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Friday 14 October 2016

What now for tourists in Thailand?

Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. Tourists are usually made very welcome and their excesses frequently overlooked.  

But everything has changed - for the next few days at least - following the death last night of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who ruled for 70 years. 

Thais adore their royal family, who are revered much more than royals in just about any other country. The impact of the King's death will be real and profound - and the mourning will last for a considerable time (officially for 12 months).

Although Australia has issued no warnings at all, Britain’s Foreign Office advised visitors to Thailand to take into account “the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people” after the death of the King. 

Visitors have been advised to wear sombre clothing (preferably black) and to be aware that “access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars, and shopping areas may be restricted” 

Thai police colonels/superintendents, under the guidance of the army, will decide the period of time bars/clubs will be closed. In Phuket that will be three days. In other tourist centres like Bangkok and Pattaya, no time frame has yet been announced.

But given the sensitivity of the times, tourists would be well advised not to drink in public, not to be obviously drunk, or to make any unwelcome approaches to females. 

To do so would not only be insensitive, it might provoke angry responses. Tourists have also been reminded not to talk in a way that may be considered critical of the Thai royal family, which is a serious offence and could earn jail time.

So things will be a little different for tourists - including possible cancellation of "anything goes" full moon parties. Lying low is advised.   

The Thai prime minister has already said that entertainment must be “toned down” for a month - and tourists should certainly also tone down their behaviour and display the cultural sensibility that a few Australians did not manage to show recently in Malaysia.

#UPDATE. There is little logic to what has been postponed and what remains open. Concerts featuring Oasis and the Scorpions have been cancelled, as has Muay Thai boxing at the two main stadiums in Bangkok. Yet transvestite cabaret shows in Pattaya and Phuket remain open daily. Check with local authorities before travelling to any attractions.     

Here is the latest official communique: 

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