Canadians stuck in Thailand need help: families
Published Friday, November 28, 2008 9:57PM EST
Ottawa should evacuate 1,000 Canadians stranded in Thailand before a protest which has shut down the country's main airports spirals out of control, family members of a trapped Canadian couple said Friday.
Legendary NHL broadcaster John Kenneth "Jiggs" McDonald and his wife Marilyn have been stuck in Thailand since an anti-government group seized Bangkok's two airports earlier this week, their daughter Susan DeSimone said.
"I am hoping the Canadian government will decide that now is the time to intervene and make a plan to get them out of there," DeSimone told CTV.ca.
The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is refusing to relinquish control of the airports until Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resigns.
The standoff is the culmination of a six-month campaign by PAD to oust Wongsawat, who they say is a puppet controlled by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
A military coup forced Shinawatra to flee the country amid charges of corruption in 2006.
The standoff has left thousands of tourists trapped in Thailand and has disrupted the country's lucrative tourism industry.
DeSimone, speaking from her home in Minnesota, fears the situation could turn bloody if the government decides to end the standoff with PAD by force.
"It's going to be harder to get out. And if it escalates into something worse, I don't want them there," she said of her parents and other Canadians.
McDonald, who was recently inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame, and his wife were set to return to Toronto on Wednesday after a 32-day trip through China and South East Asia.
McDonald, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday, spent his career calling thousands of hockey games with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs. He also covered the Winter Olympics for ABC and called Olympic basketball for several major broadcasters.
While DeSimone said her parents were safe at their hotel, she said frustration is mounting that the government hasn't come out with a plan about how to deal with the situation.
Nations like Macao, Bahrain, Taiwan and China have already chartered planes into a Thai military base to ensure their citizens get home safely. Some countries are using the runway at the U-Tapao military base, which was used by US troops during the Vietnam War, to bring their citizens home.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said that officials are closely monitoring the situation and are aware of Canadians in Thailand unable to return home.
"Canadians are urged to contact their airlines and tour operators for the latest departure and arrival information, and to stay away from the airport and other locations where protests are currently ongoing," said DFAIT spokesman Daniel Barbarie in an email to CTV.ca.
McDonald and his wife are part of an 82-person tour group operated by Toronto's Expo Cruises.
The company's manager, Walter Cudny, said that the group is currently staying at a hotel in Bangkok.
"They're not stranded in an airport or some jungle," he said. "They are well taken care of and looked after.
"I'd like to have people back," he added. "They've been on a 32-tour day tour, so it's been a while."