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Chinese stranded in Bangkok 'safe'
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A passenger uses his luggage to catch some sleep at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport yesterday. Anti-government protesters have besieged Thailand's biggest airport, forcing cancellation of hundreds of flights and leaving thousands of passengers stranded in the capital. AP

More than 1,000 Chinese passengers stranded at Bangkok airport after anti-Thai government protesters disrupted flight operations have been shifted to hotels, the Chinese embassy said yesterday.

The embassy issued a warning, too, asking Chinese citizens in Thailand to stay away from protesters in the city, and those at home to defer their plans to visit that country.

A consular official surnamed Shi said that since it was not clear when normal flight operations would resume, passengers should keep checking information on departures.

Thousands of other passengers slept overnight on benches and luggage carousels at Suvarnabhumi Airport, many angry that they could not see any airport staff when the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demonstrators stormed the building.

The PAD said its four-month campaign to oust Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has entered the "final stage".

The standoff took a turn when army chief Anupong Paochinda asked the government to step down and call a snap poll as a way out of the deepening political crisis. Anupong asked the PAD to end its crippling siege of the airport and end its anti-government campaign.

But the government and protesters both rejected the call.

Anupong, however, vowed not to launch a coup. Two years ago, the military ousted Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister.

The shutdown of the airport has disrupted many Chinese people's travel plans. A Beijing Capital International Airport press release said only one flight from Bangkok reached Beijing yesterday, at 12:33 am. And all flights leaving Beijing for Bangkok were either canceled or postponed.

"Flights to Bangkok will be resumed as soon as the airport reopens," said Zhu Mei, spokeswoman for Air China, which operates four direct flights a day between Beijing and Bangkok.

China Comfort Travel Service said its 11-member group scheduled to leave Bangkok for Beijing this morning might have to stay longer there. But all of them are safe.

Online travel service Ctrip.com said about 30 of its tourists were stranded in Bangkok.

Public relations manager Wu Jiaoli said: "We have arranged for their free accommodation, and talked with airlines to get them back as quickly as possible."

Two mainland tourists were stranded in Hong Kong on their way to Bangkok. "Their flight was canceled and we have arranged for them to be flown back without any charge," Wu said.

Zhang Qingzhu, of China Comfort, said: "Thailand is a popular destination for Chinese tourists, and we usually have two groups of tourists visiting the country every week." She said her company could lose a lot of money because the uncertain situation would deter people from visiting the country during the Spring Festival holiday.

(Agencies via China Daily November 27, 2008)

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