Thailand's traditional new year holiday begins today amidst a new wave of political protests in Bangkok that caused several countries to issue travel warnings as well as raise concern among global and local economists. Australia, Britain, France, South Korea, the U.S., Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates have issued warnings to citizens about travel to the country in Southeast Asia. Economists are worried that the timing of the protests, which are taking place in the middle of a three-day holiday that stimulates local spending, could cause significant damage to the economy.
According to a report by the BBC, anti-government protesters, most of which are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have blockaded streets in the country's capital and are demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resign and call new elections. Thailand's government declared a state of emergency Sunday, a day after the protests forced the cancellation of a summit of Asian leaders in Bangkok.
The latest protests continue to give Thailand significant trouble in attracting tourism and international spending. Protesters took to the streets of Bangkok in December of 2008 after shutting down airports in the country earlier that month. In August 2008, political protests jarred the region as well. The U.S State Department issued a travel alert to the country in November.