Safety and Security
The State Department is concerned that there is a continued risk of terrorism in Southeast Asia, including in Thailand.
In January 2012, Thai police discovered a large quantity of explosive materials linked to suspected Hizballah operatives.
On February 14, 2012, an explosion occurred at a house on a busy street in central Bangkok. A few minutes later a man leaving the house threw an improvised explosive device at a taxi. The subsequent investigation attributed the incident to individuals from Iran who may have been plotting a terrorist attack against foreign interests in Thailand but whose bombs exploded prematurely.
While traveling in Thailand you should exercise caution, especially in locations where expatriates congregate, such as clubs, discos, bars, restaurants, hotels, places of worship, schools, outdoor recreation venues, tourist areas, beach resorts, and other places frequented by foreigners. You should remain vigilant with regard to your personal security and avoid crowds and demonstrations.
The political environment in Thailand remains beset by deep political divisions. Protesters hold political rallies frequently to voice their opinions. Between March and May 2010, political protests throughout Thailand resulted in the deaths of at least 91 people and injuries to over 260 people, including two U.S. citizens. For a period of several months after the protests ended in May, there were numerous explosive attacks, including several isolated grenade and arson attacks in and around Bangkok and, on occasion, Chiang Mai. Some of the explosive devices were discovered in public places in Bangkok, including near a major shopping center, a school, a bus stop, and government buildings. These incidents appear to have been motivated by domestic politics and to have no apparent link to international terrorism.
The Department of State advises all U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Thailand to monitor events closely, to avoid any large public gatherings, and to exercise discretion when traveling within the country. Political demonstrations are frequent in Thailand. Many are scheduled on the anniversary of political events, and others happen with little warning. Demonstrations can attract tens of thousands of participants and often cause severe traffic disruptions, especially if they include processions from one site to another. If a demonstration is expected to pass near the U.S. Embassy or Consulate facilities, Embassy and Consulate entrances and functions may be restricted. Demonstrations are unpredictable and can turn violent without warning. For this reason, we encourage you to monitor local media for information about possible demonstrations and to avoid the vicinity of demonstrations.
Violence in Southern Thailand - Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla: The far south of Thailand has been experiencing almost daily incidents of criminally and politically motivated violence for several years, including incidents attributed to armed local separatist groups. Although the separatist groups have focused primarily on Thai government interests in the southern provinces, they sometimes target public and commercial areas, including areas where foreigners may congregate. On March 31, 2012, almost simultaneous bombings in one of Hat Yai’s largest hotels and in a Yala commercial district killed at least 13 people and injured more than 500, including a number of Malaysian tourists. On September 16, 2011, three coordinated bombs exploded in Narathiwat’s business and entertainment district, killing five people, including four Malaysian tourists, and injuring over 110 others. On April 18, 2011, a car bomb exploded in Yala’s business district, killing one person and injuring 23 others. On February 19, 2011, gunmen fired on a karaoke restaurant in Narathiwat municipality, injuring two; half an hour later, a car bomb went off nearby, injuring more than a dozen people. On February 13, 2011, a car bomb exploded in Yala municipality’s business district injuring at least a dozen people.
The U.S. Embassy prohibits its personnel from traveling to the far south of Thailand -- Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala provinces--without prior approval, and Embassy personnel may go there only on work-essential travel. U.S. Embassy and Consulate personnel must provide advance notification of travel to Songkhla province, and they are advised to use hotels outside Songkhla’s central business district. The Department of State urges you to defer non-emergency travel to these areas. If you must travel to these areas, you should exercise special caution and remain vigilant with regard to your personal security. You should be aware that Thai authorities have on occasion instituted special security measures in affected areas, such as curfews, military patrols, or random searches of train passengers.
Thai-Cambodia Border: Because of border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia, we recommend caution if traveling near the Thai-Cambodian border in the area of the Preah Vihear temple and farther west in the Phanom Dong Rak district of Surin province. Between July 2008 and June 2011, soldiers from the two countries exchanged gunfire on several occasions. Some artillery fire reportedly struck several kilometers away from the border. Fighting has also extended some distance along the border in both locations. Until these situations have been resolved, you should pay special attention to local conditions along this border, since past military activity has occurred with little warning.
The Thai-Burma Border: The Thai/Burma border is the site of on-going conflicts between the Burmese Army and armed opposition groups based in Thailand as well as clashes between Thai security forces and armed drug traffickers. Pirates, bandits, and drug traffickers operate in these border areas. It is possible that significant flare-ups of military activity on the Burmese side of the border could spill over into adjacent areas of northern Thailand. You should travel off-road in undeveloped areas only with local guides who are familiar with the area. Border closings and re-openings occur frequently, and if you are considering traveling into Burma from Thailand, you should be aware that in the event of a border closure you may not be able to re-enter Thailand. In light of the continuing unsettled situation along the Thai border with Burma and the possibility of frequent closings to all traffic, the Department of State recommends that you exercise caution when traveling in remote or rural areas of Thailand adjacent to the Burma border.