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Governments begin relaxing travel advisories

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Foreign governments have been relaxing their warnings against travelling to Phuket, although the change is by no means universal, and all government websites visited by the Gazette are still recommending that their nationals avoid Phi Phi and Khao Lak.

The French government was one of the first to take Phuket off the pariah list.

On Friday last week, the website was already advising readers that while much of Thailand’s west coast was hit by the tsunami, the damage varied from place to place.

It said (Gazette translation): “The island of Phi Phi and the area of Khao Lak were ravaged but, in contrast, on the island of Phuket, damage was very localized and limited to certain beaches.

“Daily life continues in a normal manner across most of the island. Many hotels, restaurants, dive centers, etc are working as usual. The situation is the same in Krabi.

“There is no greater risk of infectious diseases than normal. Travel to the area is therefore perfectly possible.” See here for the advisory (in French).

At the time of going to press, however, the US State Department website continued to warn against travel to Phuket, in a travel advisory issued on December 26 and not updated since.

Australia, too, continued to warn its nationals against travel to Phuket. An advisory, dated December 30, read: “Australians should avoid travel to the west coast and islands off the west coast of Thailand including Phuket, and to the southern region in general (Ranong Province and all provinces south). See here for full text.

The British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) indulged in an odd bureaucratic shuffle, warning travelers initially against “all but essential” travel to Phuket, then saying the island was safe, then warning again against travel to the island before finally relenting on January 9, stating at the top of the page, “We no longer advise against travel to Phuket and Krabi.” The full advisory is here.

This afternoon Sweden – which lost thousands of citizens to the tsunami – relaxed its advice to its nationals about travelling to affected areas.

A spokesman for the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok said the embassy was not advising Swedes to avoid Phuket, but instead was telling travellers to be aware of the risks of visiting Phi Phi and Khao Lak.

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