David Longstreath/AP

Travel agents ask Thai military to lift curfew ahead of ‘full-moon party’

Many fear post-coup curfew will eclipse monthly psychedelic dance parties that draw thousands of tourists

Thai travel agents have asked the military to end the nighttime curfew in Koh Phangan — a southern island scheduled to host one of its wildly popular “full-moon parties” in just over a week — as Thailand’s massive and crucial tourism industry struggles with the aftermath of last month’s military coup, local media reported Wednesday.

Thailand's first full-moon party was in 1988, and what started as an informal gathering of international backpackers soon morphed into massive parties of tens of thousands, held monthly, with a reputation for psychedelic drug use and youthful romance.

A curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. had been set across Thailand after the military took control of the country on May 22, following months of sometimes violent mass protests and paralyzing political deadlock in the bitterly divided country. The curfew was later shortened to the hours between midnight and 4 a.m., the Bangkok Post reported.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents has urged the military to relax the curfew in main tourist areas including Koh Phangan, according to the Bangkok Post.

On Tuesday the military ended the curfew in Pattaya city, Koh Samui island and Phuket island in a bid to boost the country’s tourism industry after the relentless political upheaval that has included the ouster of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Koh Samui and Phuket are palm-fringed southern beach islands, and Pattaya is a red-light district. All draw massive numbers of tourists year round.

Koh Phangan was not included in the curfew-lifting list announced by the military, and travel agents said continuing the curfew there would drive tourists from the island ahead of the next full-moon party, planned for June 12.

Bar owner Ted Twinhembut at Railay Beach in Krabi province, near Koh Samui, said the military had ended the curfew there Wednesday. 

"Business is still OK here. People are still coming," he told Al Jazeera. "There's no danger here. The military has cleaned up Thailand and taken all the bad people like mafia to jail."

He said that while many Western people think the military coup was not good for the country, he thinks many Thais support it. "The army made Thailand clean again," he said.

Thailand's politics are divided into two main factions. The "Red Shirts" support Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 coup, and his sister Yingluck. The opposing "Yellow Shirts" are anti-Thaksin and were the driving force behind mass protests that began about six months ago calling for Yingluck to step down.

Since taking power last month, the military has outlawed protests and said it aims to reconcile the country’s searing political rivalries before holding an election, which it estimates will take place in a little over one year.

The military has said it will remain in charge of Thailand until a new constitution is written and a new government is elected. 

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