As protests wind down, Bangkok sees gradual return to calm


After a week of clashes between tens of thousands of protesters and the Thai government in Bangkok, the capital is slowly starting to see a return to normal, according to reports.

"Life already has returned to normal for Thais," said Kim Mitchell, communications and online marketing manager for tour operator Asia Transpacific Journeys. "Locals are able to drive in the city using the same streets that were blocked by protestors days ago. Nothing to be seen, except a few soldiers at some intersections."

Over the past week, up to 100,000 anti-government protesters clashed with government troops, police and residents in street battles that left two dead and 123 injured, the Associated Press reported.

On Sunday, the demonstrators forced the cancellation of a regional summit in the nearby seaside town of Pattaya after they stormed the venue, AP said. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, 70 people were injured and there were no fatalities.

As of Tuesday, many road blockades erected by protesters had been cleared in Bangkok, the tourism authority reported.

"It should be noted that on-going disturbances have been limited to only certain districts in Bangkok," the tourism authority said on Tuesday. "Outside Bangkok, while there have been some demonstrations in certain provinces, they have been peaceful with no reports of clashes or violent protests, particularly in popular tourist destinations in the north and south of Thailand."

The tourism authority also stated that foreigners are not being targeted in the on-going political conflict. "Be that as it may, foreigners are advised to avoid areas in which there are demonstrations and street blockades," said the tourism authority.

In December, anti-government protestors successfully staged a week-long occupation of Bangkok’s airports, stranding as many as 300,000 travelers in Thailand.

"The airport did get extra protection with a checkpoint on the ramp leading up to the terminal," said Mitchell. "It seems the Thai government is not taking any risks of a repeat from last fall."

The most recent unrest was said to have been prompted by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who provoked the anti-government protesters in Bangkok, speaking to them by video almost nightly over the course of the last week, AP reported.

On Monday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a severe emergency situation in the areas of Bangkok and its vicinities, due to the demonstrations led by the group called the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, the tourism authority said.

"Currently, the Thai government is doing its utmost to restore peace and order and enforce the law of the land in order to bring the situation back to normal as soon as possible," the Tourism Authority stated Tuesday.

"Basic measures, particularly negotiations, will be undertaken first before being stepped up to such measures as the firing of blank bullets, warning shots and tear gas. No weapons have been and will be used, except in self-defense."

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