Foreigners warned as political turnoil treatens

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Foreigners warned as political turmoil threatens

From correspondents in Bangkok

May 29, 2007 06:09pm

Article from: Agence France-Presse

FOREIGNERS in Bangkok were today warned to exercise caution amid mounting security fears ahead of a landmark court decision over whether to dissolve Thailand’s two largest political parties.

Australia, Canada, France and Japan all advised their citizens to be highly cautious as tomorrow’s verdict could trigger violent demonstrations in the Thai capital.

“You should avoid demonstrations, political rallies and concentrations of military personnel,” the Australian embassy said.

The Japanese embassy called on its citizens to “stay away from expected political rallies” and “act very cautiously so as not to get involved in possible unrest and terror attacks.”

Thailand is the fourth most popular foreign destination for Japanese tourists after the United States, China (including Hong Kong) and South Korea.

Some 900 police will be deployed on Bangkok’s streets today, protecting the Constitutional Tribunal offices and setting up checkpoints to deter party supporters from travelling to the capital from the provinces.

Some 15,000 Thai troops were on alert today across the country to deter possible violence, officials said.

The Canadian embassy warned that planned protests might turn violent and urged its citizens to “maintain high level of personal security awareness” and avoid “unnecessary travel” in Bangkok.

The US embassy here has left its travel advice unchanged, urging tourists and expatriates to monitor events and avoid large public gatherings.

The British embassy’s travel advice, which was updated on Wednesday last week, also urged its citizens to avoid demonstrations and large crowds.

Tomorrow, Thailand’s Constitutional Tribunal must decide whether Thai Rak Thai, the party formed by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Democrat Party are guilty of a slew of charges of electoral fraud related to annulled elections in April last year.

The tribunal has the power to dissolve the parties and ban their executives from politics for five years.

The potentially divisive ruling comes after more than a year of political upheaval culminating in the September 19 coup against Thaksin.

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