Thailand Country Report
The military-led government has further delayed the planned general election to February 2019. Any elected civilian government will probably have its power curtailed by the constitution, and the military is likely to continue to exercise influence through unelected bodies such as the Senate. The government has launched stimulus packages and planned major infrastructure expansion, but it has not successfully addressed Thailand's increasingly uncompetitive economy, particularly in manufacturing. Political uncertainty is the main concern for foreign businesses, with fears of unfavourable policy such as higher corporate tax or rises in minimum wage. Looming corruption scandals from the military government raises the risk of protests by pro-democracy activists; however, given strictenforcement of the ban on political gatherings, the likelihood of large-scale civil unrest remains low.
Thailand has a very good transport infrastructure network, with modern highways, ports, and extensive air transport links. The exception is the outdated rail network, which the government is planning to upgrade across the country and introduce high-speed trains from Bangkok to cities such as Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima. Large-scale protests and strikes are rare. However, demands for bribes and facilitation payments remain a major issue for businesses.
The majority of terrorist attacks have been concentrated Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, and parts of Songkhla province. However, multiple IED attacks that targeted commercial and tourist areas, including Bangkok, Hua Hin, and Phuket, as well as security officials, signify an expansion of their geographical reach and target set. That said, since the establishment of the military government, there has been improved security in commercial areas and terrorism hotspots. The capabilities of terrorist groups are also limited, and the risk of large-scale, co-ordinated attacks is low.
Thailand is unlikely to be involved in a full-scale military conflict with its neighbours. Although Thailand and Cambodia have overlapping claims to a hydrocarbon-rich area of the Gulf of Thailand, they are likely to be resolved diplomatically. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged artillery rounds over the ownership of the Preah Vihear temple in 2011, but the issue was resolved in 2013 by the International Court of Justice. Rebel groups from neighbouring Myanmar have been known to use Thai territory as a base to attack or flee from government troops. Their presence increases the risk of an occasional small-arms fight with Thai soldiers.
The acceptance of the outcome of the 2016 constitutional referendum by major groups reduces the risk of large-scale protests. Protest risk will probably increase around the time of the general election, announced in November 2018. Continuation of restrictions of political campaigning or banning individuals or parties associated with former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from contesting the polls will raise protest risks substantially. However, a repeat of the scale and violence of the 2010 Red-Shirt protests or the 2013–2014 anti-government protests, in which participants took over part of central Bangkok, is unlikely.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over one year of age arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and for travelers who have been in transit in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication (for a trip to areas along the border with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, or Malaysia) - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
Thailand is prone to natural disasters; the devastating December 2004 tsunami that hit the country resulted in 5400 deaths nationwide. Since then, Thai authorities have introduced warning systems and shelters in the event of a tsunami. Nationwide tsunami drills take place on a regular basis.
The kingdom is also prone to seismic activity. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake (on the Richter scale) with an epicenter in Laos struck on May 16, 2007, and was felt all the way to Bangkok.
The monsoon (rainy) season spans from April to October. Tropical storms and flooding inflict the country on a yearly basis. The country was struck with the most serious flooding seen in half a century between July 2011 and January 2012: 800 people were killed, and 14 million people in 65 out of 77 provinces were affected; Bangkok and its environs were paralyzed for several weeks.
Traveling by car can prove a challenge in Thailand, especially in Bangkok. Although vehicles drive on the left side of the road, many motorcyclists drive illegally on the right or use sidewalks to bypass congested traffic. Safety is the primary concern on Bangkok's roads, filled by a mixture of motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, and tuk-tuks. Drivers are undisciplined and often do not give way to emergency vehicles, leading to emergency services struggling to reach scenes of accidents on time.
Between April and November, certain rail lines can be interrupted due to seasonal rainfall. The rail network in Thailand is aging in general, and the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route is subject to derailments.
Attention should be paid to the respect recurring danger observed in speedboats. Remember to check to see if there are sufficient life jackets on board. Do not board precarious or overloaded boats.
The bus line between Surat Thani and Bangkok is frequently targeted by pickpockets, and thefts of wallets and passports are regularly reported. Thieves target hand luggage while individuals are asleep. Be vigilant and keep your luggage secure during the entire journey.
The elevated Skytrain and underground subway (MRT, Metropolitan Rapid Transit) are safe to use and recommended by most Western governments to avoid Bangkok's traffic.
The sub-par state of roads outside large cities may pose a risk for travelers. Avoid traveling off national highways and in secluded, rural areas. Criminals may attempt to attract your attention by feigning a need for assistance, or by wearing military uniforms and forcing vehicles to stop at fake checkpoints. Always drive with doors locked, windows rolled up, and all belongings out of sight.
Poor vehicle maintenance, excessive speed, and the small number of cases of traffic violations - by both locals and many foreign tourists - are responsible for a considerable number of accidents, and rates are among the highest in the world (426 deaths in 3327 road accidents between December 29, 2016, and January 3, 2017).
Individuals present in Thailand should avoid hailing a taxi off the street; instead, pre-book it from your hotel. Check that the meter is functioning. Registered taxi drivers have a yellow placard with their name and their photograph on it; verify the photograph matches the driver before entering the vehicle.
Thailand has a tropical climate with a dry and sunny season from November until February. Between March and the end of May, temperatures are very high. The rainy season (monsoon) begins in June and ends in October (with a peak of precipitation in September). During this period brief storms are very common. The north receives more rainfall than the south and tends to be cooler. Typhoons can strike the country in September and October.
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