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Since 1st March, 1999
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Thai travails for travellers

A haven for tourists has turned into a hellhole for Calcuttans stranded in and around Bangkok after anti-government protesters shut down its main airport on November 25.

Two senior executives of a Calcutta-based company who arrived in Bangkok from China on the day the siege started found after emerging from the plane that the agitators had taken over Suvarnabhumi airport.

“We landed at 9.20pm but could leave the airport only at 4.30pm the next day after Thai Airways officials negotiated with agitators,” said one of the executives over phone from his hotel in Pattaya.

“We have not been able to contact senior officials at the Indian high commission. The two officials we got in touch with could not do anything,’’ he added. The situation is going from bad to worse for the stranded travellers. Many have run out of money. Those who got stuck in transit face another problem. “Since we don’t have a Thai visa, our passports were impounded at the airport,” said a traveller.

“There is a severe shortage of everything. Our hotel has run out of food; the employees are taking us out for meals,” said J. Chakraborty, a Kasba resident who went to Thailand on holiday with friends.

Special flights are operating from U-Tapau, an air force base, to evacuate travellers. According to Indian high commission officials, the process could take time.

More than 1,000 Indians, including groups of 30 to 40 tourists, are stuck in Thailand, said an official.

Airline officials said they were finding it difficult to operate chartered flights to U-Tapau. “There were flights from Delhi and Mumbai on the first day of the siege but after that we were not allowed to fly to U-Tapau,” said an Air India Express official. Jet Airways could only operate a Thai flight on November 25.

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