Tourists stranded; anti-govt protests shut down Thai resort airpor

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Bangkok, Aug 31 (UNI) Hundreds of foreign tourists today remained stranded in the popular Thai coastal resorts of Phuket and Krabi with anti-government protesters shutting down the two busy airports.

Thousands of visitors were unable to visit or leave two of the country's most popular tourist destinations with flights cancelled and train services across the country paralysed by supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who want Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign.

National tourist authorities have appealed to the PAD not to target transportation services as it could cripple the country's main foreign exchange earning sector.

Tour operators and airlines have expressed concern over the situation with reported large-scale cancellation of tourist travel plans within the country. According to the State Railways of Thailand, train services have come to a standstill on 76 main routes.

Western embassies in Bangkok advised citizens to put off travel to Phuket and Krabi and to avoid the anti-government protest sites.

The Thai Parliament would meet this afternoon in an emergency session to discuss the political standoff created by the PAD's seizure of the Prime Minister's office.

Thousands of PAD supporters camped on the premises of the office in defiance of court orders and police attempts to evict them.

The escalating confrontation has triggered street clashes between PAD supporters and police in Bangkok.

At a meeting late last night in a city hotel, the six ruling coalition partners declared they supported the Prime Minister and did not want him to step down.

They expressed confidence that the Parliament session would help find a way to break the political deadlock that has triggered growing speculation of another military takeover.

The PAD, which had organised mass street protests against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra leading to his ouster by the armed forces two years ago, accuses Mr Samak of being Mr Thaksin's proxy and subverting the law to protect the ousted leader from corruption charges.

A civil society campaign spearheaded by a media tycoon and a former army general, the PAD is perceived by many as articulating the cause of Thailand's traditional aristocratic power establishment which has been uneasy with the populist style of democracy ushered in by Mr Thaksin who won three successive general elections.

UNI XC SKB RK1452

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