Travel A-Z: W is for Warnings

Unfortunately in more recent years there have been an increasing number of warnings given to travellers by their respective governments — here is a brief overview of some of the major issues. Please bear in mind that the following should be regarded as background information only and there is no substitute for keeping informed before and during your stay.
Thailand: The troubles of far southern Thailand
Over the past couple of years, the far southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla have seen a resurgence in violence ostensibly related to the desire of a vocal Muslim minority for a larger degree of cultural, political and religious independence from the central government in Thailand. This issue has been a long running sore and for an in depth analysis of both the historic and more contemporary situation, we strongly suggest you read this excellent paper by the International Crisis Group.

With the exception of Songkhla, these southern province do not attract a large number of tourists — primarily due to a general lack of tourist infrastructure and the plain fact that there really isn’t that much to see there. Of course for those who are interested in getting well off the tourist track, they hold their own special appeal, but for the vast majority of visitors to Thailand, these southern provinces are nothing more than a blur out of their train or minibus window. Most visitors who do come here are transiting north from the Malaysian border to the southern transport hub of Hat Yai, and for all intents and purposes, this route appears to be largely safe.

The province of Songkhla gets far more tourists than the above-mentioned provinces — mainly heading to the bustling town of Hat Yai. In Hat Yai’s case there have been a couple of bombings (including of the international airport) and random shootings, but with the exception of the airport bombing, attacks do not appear to have been primarily directed at western tourists. Realistically if you are planning on visiting the islands off rang and Satun, then chances are you’ll need to pass though Hat Yai, and at this stage we would not suggest altering your plans to avoid Hat Yai.

In summary, the violence in the far south has not, so far, exhibited a particular focus on foreign tourists. If you are considering heading to this part of the country, keep informed — read the newspapers, watch tv news and talk to others who have been there.

Laos: The Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang road
The road running north from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, particularly around the village of Kasi was once a hotbed of robbings, mayhem and murder and was not considered a safe route to take. This was in the mid to late 1990′s, and it is now regarded as being largely safe. While there is still the occasional robbery on this road and buses sometimes still carry armed guards, the route is considered safe by most and it has been some time since a westerner was killed on this road. In fact you’re more likely to get injured due to an accident tan any kind of armed conflict along this route.

Cambodia: Landmines
Cambodia remains one of the most mined countries in the world, yet the vast majority of these landmines are nowhere near the tourist track. The most likely areas that tourists would face an obvious risk of landmines is around Anlong Veng, Pailin, Preah Vihear and pretty much any regional area in the country. Well-touristed areas such as Angkor Wat, Battambang and Phnom Penh should all be regarded as ok. Nevertheless caution is always a good idea, and Cambodia is never a country where unguided bush-whacking is a good idea. Stay on well-worn tracks, always use a guide if in rural areas and never enter an area marked as a minefield.

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