MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines warned its nationals in Thailand on Tuesday, May 20, to prepare for possible evacuation after the Thai army declared martial law.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued this warning as it raised crisis alert level 2 (restriction phase) “in view of recent political developments in that country.”
“Alert level 2 is issued when there are real threats to the life, security, and property of Filipinos arising from internal disturbance in or external threat to the host country,” the DFA said in a statement.
“Under alert level 2, Filipinos in Thailand are instructed to restrict non-essential movements, avoid public places, and prepare for evacuation if necessary,” it added.
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Philippine President Benigno Aquino III himself has ordered Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario “to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Thailand,” said Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma.
These statements came as Thailand’s army declared martial law across the deeply divided kingdom, to restore order after months of deadly anti-government protests.
The army deployed armed troops in the capital, Bangkok, but insisted their action was “not a coup.” It also said it “prohibits all media outlets from reporting or distribution of any news or still photographs detrimental to national security.”
DFA to Filipinos: Avoid rallies
The turmoil has gotten worse since March, when the Philippines lowered the crisis alert level in Bangkok to alert level 1 (precautionary phase) from 2 in March.
Given this situation, the DFA also said on Tuesday that under alert level 2, only overseas Filipino workers with existing contracts (balik-manggagawa) can return to Thailand. This is based on the rules of the Department of Labor and Employment.
The Philippine Embassy in Bangkok, for its part, said it “advises Filipinos residing in or traveling to Thailand to avoid rally sites and large gatherings, and to refrain from taking part in the protest or other political activities.”
The DFA said Filipinos should “continue exercising extreme caution and vigilance and to closely monitor developments.”
Coloma pointed out that the Philippines backed the joint statement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in the recently concluded ASEAN Summit in Myanmar.
The statement called “for a peaceful resolution to the on-going challenge in Thailand through dialogue and observance of democratic principles and the rule of law,” Coloma said. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com