After nearly ten months, martial law has been lifted in much of Thailand. Though we shouldn’t forget that it continues in the deep south as it’s a separate issue due to the ongoing insurgency. Martial law came into affect across Thailand shortly before the coup last year. The good news is that it has now been lifted. The bad news, is that the military junta has invoked Article 44 which basically gives them absolute power over the Thai people and any foreigners living here.
So, how does the lifting of Martial Law affect tourists? Well, on the surface, nothing has really changed as I think the majority of them didn’t really know what was happening in Thailand. The ones I spoke to had recollections of some protests a year or so ago, but the majority thought that the troubles were all in the past. Of course, that is not so. Tourists should have been aware that having Martial Law in Thailand probably meant that their insurance was invalid. You cannot really blame the tourists as you hardly see any soldiers, and any police you see are usually traffic cops.
I was at an event today that was attended by Ms. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Minister of Tourism and Sports. I managed to ask her a quick question as she was leaving. Though there was no time for any follow ups as she was already late for her next engagement. This is the transcript of what she told me
How does the lifting of the martial law affect foreign tourists?
Kobkarn: It will benefit them.
In what way?
Kobkarn: Because of the confidence. Like for example the Japanese. They have asked us many times whether we can change the name. Because “martial law” to them is very strong. It’s something related to war. That kind of thing. So with this they will have more confidence. And that another part that will help a lot will be, I think, the MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions]. Because some of them were reluctant to come to Thailand because of the insurance companies. But I believe the insurance [companies] should be happy to accept Thailand now.
From what I am reading here is that it’s just the name that has been changed; from Martial Law to Article 44. Basically superficial window dressing to make insurance companies, MICE organisers, and foreign tourists happy. But, will it work? Will insurance companies fall for this sleight of hand? If tourists are now fully insured should they still come to Thailand for a holiday without any concerns?
There is still a lot more I want to find out about Article 44 before I make up my own mind. I also need to give some thought as to whether I should continue promoting Thailand as a tourist destination. I have received a certain amount of criticism from certain quarters regarding this. The pressure is similar to the call for travel boycotts to Burma in the past. I had previously dismissed this by saying it’s not the same in Thailand and that the generals will soon give power back to the people. But, these days I’m not so sure.
At the moment, my heart says continue promoting Thailand for the people and the country that I love. The hope is that one day there will be light at the end of the tunnel and that things will get back to normal. But, I know full well that it won’t ever be the Thailand that I fell in love with when I first came here over twenty years ago. I am also realistic that the day might come when I should stop promoting Thailand as a tourist destination. But that will never mean that I have stopped loving the country.
What do you think? Has the time come for me to hang up my hat or should I continue as normal?