British tourists moved from Bangkok airport
By Peter Woodman
Published 02/12/2008 | 15:34
Hundreds of stranded British tourists were taken by coach to out-of-town hotels tonight after anti-government protests closed Bangkok airport.
While the UK Government expressed "deep concern at the worsening unrest" in Thailand, UK holidaymakers spoke of the earlier "chaos and confusion" at Bangkok airport.
There was more anxiety for the stranded Britons even when they were able to board coaches to get them away from the airport, which was still occupied tonight by supporters of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy.
The Britons reported that they had little idea of where their coaches were going, with some ending up at the resort of Pattaya - 120 miles from the capital.
With all flights in and out Bangkok cancelled and the demonstrators refusing to back down, the Britons faced a wait before they could return home.
British Airways flight BA9 leaving Heathrow tonight, which should have stopped at Bangkok en route to Sydney, was landing at Singapore instead.
The return flight tomorrow from Sydney - BA10 - was also using Singapore rather than the Thai capital.
The Britons were among around 4,000 stranded passengers at Bangkok who had to spend Tuesday night sleeping where they could, with some settling for the floor of the airport.
Speaking as he headed by coach to Pattaya earlier today, stand-up comic Harry Bedford, 40, from Greenwich, south London, told of the hours of waiting at the airport.
He said: "I was supposed to fly back with Thai Airways but the flight was scrapped. We could hear protests going on and could glimpse yellow-shirted demonstrators.
"But it was very difficult to know exactly what was happening. First they shut down all the TVs, then there was no access to computers. There were no announcements and it was all very confusing and chaotic.
"Everything at the airport shut down, but we heard that there was food and drink in one of the first-class lounges, so everyone went there.
"We asked if they could bring pillows and blankets off the planes for us, but they refused, saying it was against the rules, which was ridiculous.
"Then we had to leave the airport and there were long waits. We were told there were explosions, but, bizarrely, when we got outside it was more like a festival with demonstrators in good spirits.
"Then we were told there were road blocks, but the one I saw amounted to just three guys standing around. The authorities seemed to have over-reacted."
Mr Bedford said that he and a number of Britons joined other tourists in boarding a convoy of coaches.
He added that everyone thought they would be taken to somewhere else in Bangkok but they then found out they were going to Pattaya.
On board the coach with Mr Bedford was electronic engineer Roy Manning, 53, from Cambridge, who had been due to fly home after a short holiday in Thailand.
Mr Manning said: "They must have known about the trouble at Bangkok before my connecting flight left from Phuket. I could have stayed on at my hotel until all this had died down.
"It was pandemonium at Bangkok Airport. There were no announcements and nobody seemed willing to tell us what was going on. There were elderly people left to camp out on the floor and there was no-one to deal with those with special needs."
Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said: "I am deeply concerned about the worsening unrest in Bangkok over the last 48 hours.
"We urge all sides to this political dispute to resolve their differences peacefully and legally, respecting Thailand's democratic institutions.
"Thailand is an important destination for British tourists and investors. I sympathise with those whose travel plans have been disrupted by the closure of Bangkok's international airport.
"The consular team at our embassy is offering assistance to British nationals affected, and liaising with the airlines. Travellers to Thailand should monitor the travel advice on our website and keep in touch with their airlines and tour operators."