September 1, 2008

Britons in Thailand Warned of Violence

By Matt Williams

BRITISH travellers in Thailand were last night being warned to avoid large gatherings amid the threat of escalating violence and further airport blockades.

As protesters continue their stand-off with authorities, the Foreign Office in London urged tourists to exercise "caution", noting that at least one airport had been forced to close due to unrest.

Yesterday, a defiant Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was forced to announce he would not resign in the face of growing anti- government protests.

Trouble began on Tuesday after demonstrators occupied state buildings and the prime minister's office compound in Bangkok.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) are demanding the premier's resignation, claiming his government is merely a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Over the past few days, PAD activists have been involved in running battles with police in the capital, resulting in the use of tear gas.

Demonstrators have urged the picketing of airports, in an apparent attempt to hit tourism and create instability in the South- east Asian nation.

More than 200 railway workers have walked out on emergency sick leave, forcing the cancellation of 35 trains from Bangkok to major provinces.

Protesters also tried to blockade passengers from entering at least two airports in southern Thailand.

The Foreign Office said that it believed that Phuket airport remained closed as a result of the action.

Updated travel advice on the department's website warned: "There is the possibility of further violent clashes."

It continued that Britons should "exercise caution, avoiding any demonstrations or large gatherings of people".

Thailand is a popular destination for young British tourists, with around 860,000 travellers visiting from the UK in 2007.

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