The Today Show: Interview with Karl Stefanovic
KARL STEFANOVIC: Good morning to you, first of all your reaction to this military coup?
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Karl. We are gravely concerned that the general in charge of the Thai Army – General Prayuth – has announced that the military will take control of all government functions in Thailand. This is now a coup and the military is effectively in charge of the country and the caretaker government is no longer the government.
A curfew has been imposed, although I should point out that travel to and from the airport is not covered by the curfew. We are monitoring the situation very closely, I have spoken to our Ambassador in Bangkok overnight, we are seeking more information from the authorities as to why this regrettable development has taken place and the reasons for it.
KARL STEFANOVIC: As you know it is a very popular tourist destination for Australians. Do you have a rough idea of how many Australians are there at the moment and what is your advice?
JULIE BISHOP: We understand there are about 5,500 Australians who are registered in Thailand but we estimate there could be as many as 10,000 Australians in Bangkok alone and probably about 28,500 Australians across Thailand but only have details of 5,633 Australians.
So we do urge people to register their travel plans on the Government's travel website – www.smarttraveller.gov.au – we urge Australians to exercise a very high degree of caution, be very careful about their personal security and safety and, given the volatile political situation, to avoid political demonstrations or sites where demonstrations have taken place in the past. We know that the military is out and about, there is a curfew, we do urge people not to go to the protest sites.
KARL STEFANOVIC: What about in terms of people who may be planning their holidays in the next couple of weeks as school holidays come up in a few weeks' time? What would you be saying to them, what is your advice to them?
JULIE BISHOP: We urge people to log on to the Smartraveller website to receive updated travel advices - we have reissued our advice overnight - and to register their travel plans and if in doubt to call the hotline so that they can get an update on travel. We are not suggesting people shouldn't travel to Thailand at this time but be aware that martial law has been imposed and now there has been a coup and that the military and the police are in charge of the country and that the political representatives are not. So it is time to exercise a very high degree of caution if travelling to Thailand or if you are in Thailand at this time.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Alright just a couple of other quick issues before we let you go. The University of Sydney protests fired up last night with Christopher Pyne, also you were involved in protests a few days ago as well. Christopher Pyne said on this morning's show that you were assaulted in the most strict definition of the word, what is your response to that, were you assaulted?
JULIE BISHOP: Well what happened was I was trying to get into an event where I was announcing, ironically, the awarding of 1000 scholarships for students to have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study overseas. I was being physically prevented from getting into that event and made a last attempt to get into the building.
Yes the people were shouting at me, it was quite intimidating and quite confronting, yes I was touched, physically touched. But my point is, people can protest, we have freedom of speech in this country, but surely they can protest peacefully and not prevent people going about their business. My business was to get into this event to award scholarships to students who want to study overseas.