UPDATE: This poll was closed and the results rendered void after an online attack. See story here.
PHUKET: The issue of whether or not Phuket should receive Russian tourists to help provide much-needed incomes for people on the island has divided opinions among readers of The Phuket News as the move would fly in the face of international sanctions imposed on Russia over the atrocities being committed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, although rare to comment publicly on the issue, has through other officials maintained that Thailand is to remain “neutral” over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Remaining “neutral” has left Thailand among 52 countries that Russia deems to be “friendly”, with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announcing last Monday that from last Saturday (Apr 9) Russia has allowed flights from the 52 “friendly” countries to operate in Russian airspace.
The move opens the door to airlines and tour operators to arrange travel to and from Thailand, with major travel operators inside Russia reporting a 20% jump in online searches by Russians seeking to travel to Thailand.
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, President of the Phuket Tourist Association, has already reported that his association and its members were seeking ways to bypass the international sanctions to allow Russian tourists to come to Phuket.
There are avenues for Russians to travel to Phuket without using a Russian-state-operated airline. Etihad and Emirates airlines are already operating flights into and out of Russia.
The issue has become controversial, with conscientious people not wanting to punish the average Russian citizen, many of whom do not agree with the invasion of Ukraine. More than 15,000 people in Russia have been arrested for publicly demonstrating against the invasion.
Yet supporters of the sanctions against Russia, led by the US and EU member countries, argue that it is an effective means to pressure the Russian government to end its military offensive, which has been widely reported by respected international news agencies to have targeted civilians, killing thousands, including women and children. Reports of the atrocities being committed, including rape and mass killings, have been horrific.
Meanwhile, thousands of people in Phuket are struggling for any means of income as the island’s tourism industry continues to be crushed by COVID-prevention policies.
With all this in mind, The Phuket News asks readers: “Should Phuket receive Russian tourists?”
Responses available to the poll are:
1) No. Russia as a country must be held accountable for the action by its military.
2) No. Although many Russian people do not support the invasion, the Russian government must be pressured to end its invasion of Ukraine.
3) Yes, but only if Russian tourists pay independent international tour and travel operators that do not contribute to the Russian economy.
4) Yes, let Russian tourists come without restrictions as they are not the ones committing the invasion, and Thailand should think first about their own people’s struggle and help Ukraine in other ways.
To vote in the poll, click HERE.
If your preferred response is not presented in the poll, feel free to include it in the comments below.
The poll will close at midnight Friday night (Apr 15).