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Bizarre twists in UK travel advisory

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Bizarre twists in UK travel advisory | Thaiger

PHUKET: In a bizarre twist possibly sparked more by politics than reality, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) yesterday took Phuket off its list of places for British travelers to avoid, and then, within hours, put it back on.

On its website, the FCO had advised, since the tsunami struck, against “all but essential travel to affected resorts and towns along Thailand’s west coast, in particular Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak.”

The advisory continued, “Some coastal areas of Thailand were hit by a large tsunami on 26 December, resulting in widespread flooding and damage. Large numbers of casualties have been reported. The infrastructure and public services are severely disrupted.”

Intense lobbying by the British community in Phuket appeared to have had the desired effect yesterday afternoon when the advisory was changed, telling would-be travelers that although Khao Lak and Phi Phi should be avoided, Phuket was rebuilding and was, in essence, functioning normally.

The change was greeted with sighs of relief from those who had been grinding their teeth at the earlier assertions, knowing that travel and insurance companies base decisions on such advisories.

Later in the day, however, this more accurate version was taken off the website and the old one restored.

The first change came at almost the same time as the boss of the FCO, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, was giving a press conference in Phuket, at which he was asked when the dire warning in the travel advisory would be rescinded or altered to reflect reality.

Despite being in Phuket where he could, presumably, see for himself that infrastructure and public services were working normally, and were not “severely disrupted”, Mr Straw sidestepped the issue, saying only that he would first have to discuss the matter with colleagues in the British Cabinet.

Only hours after that statement, the advisory was changed back to the original wording.

 

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