FOREIGN travellers enjoying the nightlife at Bangkok’s Khao San Road gave mixed responses at the weekend to the increased security measures implemented across Thailand in the aftermath of the bombing spree in seven southern provinces.
Some tourists said they had not noticed tightened security measures in Bangkok. Others said they had not heard anything about a series of bombings in an 18-hour period starting late Thursday until their parents called them, asking them to be cautious or to return home immediately.
“[Bangkok] seems so normal that I did not know there was violence. I watched the news [about] the bloody blasts after my parents called me, saying there were bombings and fires here,” said a tourist from Spain who identified himself only as David.
The bombing and arson attacks struck tourist attractions and crowded areas in Phuket, Trang, Hua Hin, Surat Thani, Phang Nga, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat. They occurred on the occasion of Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday and national Mother’s Day on Friday, leaving four dead and at least 30 injured including foreign tourists.
Despite the spate of bombs in the South, the famous entertainment street for foreign backpackers – Khao San Road – was still packed with visitors. From 8pm until 3am, the street was crowded with foreign tourists and Thais mingling along the vibrant street lined with carts selling a range of Thai food, including the signature pad Thai noodles with shrimp.
David said he planned to visit the North today and then travel to the South despite the bombings.
He added that he was not worried about the unrest because he had witnessed political turmoil in Thailand before.
Now on his second visit to the Kingdom, David said he was used to the unrest after first visiting in 2006 when a military coup overthrew the elected government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Despite the coup, he said, he still enjoyed travelling in the country 10 years ago.
David said Thailand had relatively lax security measures compared to Spain, adding that when his country was hit by deadly bombings, authorities turned out in force to secure crowded areas until the situation eased.
Although David did not worry about the situation, his girlfriend, who asked to remain unnamed, said she felt nervous and did not know what to do if more bombings happened during their trip.
“I would not have visited Thailand if I had known about the bombing,” she said.
While the police investigation proceeded, there was much speculation about who the perpetrators were.
Some tourists said they thought the attacks were caused by political motives.
“I think it is political problems,” said a Chinese traveller who asked to be referred to as Max, 26.
She said she believed Thai people were very nice and she was confident in the security situation and still enjoyed the night in Khao San Road despite feeling nervous after hearing the bad news.
Many tourists said they were not worried because they were used to terrorist attacks in their home countries.
An Israeli man on his fourth trip to Thailand, who asked not to be named, said he did not worry about small-scale bombings.
“I come from Israel where deadly bombs have occurred for years. Also, I used to be a soldier and have been in this situation.”
Ella and Tanja from Germany said they were “not really” anxious about the blasts.
“It is already finished. It’s just only one time. We are planning to go to the North. Relaxing. There are lots of police here.”
Jonas, also from Germany, said: “This kind of thing could happen anywhere around the world. I’m pretty sure there is enough security.”
Coming from Europe, he said he was used to terrorism and would “continue a normal life”.
Meanwhile, 20 foreign embassies including Japan’s issued alerts warning their citizens to be vigilant in dangerous circumstances.
A pair of Japanese teenage travellers said they had not heard about the travel advisory and had enjoyed two nights at Khao San.
Pol Maj-General Supapone Arunsit, commander of Immigration Division 1, said police from many stations were supervising the Khao San area.
He said at least 40 plainclothes and uniformed police were stationed on the road. According to a police source, authorities were taking turns guarding the area with military authorities patrolling during daytime and police at night.
Even with the tightened security, vendors said the number of tourists had not decreased.
They said tourists might have been stuck in Bangkok and did not want to travel to other provinces due to worries about the bombings.