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US Ambassador to Thailand Says Travelers Should Heed Safety Warnings - 2002-12-04


Cooperation among Southeast Asia nations may have pushed back any immediate threat of new terror attacks since the October 12 bombing in Bali. The U.S. ambassador to Thailand says travelers should continue to heed safety warnings.

U.S. Ambassador Darryl Johnson says Thailand and other regional countries have worked hard to improve security since the Bali bombing. At a gathering with reporters in Bangkok Tuesday, he said the attack made it clear terrorists had shifted to vulnerable tourist sites and away from protected targets such as embassies.

At least 190 people died in the October 12 car bombing in a popular Bali tourist district, most of them foreign tourists.

Indonesian authorities have arrested several suspects in the case. Local investigators have been assisted by police in other countries including the Australia and the United States. Some of the suspects have been linked to the militant Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah, which is based in Southeast Asia.

Ambassador Johnson says regional cooperation appears to be paying off. "My sense is that heightened cooperative efforts that have come into play since the Bali bombings have improved the coordination and therefore reduced the likelihood that such an attack could occur in this vicinity or in this area," he said.

But despite the reduced threat, Mr. Johnson says people should continue to adhere to travel warnings and to be cautious in public places. "You can never say 'never' in today's world about terrorism," said Ambassador Johnson. "No place is totally safe; not in the U.S., not in Europe, not in Southeast Asia. So I think we have to begin from that premise that there are vulnerabilities practically anywhere."

Several countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, have singled out Thailand's island resort of Phuket as being vulnerable to attack.

Thailand's tourism industry has been hit by some cancellations because of travel warnings issued by some governments, just ahead of the peak holiday season over Christmas and New Year.

But Mr. Johnson says Thailand has "done enough" in addressing possible threats and increasing security. The United States government warns its citizens to be cautious about gathering in places popular with foreigners in Thailand, but does not have a general travelers advisory warning Americans to avoid the country.

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