LORETTA Our Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop joins us.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning Loretta, good morning Ian.
IAN Good morning Ms Bishop.
What is the update at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP Well I have to say we are gravely concerned by the announcement by General Prayuth the Royal Thai Army Chief that the military is assuming all government functions in Thailand. The caretaker government is no longer the government. There’s a curfew in place, the constitution has been suspended and the military is essentially in charge of the country.
Now the coup has ended the months long political crisis but only time will tell how this is resolved. I’ve spoken to our Ambassador in Bangkok overnight. We are seeking more information on what I think is a very regrettable development and we need to know the reasons for announcing the coup just days after imposing martial law on the basis that it was not a coup. We suspect it was because there were concerns about more violence and more violent protests.
IAN There is a history of political unrest in Thailand. Is this a more tense situation than past coups?
JULIE BISHOP You’re right. I believe there have been about 19 coups in Thailand since 1932 and this coup has similar features in that the government has been sacked and Ministers have been detained, the constitution has been suspended, except the provisions relating to the monarchy, a curfew has been imposed, the media has been muzzled and there are restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression. So in some senses it’s just like other coups.
What we’re concerned about though, is there has been a new group emerge since the last coup. The grassroots, pro-democracy movement the Red Shirts, they have emerged. So that adds a different element to this coup.
We are obviously concerned about the safety of Australians who are in Thailand and at any one time there’s probably about 28,500 Australians in Thailand, about 10,000 in Bangkok but only five and half thousand have registered their travel plans with the Australian Government. So I’m urging people to log on to our Smartraveller website,www.smartraveller.gov.au to get regular updates about what’s happening in Thailand and also to register their travel plans with us.
LORETTA People who have already booked to go and they’re due to leave in the next couple of days – what would you say to them?
JULIE BISHOP Authorities advise that the curfew doesn’t apply if you’re travelling to, or from, an airport. The international airport and the airport in Phuket, they’re still operating as we understand it.
I would urge people, if they have to go to Thailand to exercise a very high degree of caution and pay close attention to their personal security. They will have to abide by the curfew that is in place between 10pm and 5am and of course they should follow the directions and instructions of the local authorities who in this case are the military and the police.
IAN And if you have relatives or friends in Thailand your advice?
JULIE BISHOP To log on to the Smartraveller website and familiarise themselves with the travel advice and subscribe to receive regular updates. I’d also urge people who are in Thailand to keep in touch with their family and friends back home so we can identify their whereabouts as quickly as possible.
IAN Thank you for giving us your time this morning.
The heavy hitting political question this morning, how’s the new hair style gone?
JULIE BISHOP Well I’m coping! Thank you for asking, I am coping.
IAN It looks pretty schmick.
JULIE BISHOP It’s a lot easier than having to blow dry your hair in the morning. I’m a jogger, I’m a runner so when I’m out running in the morning and I get back in, I’ve got about five seconds for a shower, I just wash the hair and brush it and go.
LORETTA You’ve been up late last night and early this morning so have you had your run this morning Julie?
JULIE BISHOP I’m about to do it! No I haven’t had a run his morning because I had to, I’m in Adelaide, and I had to do the Today Show and get in there at about 6am so there was no time for a run but tomorrow morning I swear I'll be out there.
IAN Ok well have a great weekend and thank you for joining us this morning, we appreciate your time.
JULIE BISHOP Thanks Ian, thanks Loretta.
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