Thailand Coup

Why the Thai Coup Terrifies Me

I traveled to Thailand during what was, at the time, the height of the chaos surrounding Yingluck Shinawatra’s now-deposed government, so I had a feeling that the international press was creating needless hype around the most recent escalation of these events – a coup d’état, in case you’ve been living under a rock.

Conversations with Thai friends, business associates and even readers traveling in the Kingdom have confirmed this: Thailand is not even a bit dangerous right now, even (in most cases) if you spend 24 hours per day at protest sites.

Yet the continuation of this situation – or, more specifically, the continuation of the media frenzy surrounding it – has me scared. Not of visiting Thailand and not for my friends who live and travel there, but about something much, much bigger.

Character Assassination

You see – and anyone who has ever been to Thailand will corroborate this – Thai people are some of the kindest, calmest, most rational people I have ever met. I have literally freaked the fuck out in an extremely professional setting (my laptop died on the first day of a press trip to Thailand, literally five minutes before my car to the middle of nowhere pulled up) and everyone around me was the picture of composure. Not a voice, let alone an eyebrow, was raised.

And yet the entire media, from mainstream outlets like CNN and the BBC, to channels like Al-Jazeera and Russia Today, whose journalists I usually laud for their more 360º perspective on events, have tried to the cast whole ordeal as transformative not only to the political zeitgeist in Thailand, but to the very character of the Thai people, as if the few, freak gunshots and bombs going off the past several months (I would wager, although I’m not sure, there are more in the United States in a single day) have altered the average Thai person such that it is no longer safe to travel to Thailand.

The Death of Thai Tourism?

Although I’m certain media reports have already had, and will continue to have an impact on Thailand’s tourist numbers (which surged to more than 26 million in 2013) the fact remains that tourism constitutes only seven per cent of Thailand’s economy and even a complete disappearance of the sector won’t wreak the same kind of economic hardship it did following outbursts of violence and calamity in, say, Bali or Egypt.

At least, not in the short term.

What I fear will happen if the situation is not resolved shortly (which is to say to an extent that would make it disinteresting to the fear-mongering media) is that the image foreigners have of Thailand and the Thai people will become increasingly based on falsehoods and perhaps, eventually, lead to a general fear of the Kingdom, visiting and doing business there.

Why You Should Still Visit Thailand

Although I doubt Thailand could ever achieve the international pariah status of Myanmar, a nation I visited four years ago (before it officially “opened”) and discovered that basically everything I’d previously heard about it was false, the country also known as Burma represents a lower limit of the bleak future I fear for Thailand if this false narrative continues.

As I told Alex, a young man from San Francisco whose Thailand trip I recently planned in a travel coaching session, the only way to beat the media at their game is to go for yourself and to do your own reporting. If you’re curious as to whether Thailand is safe and are thinking of your own trip there, I offer you the same advice: Go to Thailand, see it for yourself and tell me how scared you are when you come back.

About The Author

is the author of 1064 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


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Caro_PassportandaToothbrush June 6, 2014 at 8:20 am

AMAZING. You took the words right out of my mouth. We lived in Khlong Sok for a few months where we were the only white people and had the chance to really get to know what Thai people are all about. Your description is right on the ball. Most
of my Thai friends live in the Khao Sok area, in the south, and there
is no sign of violence, etc. News reports make it seem as if the whole
country is going up in flames when really, they’re showing the minority protesting in Bangkok. It’s so frustrating! Thanks for an excellent post.

Sabrina June 6, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I’m actually planning a trip to that region and Thailand was in it. It will be my second big trip, my first being in Europe, and I removed Thailand from my list because of the coup. I’m inexperienced with long travels and I’ve never been to Asia, so I would love to read more from travelers who go to Thailand under these circumstances. I still have plenty of time to plan Thailand in. I’m glad you posted this because now I feel like I might go to Thailand after all.

Theboywander June 7, 2014 at 5:19 am

God damn media! I learnt the same thing when I got to India after countless warnings from friends and family about just how dangerous it is.

Robert Schrader June 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Glad there are risk takers among us to show the truth!

Robert Schrader June 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Please do go to Thailand!

Robert Schrader June 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Thank you for reading 🙂

BangkokAnon June 12, 2014 at 3:41 am

In many ways you are right, there has never been a significant risk to foreigners who apply simple common-sense here, even at protest sites. Apart from the noise, if you were more than 100m from a protest site, you’d be hard pressed to tell anything out-of-the-ordinary was going on.
The question right now, however, is not one of selfish personal safety, but whether or not travellers want to send a message to the Thai authorities that their actions and the current situation is acceptable.
Right up to the point where the coup occurred – I was even OK with martial law – I was happy to tell people it was (and is) safe to travel here, but now I would ask people to consider going somewhere else. Tourism will recover in Thailand, and quickly, but it needn’t be so quick as to relieve the Junta of any pressure to return to democracy as soon as possible.

Robert Schrader June 12, 2014 at 8:11 am

Hi Bangkok Anon:

Thanks for your insightful comment. My secondary issue is that I wonder if “democracy” will come to spite stability. I would love for rural and underprivileged Thais to have an equal say in where their country goes, but I would hate for the military to let go of power and then give way to an entire civil war.

BangkokAnon June 12, 2014 at 8:27 am

Yes, it’s unlikely even the level of democracy achieved before the protests began last year will be restored any time soon, but we can at least pressure the Junta to more forward with a civilian, if appointed, administration and perhaps relax the current draconian restrictions on free expression.
Once civilian rule is restored then tourists can play an important role in exposing the population to other cultures, but for the time being I’d rather they stay away. Hopefully a civilian administration will be appointed by the end of summer and before the high-season.

DWJTravel June 17, 2014 at 11:30 pm

I wonder, if there is some kind of master plan going on with the goal to teach Thailand a lesson?
These travel warnings in place make no sense. They should refer to the safety situation. Instead I think they are put in place to put pressure on Thailand, which would be a political decision unrelated to the safety situation.

Robert Schrader June 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

Yes, that is exactly the reason. Western governments wanted Shinawatra to stay in place because she played by their rules.

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