Stranded Canadians to fly out in embassy deal
Published Monday, December 1, 2008 9:20PM EST
Dozens of stranded Canadian tourists can expect to fly out of Thailand on Tuesday thanks to a new plan brokered by the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok, according to reports.
The new escape plan comes as a bomb exploded at one of the country's airports, injuring 13 protestors involved in anti-government demonstrations.
The protests, held at the country's two major airports, have affected thousands of travellers and crippled the country's lucrative tourist trade.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said the government is looking into "all possible options" to help the stranded Canadians -- including chartering flights from Thailand to Hong Kong.
"Our best estimate is that upwards of 1,000 Canadians have been affected by the shutdown of the airports," Cannon said in a release Monday.
The People's Alliance for Democracy has stopped all air traffic coming in or out of the city, and show no intention of ending the protests any time soon.
At least 37 stranded Canadians have accepted a deal which will see passengers fly out of a military airport near Bangkok at their own expense, stranded Canadian John "Jiggs" McDonald told The Canadian Press Monday.
Bangkok was the last stop on a trip that brought Canadian tourists through China and Southeast Asia, said McDonald.
"On Wednesday, we were told we were not going anywhere," he said.
"Fortunately, and to the credit of the people that we're travelling with, they foresaw the situation at the airport and they kept us safe and sound here at the hotel."
Once the group learned they were stranded, they immediately attempted to contact their local Canadian Embassy.
McDonald said it took several days for his group -- which includes 70 seniors -- to make contact with the Canadian Embassy.
"They didn't respond, they didn't answer any of our emails or calls for the first two days," he said.
Embassy representatives met with members of his group on Saturday morning, primarily to gain information about the medical needs of the Canadian travellers, McDonald said.
"The major concern was to get prescriptions for people who had very limited supplies of their medications, others who needed to get home for treatments of one sort or another," he said.
But not every Canadian stuck in Thailand thinks the government should be rushing to spring stranded Canadian tourists.
Andrew DeVilliers, a 23-year-old independent filmmaker from Vancouver, thinks it is not necessary because the protests are constrained to two or three problem areas -- namely Bangkok's two major airports and the Government House where explosions occurred on Sunday.
Outside of these problem areas, "it's more or less business as usual" for the city, he told CTV.ca in a phone interview from Bangkok on Monday.
The Canadian government has no need to fly home its citizens when they are "completely safe," he said.
DeVilliers said it is the airlines that need to be in better communication with their customers so they know what is going on.
"You have more information than they do," he said, referring to the airlines.
Case in point, DeVilliers said he learned his flight home had been cancelled a day before the airline called him to let him know.
With files from The Associated Press