US to Close their Bangkok Embassy at Noon Due to Expected Protests

The US has announced that they will be closing down their embassy in Bangkok at noon on Tuesday 18th September 2012 due to a planned protest. The security message on the embassy website didn’t go into any details but added that they are “not aware at this time of any specific threat to U.S. citizens in Thailand”. Here is the message in full:

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand has been informed by the Royal Thai Police that a demonstration involving several hundred people is planned on Wireless Road in front of the Embassy beginning between 1 PM and 2 PM on Tuesday, September 18.  Demonstrators will assemble at Lumpini Park and march to the Embassy.  The large number of demonstrators is expected to disrupt traffic in the area.  Consequently, the Embassy will be closing to the public at noon and non-essential personnel will be sent home.  Visa and citizen services appointments scheduled for the afternoon of September 18 are being cancelled and rescheduled for later dates.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is not aware at this time of any specific threat to U.S. citizens in Thailand.  As a general precaution, the U.S. Embassy advises you to exercise caution and to be aware of your surroundings, particularly around large crowds or gatherings.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence with little or no warning.  You should avoid areas that may be targeted for demonstrations and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations or large gatherings.  You should monitor local media to keep updated with the latest information about demonstrations and areas to avoid.

Nowhere in this security message does it say what the protest is about. Embassy staff are being tight-lipped about it. They have had bigger protests in recent weeks about the US granting Thaksin a visa. But these protests largely went unnoticed by the general public and no warning was sent out. However, we are presuming that this protest is linked to other protests spreading around the world about the anti-Islam video. Last night a reporter from The Nation contacted the embassy for more details and this is what he then tweeted: “Embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler confirmed the planned rally could be related to the controversial movie”.

Thailand is mainly a Buddhist nation. There are only about 1.2 million Muslims which is 4% of the population. The majority of the Muslims live in the deep south of Thailand. Although there are daily insurgent attacks in the southern provinces, none of the violence has reached the Thai capital of Bangkok. We are not expecting any major incident in Bangkok today, but the US Embassy is correct to be cautious. After all, four American personnel, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed recently in Benghazi, Libya. The US Embassy is on Wireless Road. Click here for a map location.

Follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow for any breaking news today.

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