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300 Chinese tourists stranded in Phuket
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More than 300 Chinese tourists have been stranded in Phuket since Friday because anti-government protesters have forced the suspension of services at the Thai island's airport.

Demonstrators demanding the ouster of the Samak Sundaravej government have disrupted services at other Thai airports, too.

A Chinese embassy official in Bangkok said Sunday that efforts were being made to help the Chinese nationals return home. "Some of the Chinese tourists have already left Phuket by bus, and they will fly home from Bangkok," he said.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday, saying it had asked the Thai government to ensure the safety of the Chinese tourists and arrange for their return flights as soon as possible.

About 15,000 passengers are stranded on the island resort since anti-government protesters took over the airport on Friday and forced the cancellation of nearly 120 flights a day.

Wu Jiaoli, public relations manager of Ctrip.com, a leading online hotel- and ticket-booking agent in China, said 50 of its customers were stranded in Phuket.

The company, however, has arranged for a bus to carry them to Bangkok and asked China Eastern Airlines to arrange for their return trip.

A stranded Beijing tourist surnamed Hou said she was running out of money and that her plane ticket had expired. "I am very worried. But we are safe because the protesters are friendly to Chinese tourists."

She said her group reached Phuket on Aug 24 and was scheduled to return home on Friday. But protesters took over the airport on Thursday, when railway workers too joined the protests paralyzing train services on many routes.

A Chinese tour group's woman member, surnamed Wang, said only one plane carrying some Western tourists had been able to fly out of Phuket since Friday following negotiations between protesters and airport officials.

She said members of a tour group from Zhejiang province were forced to sleep in the open on Saturday because they had run out of money.

China International Travel Service (Beijing) said three of its tour groups comprising 50 people had been stranded in Phuket

(China Daily September 1, 2008)

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