The UK on Friday updated its travel advice for the Maldives after violent clashes in the capital, urging holidaymakers to exercise caution in the troubled honeymoon destination.
Special Ops used teargas to disperse opposition supporters celebrating the imminent release of political leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, following a shock Supreme Court ruling Thursday night.
Officers with riot shields on one of Malé’s main roads told people not to take part in any protests and asked everyone to immediately leave.
Reporters from the Maldives Independent witnessed people being manhandled to the floor before being arrested and led away. They also saw around a dozen canisters of teargas thrown towards protesters.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which last updated its Maldives advice over a terror threat, said political protests and demonstrations often took place in Malé and that some led to violence and arrests.
More than 100,000 Britons visited the Maldives in 2016, the third biggest market, up from 90,000 in 2015.
“As of 2000 GMT on 1 February (0100 2 February local time) there are reports of protesters on the streets of central Malé in response to emerging political developments,” said the latest advisory.
“Travellers staying in Malé should exercise caution. There are no reports that outlying islands, resorts, or Malé International Airport are affected.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to reassure the international community and its development partners, saying there were no safety issues for foreign nationals working in the country or tourists.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was closely watching how the situation developed in the capital, especially the reactions of the government, military and police.
“We understand the situation is extremely tense,” said UNOHCR spokesman Rupert Colville. “We are concerned by what appears to be an initial heavy-handed reaction by security forces in the capital against people celebrating the Court’s decision, and urge them to show understanding and restraint, and to act in full accordance with international laws and standards governing the policing of protests and other forms of public assembly.
“We also urge all those celebrating, or protesting, to do so in a peaceful fashion.”