Thailand military coup: Australians face travel insurance issues

commuters wait for taxis or motorbike taxis as they rush home after a curfew was imposed following the coup.
commuters wait for taxis or motorbike taxis as they rush home after a curfew was imposed following the coup. Photo: AFP

Australians in Thailand have been told to check their travel insurance now that political unrest has turned into an army coup, with at least one leading insurer refusing to cover those planning to visit the country.

Rob Whelan, chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia, said policies would not be voided due to the coup but exclusions would apply.

"Though travel insurance will usually not cover you for claims arising from military insurrection, including any restrictions on your activities, travellers remain covered for normal travel-related claims," he said.

A Thai soldier stands guard at a checkpoint after a curfew started at 10pm in Bangkok, Thailand.
A Thai soldier stands guard at a checkpoint after a curfew started at 10pm in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Getty Images

Customers of InsureandGo trying to travel to Thailand are "currently unable to purchase a policy with the company", according to Julius Paramour, operations manager. 

He said that InsureandGo is advising its customers already in Thailand to monitor the advice and warnings of the Federal Government's SmartTraveller website, "to exercise a high degree of caution and be aware of exclusion zones".

Thailand is Australia's fourth most popular overseas holiday destination with well over half-a-million Australians visiting there in 2011-12. But visitor numbers to the once popular but now strife-torn capital, Bangkok, have declined sharply following ongoing violent protests over recent months.

A Thai security guard stands at the entrance to the Bangkok Skytrain after it closed at 9pm stranding thousands of people as they headed home.
A Thai security guard stands at the entrance to the Bangkok Skytrain after it closed at 9pm stranding thousands of people as they headed home. Photo: Getty Images

Mr Paramour said that "as per standard practice", InsureandGo will assess each claim from customers in Thailand on an individual basis. "InsureandGo will take all reasonable measures to assist its customers in Thailand."

Most, if not all, travel insurance policies exclude claims involving martial law and coups in the fine print of their product disclosure statements. 

Earlier this week martial law was unexpectedly declared in Thailand with a war of semantics developing over whether the act constituted an actual coup d'etat.  But that debate has now been settled by the Thai military. 

The army has imposed a nationwide curfew from 10pm until 5am, which Australians and other visitors in the country will have to obey. 

Leading travel insurers CoverMore and Medibank Private list as exclusions "claims arising as a result of war, invasion, act of foreign enemy, hostilities (whether war be declared or not), civil war, rebellion, revolution, insurrection or military or usurped power".

However, a spokeswoman for Medibank said that if a policy was purchased prior to the imposition of military or usurped power the customer will still be covered for their trip. She said: "Claims that are not born as a direct consequence of the situation will also still be covered (for example, if an airline loses luggage)."

The spokeswoman said that Medibank's agents check travel warnings daily and advise customers travelling to affected destinations. They also advise on "associated conditions and exclusions on the travel policy", as a result of travelling to the affected country. 

"There is also information on Medibank's website regarding travel advice and warnings, and we urge travellers to read this to prior to making travel arrangements, to ensure they are briefed on their intended destination."

A spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia said that individual insurers will decide their own "terms and conditions" in regards to travel to Thailand with many having policy exclusions for civil war and civil unrest. 

He said that travel insurers may elect to introduce a "new policy embargo", meaning that they will refuse to "write a policy" covering travel to Thailand. 

Earlier this week Singapore Airlines issued a statement alerting passengers to the potential for traffic jams in Bangkok due to road closures as a result of the imposition of martial law and to leave for the airport at four hours prior to departure and where possible to use the airport rail link.

The airline also informed passengers that it will waive administrative fees and penalties for refunds, rebooking or re-routing for customers holding confirmed tickets issue on or before May 19, 2014, for travel to and from Bangkok, on or before May 31, 2014.

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