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Stranded Tourists in Thailand Receive 2,000 baht (US $56) Per Day
 from the Government to Defer Lodging Costs
By Chadamas Chinmaneevong, Bangkok Post, ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 3, 2008 - Stranded tourists have complained that the government's slow response to the chaos that followed the seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport would hurt their careers and future travel plans to Thailand. Some said the government had not been not professional in handling the crisis.

John McKentry Jr, an English sales manager, said he didn't know much about local political problems in Thailand but the airport shutdown was a big problem for the country.

"I understand that most countries around the world may have political problems but I don't understand why the Thai government doesn't have any measure to improve or solve the crisis," he said as he waited along with hundreds of others for flight information at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre.

Thai Airways has opened a 24-hour check-in centre at Bitec for passengers waiting to depart from U-Tapao Airport in Chon Buri.

Mr McKentry, stranded in Thailand for five days, said he still did not know when he could leave the country.

He also complained that the government's offer of 2,000 baht per day per person to help defer lodging costs was insufficient.

"I want to go home as soon as possible. I think I will have a big problem with my job because I've been absent for three days and don't know when I can fly back. I asked for a letter from the UK embassy to confirm that I was stranded here. But I don't know what my office will think about this."

Mr McKentry said he enjoyed his holiday in Phuket during the past two weeks, but it ended on a low note as he got stuck in a hotel and could do little except monitor news on TV.

He said he didn't see any signs that the government was taking any serious action to resolve tensions, and that former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat appeared unconvincing.

Mr McKentry said this was his third trip to Thailand, however, he still loves this country and will come back again but not soon.

Jity Kooner, an Australian tourist, said she and her husband had visited Thailand for the first time to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. They have been stranded for three days and she has already missed a scheduled operation. It has been postponed until second half of next year.

"We only know that the government has done something wrong about corruption and that protesters disagreed with it. The government should make some decisions to stop this problem," she said.

On the other hand, she said the protesters should not be overly demanding. She said it was selfish that they were hurting other people, including tourists, who had nothing to do with the problems in Thailand. It wasn't her fault that she had come here, she added.

A THAI employee said the big problem for tourists now was that many could not contact their airlines to rebook or confirm flights. They hope to get some seats even on standby, but flights out of U-Tapao are very limited. It can handle just 40 flights a day compared with 700 at Suvarnabhumi. More than half of the stranded tourists must go back to their hotels, waiting until they get reconfirmation of flights."A lot of tourists told me that some airlines did not pick up their calls. They are lost and don't know what they should do," she said.

Yesterday, only six airlines -- Eva Air, Air Asia, THAI, BFS, Nok Air and Bangkok Airways -- opened check-in booths at Bitec. The contact number is 02-132-1888.

Orient Thai Airlines, a privately owned Thai carrier, yesterday offered to ferry Thai nationals stranded in Hong Kong back to their homes today free of charge, though they will have to pay HK$153 per person for airport service charges.

Flight OX 203 was due to leave Hong Kong International Airport at 8:15 am and land at U-Tapao at 9:55 am.

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To see more of the Bangkok Post, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bangkokpost.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Bangkok Post, Thailand

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