issues
Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 has spread throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides useful information for individuals and travellers on its website. For further information and advice to Australians on precautionary measures see our travel bulletin on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Travelling Well brochure also provides useful tips for staying healthy while travelling overseas.
The standard of medical facilities throughout Thailand varies. While private hospitals with international standard facilities can be found in major cities, services can be limited elsewhere. Private hospitals generally require confirmation of insurance or a guarantee of payment before admitting a patient. Costs can be very expensive. Generally, serious illnesses and accidents can be treated at private or public hospitals in Bangkok and other large cities. However, medical evacuation to a destination with the required facilities may be necessary in some cases at considerable cost.
Decompression chambers are located near popular dive sites in Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.
Stings from jellyfish and other marine animals can be fatal. You should seek advice from local authorities, your tour operator or hotel regarding seasonal bathing conditions, recommended precautions and other potential dangers. You should familiarise yourself with how to treat marine stings.
"Medical tourism", including for cosmetic and sex-change operations, is common. Australians should ensure that they are not lured to discount or uncertified medical establishments where standards can be lacking resulting in serious and possibly life-threatening complications. Hospitals and clinics have been known to refuse compensation to patients not satisfied with the results of cosmetic surgery.
Malaria risk exists throughout the year in rural areas of the country, particularly near the borders with Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis and filariasis) also occur in many areas. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria where appropriate and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times.
The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is found throughout many regions of North, South and South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Thailand is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, cholera, hepatitis, leptospirosis, typhoid, and rabies) are prevalent with outbreaks occurring from time to time. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food, and avoid unpasteurised dairy products. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions. For further information, see the Australasian College of Dermatologists' website.
Smoke haze: There is smoke haze across some parts of north and north-east Thailand usually during March to April. The high levels of air pollution may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Keep up-to-date with advice of local authorities and seek medical advice on appropriate precautions. Regular air quality reports are available from the National Environment Agency.
Avian influenza: The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Thailand. The Department of Health and Ageing advises Australians who reside in Thailand for an extended period to consider, as a precautionary measure, having access to influenza antiviral medicine for treatment. Long-term residents are at a greater risk of exposure to avian influenza over time. You should seek medical advice before taking antiviral medicines. Australians intending to travel to Thailand for shorter periods are at much lower risk of infection but should discuss the risk of avian influenza with their doctor as part of their routine pre-travel health checks.
If the avian influenza virus mutates to a form where efficient human-to-human transmission occurs, it may spread quickly and local authorities could move quickly to impose restrictions on travel. Australian travellers and long-term residents in Thailand should be prepared to take personal responsibility for their own safety and well-being, including deciding when to leave an affected area and ensuring they have appropriate contingency plans in place. Australians in Thailand should monitor the travel advice and Avian Influenza bulletin for updated information and advice, and ensure that their travel documents, including passports and visas for any non-Australian family members, are up-to-date in case they need to depart at short notice.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website.

Where to Get Help
In Thailand, you can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian Embassy
37 South Sathorn Road,
Telephone: (66 2) 344 6300
Facsimile: (66 2) 344 6310
In Phuket, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui you can obtain limited consular assistance from:
Australian Consulate
The Chava Resort
113 Moo 3
Tambon Cherngtalay
Thaland District
Telephone: (66 76) 372 600
Facsimile: (66 76) 372 606
Australian Consulate
Jinda Charoen Konsong
236 Chiangmai-Doi Saket Road
Amphur Sansai
Chiang Mai, THAILAND
Telephone: (66 53) 492 480
Facsimile: (66 53) 492 426
Australian Consulate
Koh Samui
Suratthani, THAILAND
Contact through the Australian Embassy, Bangkok
If you are travelling to Thailand, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
This Advice was issued on Saturday, 04 September 2010, 20:01:46, EST.

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