A couple of days ago, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) published the results of their first ever tourist survey in nine years, with input from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and it had some strange listings for their top ten favorite cities in Thailand.
Now, since the Ministry of Tourism and Sports received their information from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, I could see them listing Bangkok first (DUH), then Pattaya, Phuket, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, and Chiang Mai.
But, for the Tourism Authority of Thailand to include Nakhon Rachasima (Korat), Rayong, Krabi, and Songkhla in a list of top ten cities based on a survey of local and foreign tourists, makes absolutely no sense. Okay, Krabi makes some sense, but where is Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Koh Chang, Chiang Rai, the other 19 Provinces in Isaan, and Sukhothai?
Adding to the Tourism Authority of Thailand strangeness, The Nation published an article yesterday, 30 December 2011, Security high as tourists flock to Hat Yai, a city in Songkhla Province. The article claims that OVER 12,000 rooms are fully booked yet it displays a photo of a motorcycle vendor driving down an empty street. It doesn’t show flocks of tourists. It states that the Thai Police are overseeing things to “prevent disturbances”.
Stranger still is the exact same article appeared in The Nation again today, 31 December 2011 with a slightly different title, Security high as tourists flock to Hat Yai for New Year Countdown, and no photo of the missing flocks. Is there some sort of conspiracy between the Tourism Authority of Thailand and The Nation to promote Songkhla?
And, why would the Tourism Authority of Thailand promote Songkhla now when the area has been inundated with flooding since last November? Why does the Tourism Authority of Thailand promote Songkhla this weekend when the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department (DPMD) warned of “violent waves and heavy rain” from 29 December until 1 January? No weather warnings in the Tourism Authority of Thailand survey article and no weather warnings in the duplicate articles from The Nation.
Why is the Tourism Authority of Thailand promoting Songkhla when the Australian Government issued a travel advisory stating the following (click on Safety and Security):
We strongly advise you not to travel at this time to the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla, or overland to and from the Malaysian border through these provinces due to high levels of ongoing violence in these regions. In recent years almost daily attacks, many of which have caused deaths and serious injuries, have taken place in these areas. Bombings and shootings are commonplace in these areas. Arson and beheadings have occurred in the past. The Thai Government has warned tourists not to travel to these areas.”
Why is the Tourism Authority of Thailand promoting Songkhla when the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) state the following in their travel advisory:
Martial law remains in place in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and in the Sadao district of Songkhla province. Security authorities can detain suspects without charge, censor the media, conduct searches and seize documents. We advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.
OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to and through the far southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla (including the city of Hat Yai). These provinces have been experiencing criminally and politically motivated violent incidents. Attacks against military and civilian targets occur almost daily, and include shootings, bombings, beheadings and arson.
Violence in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces is highly unpredictable, and Canadians travelling in the region risk becoming casualties of an indiscriminate attack. Deadly attacks occur frequently and are regularly directed at government and security buildings and personnel, but have also occurred in a variety of public places, including shopping districts, entertainment venues, public transit and hotels that may be frequented by tourists. Since January 2004, over 4,700 people have been killed and many more injured, including foreigners.
Heavily enhanced security measures – including martial law in the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, as well as the Sadao district of Songkhla – are in place to provide authorities with increased enforcement powers that may be used to address ongoing violence in the region. These measures allow authorities to detain suspects without charge, conduct searches, seize objects or documents, and impose curfews.
Why is the Tourism Authority of Thailand promoting Songkhla when New Zealand has issued this travel advisory:
There is high risk to your security in the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla because of ongoing politically-motivated and criminal violence. We advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to these provinces. Since 2004 there have been over 4,000 deaths as a result of terrorist and other violent attacks. The Thai Government’s Emergency Decree is in force in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat with the Internal Security Act also applicable in parts of Songkhla. These laws give the police and military forces broad powers in addressing security threats. The Thai Government has warned tourists not to travel to these areas.
Why is the Tourism Authority of Thailand promoting Songkhla when Ireland has issued this travel advisory:
– We also advise against all travel to or through the Southern Thai Provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla. On 16 September 2011, a bombing in Sungai Golok district, Narathiwat province, which is near the border with Malaysia, led to at least four deaths and many injuries.
I didn’t see any travel advisory on the American Embassy in Thailand web site, but there was a warning about possible demonstrations at the Embassy on 16 December. No advisory at the U.S. State Department web site. But, an advisory from the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) stating that Thailand (Split) threat level is High, crime level is Medium, and only mission essential travel approved by a Flag Officer/General Officer (FO/GO) is authorized.
I used to have to use this PACOM website when I made out my Anti-Terror/Force Protection plan prior to any travel. I have never seen Thailand listed as “Split”. Prior to my retiring, it was listed as “Medium” (not significant) except for the Southern Provinces. I guess that is what the “Split” means, though there is no clear explanation at the PACOM site.
So, with all of these country travel advisories, why is the Tourism Authority of Thailand promoting Songkhla?
UPDATE 1 January 2012 – From the Bangkok Post, Flash floods hit Songkhla
Flash floods triggered by continuing heavy rain fall since Saturday morning have inundated eight districts of Songkhla province, reports said.
The districts are Muang, Sadao, Chana, Hat Yai, Nathawee, Na Mom, Saba Yoi and Khlong Hoi Khong, according to the reports.
State authorities were deployed in flood hit areas to survey flood damages and to provide emergency assistance to the flood affected people, the reports said.
It was reported that Kanchanavanich road linking between Hat Yai and Sadao, a border district to Malaysia, is now under floodwater and impassable for small cars.
Hat Yai municipality had changed its warning flag from green colour to yellow, warning people to 24-hour prepare for evacuation.
Right after the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports put Songkhla in the top ten.
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