The upcoming July 3rd national election is the first national vote in Thailand since December 2007 when the military returned government control to the Civilian Leadership. As most of us have witnessed since December 2007, Thailand has experienced three and a half years of civil unrest which included three prime ministers, airport seizures, killings in Bangkok CBD and the worst outbreaks of political violence in Thailand’s democratic history.
The run up to the election has seen a few sporadic acts of violence, to include assassinations and attempted assassinations of selected candidates, and a number of rallies in Bangkok CBD but overall no major demonstrations or civil eruptions are anticipated prior to the election. Over 90,000 police officers will be assigned to ballot polls on July 3rd to ensure all procedures in counting are met. The Election results will be broadcast during the evening of July 3rd.
Many suspect the elections will not end the political stalemate. The process of forming a Government, which could well involve the usual ‘horse trading’ whereby the smaller parties form allegiances so as to create a majority in Parliament, will be a tense period. Even when a Government is formed it is very possible that the losers will protest. Thus July must be seen as a period of rising tensions and increased risk, especially in Bangkok. The concern is that once again there will be large-scale civil unrest, rallies, and disruptive parades attempting to bring Bangkok to a halt. Sporadic shootings and low-scale bombings have accompanied such events in the past.
It is not prudent to plan only for what we have experienced in the past; e.g., airport and BTS station seizures, parades along predictable routes, etc. We need to consider as well what has not occurred and view these types of incidents as likely should civil unrest erupt again - a few possibilities are kidnappings or hostage taking of prominent persons, seizing an occupied building such as a shopping center (during business hours) or hotel, the use (or threat to use) explosive devices in built up areas.
There are certain actions which can be taken now to make us better prepared should July prove to be a ‘difficult’ month:
1. Update your business continuity plans and, if you have one, test your alternate office systems and arrangements.
2. Update your communication plans, your telephone / email alert trees and systems... can you contact all your staff and advise them of any changing circumstances affecting the work place?
3. Revise your command chain, who will be the decision makers and are they immediately available, is there a ‘duty roster’?
4. Revise your travel plans, and those of any visitors coming to the country.
5. Revise your ‘lock down’ and access control procedures, do you have the ability to secure your building so as to physically deny people access?
6. Up-to-date information is key. We need to make sure our people are not caught up in any incidents by being in the wrong place at the wrong time; do you have the ability to monitor local TV, radio and internet?
7. Potential strangleholds of transportation networks will impact employees being able to access their workplace or persons to move freely about the city... are there any key transport hubs on which you rely and are there alternatives?
8. As usual avoid all large gatherings and demonstrations and not be unduly alarmed by a noticeable heavy security force presence.
9. Update and practice any evacuation plans.
10. Speak with your security provider - what surge capability do they have?
11. Above all be flexible and prepared to react as and when required.