With violent anti-government protests flaring just two blocks away from the most active Jewish community center in Thailand, officials Saturday night were advising locals, visiting professionals and tourists to stay away from the government compound in Bangkok.
Speaking after Shabbos, Rabbi Yosef C. Kantor, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Thailand and the Beth Elisheva Synagogue, Mikveh and Jewish Center in the capital, said that many people were apprehensive after a stalemate between protestors and the ruling government descended into violence over the weekend. According to news reports, as many as 15 people were killed after military and police forces attempted to clear a camp of protesters when they were repelled. One of those killed was reportedly a Reuters journalist.
“We’re telling people to stay away from that area,” said Kantor. “But as long as it stays contained, the rest of the city should be fine.”
The country has seen its share of demonstrations and riots. In September 2008, protestors took control of the airport in the southern resort of Phuket, stranding thousands of tourists. Many Israelis, their flights cancelled, headed to the Chabad House there for refuge. In the end, the Israeli Embassy was able to arrange special flights from a nearby airstrip.
Exactly a year ago, anti-government protests sparked what news outlets at the time were calling an attempted coup. At the time, Chabad Houses in Bangkok were packed with Jewish residents and visitors for the holiday of Passover; foreign embassies warned their citizens to stay out of the streets.