SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised Singaporeans who are either travelling to or already in France to stay away from large gatherings, as hordes of anti-government protesters pour into the Champs-Elysees, a popular shopping avenue in Paris, this weekend.
"Singaporeans who are either travelling to or already in France are advised to avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, monitor local media for developments and heed the instructions of the local authorities," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a travel notice on Saturday (Dec 1).
The "yellow vest" protests, named for the attire of the protesters, began on Nov 17 when nearly 283,000 people took part in more than 2,000 demonstrations at roundabouts and on major roads across the country to oppose higher fuel tax. One protester was accidentally run over by a car and killed, while 227 people were injured, the French Interior Ministry said.
The following weekend saw some 106,000 demonstrators turning up across France, with police firing tear gas and water cannons to drive away thousands of protesters who had gathered in Paris. Just a day before that, a man wearing an explosive device and demanding President Emmanuel Macron meet "yellow vest" protesters at the Elysee presidential palace surrendered to police in western France.
The MFA warned that more protesters are expected to take to the streets on Saturday and Sunday - the third weekend of the unrest - and "traffic disruptions, violence and other disturbances cannot be ruled out".
"As public transport may also be disrupted as a result of the demonstrations, do allow for additional travel time especially around the protest areas," the MFA said.
The protests against higher fuel tax have morphed into a multi-faceted outcry against the high cost of living and President Macron's economic policies.
The diesel tax increases were designed to encourage drivers to switch to more environmentally friendly cars. They were approved in late 2017 but began to bite when oil prices surged in October, angering some in the provinces who rely on their cars to get to work.
Singaporeans are encouraged to eRegister with the MFA at https://eregister.mfa.gov.sg to enable the ministry to reach them should the need arise.
They are also advised to purchase comprehensive travel and medical insurance and be familiar with the terms and coverage. Those in need of consular assistance may contact the Singapore Embassy in Paris or the MFA Duty Office at:
Embassy of the Republic of Singapore in France
16 rue Murillo, 75008 Paris, France
Tel: +33 6 7503 2555
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Duty Office (24-hours)
Tanglin, Singapore 248163
Tel: +65 6379 8800 or 8855
Email : email@example.com
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.