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China plans flights for citizens in Thailand
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Chinese aviation authority said Saturday that four of the country's airlines would operate five flights to Thailand to bring home stranded Chinese tourists there due to the closure of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.

Li Jiaxiang, chief of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), told Xinhua that the first flight, an Airbus-300 plane from the Shanghai-based China Eastern, was scheduled to leave Shanghai for Thailand at noon.

Two Boeing 777 aircraft from the Beijing-based Air China, another Boeing 777 from the Guangzhou-based China Southern and a Boeing 767 plane from the Shanghai Airlines would leave one after another for Thailand's Utapao Airport near Pattaya, about 150 km east of Bangkok, said Li.

Earlier on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a press release that China would arrange flights to bring back Chinese passengers stranded in Bangkok.

"In view of the closure of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, the Chinese government has switched on its emergency response mechanism and is preparing to send chartered planes to bring back Chinese citizens as soon as possible," he said.

"The Chinese government is now checking out the information about the stranded Chinese citizens and arranging an airport for the landing of the planes."

Many foreigners are stranded in Bangkok after anti-government protesters in Thailand laid siege to the country's main international airport.

Chen Dehai, counsellor of the Chinese embassy in Thailand, told Xinhua on Friday that at least 600 Chinese tourists, who held tickets of the four Chinese airlines, were stranded in Thailand due to the closure of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Chen admitted it was difficult to give an exact number of the stranded Chinese citizens. But according to an estimate by the Thai-Chinese tourism association in Bangkok, about 2,000 to 3,000 tourists from the Chinese mainland had been stranded in Thailand.

In addition, there was an unknown number of Chinese tourists from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan stranded in Thailand.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government had arranged two Cathay Pacific flights to help stranded passengers and the first flight had already brought back some 500 Hong Kong residents from Thailand on Friday night.

The HKSAR government also said a second such flight was expected to arrive in Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon.

(Xinhua News Agency November 29, 2008)

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