South East Asia 15th January 2018

Most travellers have a fun and safe time in SE Asia, the area has huge opportunitites. Parts, especially in Thailand, are overflowing with travellers so one has to make a bit more of and effort to get off the beaten track and explore the unspoilt areas.   During 2016 there was an increase in the cases of Dengue Fever across the region and this is being repeated in 2017. Dengue is casued by day biting mosquitoes, covering up and using insect repellant with 50% DEET is a good precaution. Chikungunya Fever is also a risk, bite avoidance, is once again the key.

Thailand has a reputation for scams, crime and drugs and therefore travellers need to be careful. It must be remembered that there are very severe penalties for drugs smuggling in all SE Asian countries, the execution by Indonesia of 5 foreign drug smugglers in June 2015 is a timely reminder. There is a risk of terrorism in Indonesia, the Philipinnes and Thailand. Its a growing probelm across the globe, our one piece of advice would be to avoid busy nightclubs if you are in a countries where terrorism is an issue. 

Thailand remains politically unstable and is now governed by the military. On a simplistic level the country is split between those who support the Shinawatra dynasty - the 'Red shirts', who are in the majority, rural based and in the north and those in the more traditional elements of society; military, judiciary, supporters of the Royal Family. This group second is broadly known as the 'Yellow Shirts' and whose power base is Bangkok. On 20 May 2014 the Army declared Martial law, followed by a full Army take over.  The military are delaying elections but have recently announced that elections will take place in November 2018.  Objective continues to be concerned over the continued threat of a terrorist attack against tourists in Thailand, a number of incidents have occurred, 4 local people were killed & 12 foreigners were wounded, in bomb attacks in Phuket and Hua Hin on 12 August 2016 & further attacks may well occur.  Whilst to date Islamist attacks have been generally confined to the southern provinces, intelligence assessments are warning of the threat of further attacks against the major cities and popular beach resorts. Objective would urge travellers to avoid very popular nightclubs and restaurants in the most popular beach resorts.  The threat of terrorism by seperatists will remain in the 3 southern states, approx 60,000 Thai troops are deployed in this area and whilst attacks are directed against security forces tourist should adhere to FCO advice and avoid the area. Be aware that the Monarchy is held in very high regard and open criticism is likely to result in a prison sentence. On 13 Oct 2016 King Bhomibol died. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed the new King on 01 Dec 2016.  During this transition peroid it is recommended that travellers dress modesty with dark colours and adhere to mourning dress codes in urban centres. Away from security, we strongly advised travellers not to have tattoos done in Thailand or elsewhere in SE Asia following numerous stories of people contracting HIV and other blood related diseases/infections.  Within Laos there have been an number of incidents of local and tourists being attacked and robbed in the Vang Vieng area. In the past Vang Vieng was very popular with gap travellers, less so now. The government has responded by increasing police presence, expect to see some police checkpoints.

We urge travellers to consider going to Burma/Myammar, the country is moving slowly towards a more democratic and should be visted before mass tourism arrives. Those travellers who have gone to Burma have loved it and we would strongly urge a visit, however its a country that is still emerging from military rule and isolation for 50 years. In November the NLD party led by Aung San Suu Kyi won the election and the pace of change is likely to increase although the military will still have enormous influence. The new president, Htin Kyaw, a colleague of Aung San Suu Kyi, was sworn in on 14 March 2016. In addition, there are numerous tribal, religious and regional unrest in many parts of the country, especially in the western Rakhine province where clashed have occurred between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists. The violence spiked at the end of August 2017, hundreds of thousands of  Rokhingya have fled to Bangladesh.  However its a highly rewarding country to visit, the central area is generally safe and Objective highly recommend visits to Myanmar but research is essential to understand the local issues. Many travellers report getting sick in Burma, the standards of hygiene are generally poorer than elsewhere in SE Asia. There are many landmines in the eastern border with Thailand, there are few crossing points and research is necessary to ensure safe passage.

Security on the Indonesian island of Bali has been increased authorities are concerned that IS will try to gain a foot print within Indonesia. Our advise is for travellers to avoid high profile venues in tourist resorts such as large night clubs.  There was an IS related terrorist attack in Jakarta on 14 Jan 2016 2 people & 4 gunmen were killed. In the Philippines there is also a threat from terrorism, the most recent attack was on 28 Dec 2016. Whilst a concern it should not put people off visiting as the authorities are well prepared to handle the threat. Volcanic activity in late September 2017 has prompted Bali authorities to evacuate citizens away from Mount Agung. It last erupted in 1963 killing over 10,000 people. The airport reopened in early Dec 2017 but an exclusion zone remains in force around the volcano. The situation has stabilised and the exclusion zone has been reduced but the situation needs to be monitored.

Many Chinese cities are currently experiencing severe levels of smog and general pollution, travellers are advised to check pollution levels and avoid the most heavily polluted areas. Smog levels tend to be worse in winter. The winter of 2017-18 has again resulted in increased pollution and also heavy snow in January 2018 in some central and eastern areas. 

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