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The Imperialism Behind Travel Advice

Category: , Posted:01 Mar 2010 | 11:28 am

The Phuket Gazette.
It's been a very long time since the phrase 'the sun never sets on the British Empire' was in vogue, but news that Britain has issued an advisory for travelers to Thailand brings the phrase to mind.
The advisory, issued from Bangkok by British Ambassador Quinton Quayle, advised UK citizens living in the Kingdom as follows: "The political situation in Thailand is tense and uncertain… British citizens should exercise great caution throughout Thailand."
It furthermore urged UK nationals to "stay indoors and monitor the media and this website" on February 26, when the Supreme Court will rule on the fate of 76 billion baht in assets seized from companies linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
In a country like Thailand that has struggled to recover from both the political events and economic crises of the past two years, the alarmist mentality of foreign missions abroad could be conceived as careless, with the potential to inflict unnecessary damage to a recovering tourism industry.
As I write this, overseas news headlines tell the tale of a deranged man in the US who has 'gone postal' and crashed an airplane into a US tax office building in Texas. The report notes that while Air Force fighter jets were scrambled, this 'clearly was not a terrorist attack'. Western news media were clearly careful not to create panic or perceptions that the incident was anything more than a domestic crime.
The web is full of crime statistics covering every bloodstained corner of the globe. A read of the 'United Nations Survey on Crime Trends' shows that in terms of number of crimes per 1,000 population, the United Kingdom ranked sixth, with 85.5 per 1,000 people. The United States, which has also issued an advisory, came in eighth at 80.0 per 1,000. Thailand, by comparison, came in at number 45, with just 8.8 per 1,000.
Perhaps danger is in the eye of the beholder. For the British man stabbed a few weeks ago during an Aston Villa FA Cup Clash, this was clearly just a case of over enthusiast fan support. Roll back to the 1985 tragedy where 39 fans were crushed to death in Brussels in a match between Liverpool and Juventus. Danger unfortunately comes in many guises in this world, but the question remains: was the same high level warning issued to footie fans in the UK and Europe asking them to stay home and not travel to matches?
The staid colonial ambitions of the developed West, with its xenophobic and dubious double-standard of protecting unfortunate third-world countries for democracy, unfortunately still seem to apply to Asia today.
Despite Asia leading the world recovery after the recent global economic crisis, it still remains an uninvited guest at the elite cocktail parties attended by those who fancy themselves the world's true rulers.
There is no need to go into detail over how the miserable attempts – by those who consider themselves answerable only to a higher calling – to save Iraq and Afghanistan have played out. Clearly the perceived God-given right to meddle with lives of people in countries far from their own borders, together with some sort of outdated manifest destiny, remain at play even in today's world.

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