Feb 20 2014

Bangkok protest update, 20 February 2014

Published by at 7:50 am under Practicalities

The dust has settled in Bangkok after a violent clash between police and anti-government protesters left five dead and over 60 injured on Tuesday (February 18). It was the first serious attempt to disperse protesters who have for months occupied government offices and key intersections as part of their “Bangkok Shutdown” campaign. What does this mean for travellers?

Same old scene on Khao San.

Same old scene on Khao San.

Though February 18 was a tumultuous day, it appears that fallout from the clash will make Bangkok safer in the immediate future. The Thai Civil Court has ruled that the government “cannot use force to disperse the protest”, which effectively bars police from going near the protesters. Even without this ruling, it’s unlikely that the government would risk further violence that could provoke the courts or military to step in and force it from power.

Protesters have remained in the vicinity of Government House and Phan Fah canal bridge, where the clash took place. The area is located just east of Democracy Monument and within sight of Wat Saket, no more than a 15-minute-walk east of Khao San Road or the Grand Palace on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. Though another crackdown is highly unlikely, we recommend avoiding Ratchadamnoen east of the monument, just to be safe.

Protesters also remain encamped at the intersections of Pathumwan, Ratchaprasong, Asok and Sala Daeng, and at Government Complex off Chaeng Watthana Road in far northern Bangkok. Though rumours still circulate that the government offices will reopen soon, travellers should note that immigration continues to function out of two temporary offices on the city’s outskirts.

The main protest sites (listed above) in central Bangkok have remained almost entirely peaceful since the so called Bangkok Shutdown began in mid-January. Protest numbers have dwindled, leaving the areas almost completely empty during the day, with a small but dedicated contingent arriving for early evening speeches. Police have not attempted to disperse protesters in these areas.

The Thailand T-shirt vendors aren't going anywhere.

The Thailand T-shirt vendors aren’t going anywhere.

Major shopping malls near protest sites, including MBK, Siam Paragon and Terminal 21, are back to their normal hours of operation and can be accessed directly from BTS stations. Short stretches of Silom, Sukhumvit and Rama I roads remain closed to traffic. One bright spot has been the festive pedestrian markets that have sprung to life along these normally congested roads.

All inter-city and long distance public transport operates as normal. Protesters continue to hold occasional marches to various offices and ministries in Bangkok, which can make it difficult to catch a taxi at times. But it’s still business as usual in the vast majority of the city.

On the other hand, it’s definitely not business as usual in the Thai government. The country’s Anti Corruption Commission recently announced that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra may be charged with abuse of power due to a disastrous rice-pledging scheme that has left over a million Thai farmers desperate for overdue government payments amounting to a staggering 130 billion baht. The farmers’ own anti-government protests have gradually picked up steam, with some joining the larger movement in Bangkok.

If Yingluck is charged (and she probably will be), her court-ordered impeachment could transpire as soon as next month. This could open the door to reform, reconciliation and eventual new elections, but in a repeat of 2010, it could also trigger counter-protests by Yingluck’s “red shirt” supporters.

For now, with the police barred from confronting the protesters, Bangkok appears to have slipped back into the same tense balance that it was in before the latest clash. Our advice remains the same: stay abreast of the latest developments, choose wisely where to stay, and have fun in Bangkok.

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26 Responses to “Bangkok protest update, 20 February 2014” ...

  1. reginaon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Somewhat tense tonight Feb. 20. Vigilant guards at Asoke site and men in military garb on flyover. Police observing Rachaprasong site. Less people in the walking streets at 8pm than a few days ago, but thousands of protesters at Asoke as usual.
    I would not recommend strolling through protest site markets/walking streets right now, especially at night.

  2. Jermaineon 21 Feb 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I’m planning on staying at the ambassador hotel or the dream hotel on sukhumvit road in mid april. Are these hotels away from any potential harm and protestors crowds?

  3. David Luekenson 22 Feb 2014 at 2:56 am

    Hi Jermaine,
    Ambassador Hotel is near Thong Lor BTS station so that area is pretty far away from the protests and is a good choice. Dream Hotel is closer to the Asok protest site.

  4. Hoaon 22 Feb 2014 at 3:40 am

    Hi David,

    I planned to stay in Muangphol Mansion hotel, it’s a hotel right next to Cultural center and BTS Siam. Is this place safe at the begin of March? I landed on March 6th.

  5. David Luekenson 22 Feb 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Hoa,
    That hotel is right next to the protest site at Pathumwan. The area has been generally safe, but if you’re worried about it, you should switch to one of the areas mentioned in our article on where to stay in Bangkok away from the protests. There’s really no way to tell what things will be like two weeks from now.

  6. Jheffon 22 Feb 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I have been staying in Soi Kasarn Sahm near BTS National Stadium, and its generally safe during day, with protesters welcoming everyone. Just use common sense, at night especially, you can easily access most places and avoid the main protest centres. While folk are warm to strangers, its still unpredictable, so trust instinct, keep peripheral or use other access points to your Soi.

  7. racon 24 Feb 2014 at 6:50 am

    im planning to book pathumwan princess hotel for 22march family trip 4 nite. we will jus stay in hotel will it be safe for us tourist,? air ticket paid. or we shld cancel the the trip?

  8. David Luekenson 24 Feb 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Hi rac,
    Personally I would not cancel a trip to Bangkok, and I also don’t think there’s any need to stay stuck in your room as long as you avoid protest areas. But I would not stay at Pathumwan Princess Hotel, which is very close to the Pathumwan protest site.

  9. Samanthaon 25 Feb 2014 at 10:19 am

    What tourits sites are affected vs safe to visit? Thanks!

  10. Hannahon 25 Feb 2014 at 1:59 pm


    I will be staying at Holiday Inn Express Siam on 6th March until 12th March 2014. Just want to know whether the rally sites affecting the hotel area and is it really safe for tourist like us to visit Bangkok now after bombing tragedy recently?
    Your comment please..

  11. David Luekenson 25 Feb 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Samantha,
    Good question. The only Bangkok attraction that I think could be flatly considered “unsafe” is Lumpini Park, but the fact that I still go jogging there frequently tells you just how unsafe I think it is. The Pat Phong (Silom) and Soi Cowboy (Asok) red light districts could also be considered unsafe as they’re very close to protest sites. I’d avoid them after dark, but then, I always avoid them anyway. Bangkok Art & Culture Center (BACC) and malls like MBK, Siam Paragon, Central World and Terminal 21 are next to protest sites, but they can still be accessed safely / directly from BTS stations, which means you don’t have to actually walk into the crowds. Virtually all other tourist sites that I can think of, including Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Chatuchak Market (to name a few), are perfectly safe and can be accessed by boats or BTS/MRT.

    Aside from the places mentioned above above, there are a few others that are on the margins… Wat Saket is very close to the area where violence occurred on the 18th between police and protesters. More of a landmark than a tourist attraction, Democracy Monument is also in that area, and the Giant Swing / Wat Suthat are not far. It would have been hairy to have been visiting any of these on the 18th, but the area has been safe ever since then. Another is Vimanmek Palace and the other Dusit palaces, as well as Dusit Zoo. These are all close to Government House, which protesters have been surrounding for a long time. Still, I wouldn’t say it’s unsafe to visit any of these places so long as you stay clear of Government House itself. The general rule is that as long as you don’t walk right into crowds of protesters, you’re safe. And the fact is that, overall, Bangkok’s traffic remains more of a threat to travelers than the protests.

  12. David Luekenson 25 Feb 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Hi Hannah,
    Holiday Inn Express Siam is very close (as in right across the street from) the Pathumwan protest site. You can access it without walking through the crowd from National Stadium BTS Station, but it’s definitely not a great place to be staying. I’d consider changing to one of the areas mentioned in our article on Where to stay in Bangkok during the protests.

  13. Ayu Mus .on 25 Feb 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Hi sir,i m gonna be in bkk on 2/3.
    I have already booked a hotel stay at The Sukothai Bangkok.
    Is it safe to commute to the city area using the Lumpini Bts?
    Pls advise!Tq u in advance!

  14. Markon 25 Feb 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Have booked Majestic Suites hotel near Nana station for this Fri and Sat night.

    Safe? Local area safe?

  15. David Luekenson 26 Feb 2014 at 2:58 am

    Hi Ayu,
    Yes it is safe to commute to/from Lumpini MRT station. It’s not far from the protest site at Sala Daeng / Lumpini Park but you can avoid the protests by using that MRT station. The area around Sukhothai Hotel is clear.

  16. David Luekenson 26 Feb 2014 at 2:59 am

    Hi Mark,
    Yes, that area is fine. You’ll want to use the skytrain to get around as parts of Sukhumvit and Rama I roads are closed around the Ratchaprasong and Asok protest sites, which are both only a couple kms away from Nana. But Nana itself is good.

  17. Stefanon 26 Feb 2014 at 6:10 am

    As of now, the situation in Bangkok at the protest sites is still peaceful during the daytime. It’s rather a big festival with lots of live music, street food and happy faces where ever you look. It’s different during the night time when there are more and more bombings and shootings attacks mainly from red shirts. It’s really safe and fun to hang out at the protest sites during day time but I wouldn’t go there after like 10 o’clock in the evening. Let’s see where all this is going, Suthep doesn’t really want to negotiate.

  18. markon 26 Feb 2014 at 8:20 am

    David, thanks very much. This blog is very useful to me and countless others. Your commitment and quick responses and very welcome.

  19. Joy Caion 26 Feb 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Hi my family of 6 adults and a 8yrs old kid will be visiting bangkok from the 15th Mar to 19th Mar ..We will be staying at The Berkeley Hotel Pratunam. The address is 559 Pratunam,
    Ratchathewi. I understand that it is quite near to the Pratunam market and Platinum mall.

    Can you kindly offer me some advise. Will it be alright to go ahead with the trip. Thank you so much sir.Looking forwards to your soonest reply.

  20. David Luekenson 26 Feb 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Stefan,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree that the protest sites are generally peaceful, but I’d still suggest that people who want to be safe stay away even during the daytime. I was at Pathumwan today and saw a bunch of tourists around. I definitely wouldn’t bring kids there.

  21. David Luekenson 26 Feb 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Hi Joy,
    The area where you’re staying is away from any protest sites, and it has good access to public transport (BTS at Ratchathewi Station, Airport Rail Link at Ratchaprarop and Phaya Thai station), so it’s a good choice. At this point I personally don’t feel it’s necessary to cancel a trip to Bangkok. There have been incidents of violence but they’ve been mostly small, sporadic and isolated to the protest sites themselves. There have not been all out, widespread battles like we’ve seen in Ukraine recently. The police have not attempted to disperse protesters since the 18th and it’s unlikely they will try again. Most of the city operates normally. I would definitely recommend avoiding the protest sites, but traveling over/under them by skytrain/subway is safe. I visited several of the protest sites today and, as nearly always so far, the situation was peaceful. As your trip is still not for a couple more weeks, I’d follow the situation (bangkokpost.com and also our updates here) and just make sure nothing changes dramatically during that time.

  22. Joy Caion 27 Feb 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Hi David,

    Thanks alot for your help & advices … Greatly appreciated …

  23. Ronaldon 20 May 2014 at 8:03 am

    Hi David.

    I will be flying in mid next mth and stay at Platinum Mall area – Grand Centera Hotel. Will it be safe ? The surrounding area my hotel and the shopping area.
    What about places like Chatuchak?
    With the army in place on the streets. will it be safer for us now ?
    and wad abt night markets to visit. which ones are safe for us to go ? like phat thong ?

    thanks for ur advice.

  24. David Luekenson 20 May 2014 at 9:16 am

    Hi Ronald,
    Mid next month is still a long ways off. All I can say is that right now Bangkok is safe, and I’d say the soldiers have made it safer as you suggest. The only place that should be avoided in Bangkok now is northern Ratchadamnoen Road around Government House. Everywhere else is fine. But there’s a good chance things will change (hopefully for the better) over the next few weeks so do keep yourself updated. I just finished a fresh post on the situation that should be published within the hour.

  25. Yvonneon 21 May 2014 at 5:56 am

    I am leaving for Bangkok tomorrow will staying in P2 Boutique for the next 4 days. I am torn in between if I should cancel the trip. Your valuable advice, please.

  26. David Luekenson 21 May 2014 at 6:00 am

    Hi Yvonne,
    I personally see no reason to cancel. Here’s our latest update on the situation, published yesterday afternoon: http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/thailand/2014/05/20/army-invokes-martial-law-in-thailand-should-travellers-be-concerned/