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Monday, December 2, 2013

Israelis in Thailand Undisturbed By Protests

Israelis living and travelling in Thailand say they have not felt the rise in violence in the streets, which reached its peak when an angry mob forced Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave the police complex where she was visiting.

"It's true that there are worried parents that are calling us, and backpackers looking to know where it's safe to travel, but the Hanukkah celebrations are carrying on as usual," said Rabbi Nehemiah Wilhelm, the Bangkok Chabad House emissary.
Rabbi Wilhelm said that without the reports in the media he would not have known about the protests at all. "People are protesting outside the government buildings and blocking roads. They stepped it up when they tried to break into the prime minister's house, but that was an anomaly. 

Thai people are generally very quiet and introverts. We're lighting Hanukkah candles tonight, and we never considered canceling it."
The United Nations closed its main office in Bangkok, dozens of schools were shut and civil servants skipped work as stone-throwing protesters battled through clouds of tear gas in renewed assaults on key government buildings in the Thai capital on Monday.

After a weekend of chaos in pockets of Bangkok, protesters regrouped outside the heavily-barricaded prime minister's office compound Monday and repeatedly clashed with the police who fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Emboldened by their leader's vow to topple Yingluck by Wednesday, they threw rocks at police and tore away sections of barbed wire and concrete barriers. 

At least three people were killed and 103 injured in skirmishes over the weekend.
Moran Alfasash, who has been living in the Thai capital 10 years, also said that for Israelis it was business as usual. "When you have to explain in Israel what's happening here, I always tell people that Bangkok is the size of Gush Dan. Most of the protests are focused in the government and public institutions quarter, so all this doesn't affect the foreign citizens."

Alfassah said that only near the government buildings is it possible to see demonstrators and police officers. "There, it looks like an intifada. Where we are, it's all routine. Last night we lit candles in a hotel, and the rabbi didn't mention the riots at all."

Yogev Chashai, who lives in the northern Chiang Mai region in Thailand and works at a travel agency and guest house, said he did not notice cancelations from Israeli backpackers. "Northern Thailand is a different country. 

Israelis are continuing to come here as usual, and today we had jeep trips just like any other day this season. The protests are the locals' problems, and as of now, all the struggles are being pulled to the capital."

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