The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) immediately issued a travel advisory after the Army Chief issued martial law across Thailand before dawn on Tuesday, May 20.
Aussie travellers are strongly advised not to travel to Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla or overland to and from the Malaysian boarder through the four mentioned provinces for there is high level of violence, terrorist attacks, and daily bombings that beset these areas. Travellers are also warned to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand overall for there might be possible occurrences of civil unrest and terrorist attack.
The travel advisory at the DFAT Web site reads: "You should follow the instructions of local authorities and avoid all demonstrations, protest sites, political events and large-scale public gatherings." The advisory mentioned the center at Rachadamnoen Road near Government House and the government complex at Chaeng Watthana and the Thawi Wattana District as the main protest sites to be avoided.
The agency also warned Aussies in Thailand that they may observe heightened presence of security forces in some locations. Soldiers and armoured vehicles took positions outside of the broadcast facilities in Bangkok following the dramatic and surprise martial law announcement.
Aussie travellers in Thailand are also warned to be conscious of media announcements for possible interruption of transportation and other services, suspension of laws, imposition of curfews and other security measures as military authorities have wide authority to implement such.
The surprise announcement of martial law in Bangkok heightened the political unrest in Thailand. A military statement signed by army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha stated that the military had taken actions to keep peace and order. The statement cited authority have the power to intervene in times of crisis as mentioned in a 1914 law.
All television stations in the country have suspended their normal programming and are now under military surveillance after the martial law was declared in Thailand. An article from CNN mentioned the ticker running on the army's television channel. "The Army aims to maintain peace, order and public safety for all groups and all parties. People are urged not to panic, and can carry on their business as usual. Declaring martial law is not a coup d' etat."