BANGKOK: Pokemon Go’s debut in Thailand has alarmed the country’s generals, prompting the kingdom’s junta chief to warn youngsters against playing too much and the army to ban the game from barracks.
The mobile app was made available in Thailand on Saturday, delighting many in a country where Japanese subcultures have a significant following.
But the game — which encourages users to hit the pavements in search of digital monsters — has sparked safety concerns partly because Bangkok’s streets are notoriously pedestrian-unfriendly.
“Thai walking culture is not like Japan and there are limited pavements,” government spokesman Sansern Kaewkumnerd told reporters on Tuesday.
He said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who seized power in 2014, “does not want to ban the game”.
But the premier has urged players to know “their limits… and use their time wisely,” Sansern added.
“The game could harm players with things like loss of money, their job, their education as well as the relationships they have with the people around them,” he said.
He added that parents should advise their children to be “self-disciplined” and use their time well.
His comments came as Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said the game was banned inside military barracks and government security agencies.
A barracks in the northern city of Khon Kaen hoisted a sign warning Pokemon Go players they faced up to three years in jail if they trespassed onto military property, Channel 3 television showed.
Even when a pedestrian’s eyes are firmly fixed ahead Bangkok’s streets can be a veritable obstacle course.
Pavements are patchy and those that exist are littered with hurdles from street vendors and fire hydrants to potholes and tangled wiring.
Thailand’s Public Health Ministry said the game should be welcomed for encouraging people to exercise but warned users to be careful near “roads, swimming pools, rivers and canals”.
Local media has been filled in recent days with stories of hundreds of players glued to their phones outside parks and malls.
Some have even taken to using motorbike taxis and cars to get a head start as they navigate the traffic-choked city in their search for Pokemon.
Giorgio Taraschi, an Italian living in Bangkok, said he was lightly struck on Monday night by a man driving a car while playing the game.
“Gotta catch ’em all… including the occasional Italian,” he joked on Facebook, using the game’s tagline.