Eddie McGuire: Martial law has been declared in Thailand, and Mick, you were there recently, it's not an uncommon event that happening, but...
Mick Molloy: …over New Year's when these protests had just begun, and it was funny because it was the front page of the Wall Street Journal. We were travelling from New York, so they'd spooked everyone. The plane was like a third full, we had the run of Bangkok, all it's quite famous traffic didn't exist; our hotel was 30 per cent occupancy. I went down and had a look and at that stage is was very peaceful because it was just the yellow shirts who were protesting against the government at that stage, and the red shirts hadn't come to town and traditionally that's when it gets a little loosey-goosey.
So obviously things have snowballed since then and I think the leader's been deposed, but the Government's still in power.
Eddie McGuire: Yep, the Army Chief declared martial law across Thailand yesterday. The Foreign Minister of Australia Julie Bishop joins us on the line this morning.
Good morning, Julie.
Minister Bishop: Good morning, Eddie.
Eddie McGuire: Julie, for our listeners who may be heading to Thailand today or over the next week or so, can you give us a bit of insight into what the Australian Government are telling the Australian people about Thailand at the moment.
Minister Bishop: Well certainly Eddie, we are monitoring this very closely. I've been in touch with our ambassador in Bangkok, James Wise, and we're getting updates all the time, but for Australians considering travelling to Thailand or for those who are there, I recommend that they log on to the Smart Traveller website, that's www.smartraveller.gov.au and that will give updated travel advice and it is alerting people to the fact that martial law has been imposed across Thailand. We recommend that people stay away from protest sites where the rallies are taking place, avoid demonstrations, avoid large scale gatherings of crowds, because it can be volatile, things can turn a bit ugly and at short notice. There have been instances in the past where protests have got out of hand and we also recommend that people follow the instructions of local authorities and plan their travel accordingly.
Now Eddie, I've got to tell you, last January when there was a previous bout of protests, the Government issued a travel advice for people to keep away from protest sites. I happened to be transiting through Bangkok on my way back from Europe and I picked up a local Bangkok newspaper, and there on the front page were three Australians right in the middle of one of the huge protests, taking selfies in the middle of this mob, and it was there on the front page of the paper. And I thought, well, they're not listening to the advice from the Australian Government.
Now things can be very unpredictable so it's best not to be in places where protests are taking place. Keep away from them, but log on to the Smart Traveller website and register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that you're actually in Thailand so that we can help if assistance is needed.
Mick Molloy: Julie, you should take some of your own advice and avoid university campuses.
Mick Molloy: That's my travel warning to you.
Minister Bishop: There I was, not reading my own travel advice about Sydney University - I know.
Luke Darcy: Hey Julie, is it true that more Australians travel to Thailand than Bali?
Minister Bishop: I understand that used to be the case. Most certainly Bangkok post is our busiest in consular terms, that is the number of people seeking assistance, and so while Bali is a huge post for us, we have a consulate in Bali, our mission in Bangkok is the busiest by far. So there's a lot of people not only in Bangkok and the surrounding parts of Thailand, but they're also transiting through, so it's a very busy place. But I can't stress enough that people have got to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through our Smartraveller website so that we know they're in the country. But please, avoid these places where protests are likely to take place.
Eddie McGuire: So go to www.smartraveller.gov.au Julie, the Foreign Affairs Ministers; are you coming to the footy this weekend by any chance, Julie? Julie's on the board of the West Coast Eagles.
Minister Bishop: Oh no, I'm no longer on the board. I had to step...
Eddie McGuire: Are you off now?
Minister Bishop: Yes I had to step down from the board when we got into Government and I was in Cabinet - can't any perception of a conflict of interest, so I'm not on the board, but still an avid follower of the Eagles. Go Eagles! And I really hope that the boys do well this year - a new coach - he's doing pretty well.
Eddie McGuire: He's going alright too, isn't he? Everything else okay? Did you get through all the demonstrations okay?
Minister Bishop: At Sydney Uni?
Eddie McGuire: Yeah, at the uni.
Minister Bishop: Well, it was a bit confronting. The irony, of course, is that I was there to announce a thousand taxpayer funded scholarships for students, including from Sydney University, to travel overseas to study in our region under the New Colombo Plan.
Eddie McGuire: Sending them to Thailand now, I gather.
Minister Bishop: Not yet there, but it was a really good news story about support the Government was giving for young students to travel overseas and have the great opportunity to live and study at a university in our region. And this group of protesters, there weren't many I have to say, maybe 20, but they were blocking my entrance, so if I tried to get in one door, they'd run around and block me from getting in, and I don't mind people protesting, as long as it's peaceful. When you actually feel somewhat intimidated or confronted by it - and they were trying to prevent me getting into an event - well, then I think it's gone too far.
Eddie McGuire: Julie, thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
Minister Bishop: Pleasure.
Eddie McGuire: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joining us with a bit of a warning heading to Thailand. Yeah, head to smartraveller.gov.au and register before you decide to jump on the plane.
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