Rescue Canadians stuck in Thailand, Liberal MP says
It is "absolutely paramount" that the federal government help the 80 Canadians trapped in Thailand because of a political uprising, Liberal MP Dan McTeague told The Canadian Press Saturday.
McTeague said Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has to get "onto the program" and make moves to help Canadians get out of Bangkok.
"With the potential for greater threats to safety, there does not appear to be any discussion or any revelation of an evacuation plan for Canadians there," McTeague said.
Both major airports in Thailand's capital have been shut down as a result of anti-government protestors.
An Orangeville, Ont. man whose parents are stuck in Thailand says Canada is not doing enough to assist its citizens stuck there. Many are seniors on vacations and are running low on vital medicines.
"My father thinks Canada has abandoned them," Dave Kerr told CTV Newsnet on Saturday about Barbara and Doug Kerr.
Meanwhile, an explosion inside the Thai prime minister's compound in Bangkok has wounded 33 people, a local emergency official said early Sunday local time.
About five of the injured have been taken to hospital, a spokesperson with the Narentorn Medical Centre told The Associated Press, though police have yet to respond to the scene.
An The Associated Press photographer reported that an explosive device was thrown at the compound from outside. Local media have said the device was a grenade.
Anti-government protesters have held the compound since August.
"Protesters have returned to their positions, they are not scared," Suriyasai Katasila, a spokesperson for the People's Alliance for Democracy protest movement, told local Channel Three television.
Late Saturday, protesters occupying Bangkok's main airport chased riot police from a checkpoint, as tensions continued to escalate on the fifth day of a standoff that has disrupted Thailand's lucrative tourist industry.
About 150 officers sped away in their vehicles when attacked by a throng of protesters, many armed with metal rods, and some with guns.
Footage of the incident appears to show one protester firing a gun at a full police van, but it was not clear if anyone was injured.
The attack broke a cordon that police had erected earlier Saturday around the protesters.
It appeared that as many as 400 protesters marched the two kilometres to the checkpoint, hitting police vehicles, smashing windshields and seemingly throwing firecrackers.
The protesters then occupied the checkpoint, which police had been using to search vehicles headed into the airport.
About 2,000 officers have been deployed to Suvarnabhumi international airport since Tuesday, when protesters camped out, forcing the cancellation of all flights.
It is estimated that about 100,000 tourists are stranded in Thailand. Police have yet to amount a full-scale operation to re-capture the airport.
In addition to the prime minister's compound, the protesters have also occupied Bangkok's domestic airport in an effort to compel the current government to resign.
Thai security officials have warned protesters to vacate the airports. However, the protesters have vowed to remain steadfast until Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resigns.
The protesters accuse Somchai of being a puppet of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and fled the country rather than face corruption charges.
Somchai, who is Thaksin's brother in law, has been running his government out of the northern city of Chiang May since being blocked out of his Bangkok office.
A police spokesperson said Saturday that two more warnings would be issued to give the protesters time to leave the airports.
"The police will issue another warning to protesters to leave the two airports. The language in the warning will be stronger than the first one," said a police spokesman, Maj. Gen. Amnuay Nimmano.
He said if the protesters do not leave, a deadline will be issued "in the third warning -- the last one before we take action."
Suvarnabhumi airport is expected to remain closed until at least Monday evening.
Supporters of Somchai's regime, who are frustrated by the ongoing demonstrations, are calling for a sit-in in central Bangkok Sunday.
"We are calling for our supporters nationwide to come out (for the rally). They have been told to bring their clothes and food because we will be here long," said Somchai supporter Viphutalaeng Pattanaphumethai, who has clashed with the protesters in the past.
Rescue efforts underway
Some airlines are operating flights to evacuate stranded passengers to the U-Tapao naval airport, which is about 140 kilometres south of Bangogk. However, the small facility can only process so many travellers.
According to China's official Xinhua News Agency, about 3,000 Chinese tourists were to be evacuated on special flights Saturday. As well, the Hong Kong government was to arrange two Cathay Pacific flights to assist stranded travellers, Xinhua reported.
Since the standoff began, companies from around the world have cancelled tours. As well, about 88 aircraft, many belonging to foreign airlines, are stuck at Suvarnabhumi airport.
Legendary NHL broadcaster John Kenneth "Jiggs" McDonald and his wife Marilyn were supposed to leave Thailand early Wednesday after a 30-day trip, but are instead stranded at a Bangkok hotel.
In an interview Saturday on CTV Newsnet, McDonald said tension levels are high among his tour group, as some have run out of essential medications or are worried about jobs they must return to next week.
McDonald said a representative from the Canadian embassy has promised to help stranded Canadians leave the country, but warned that the embassy is being inundated with calls.
"He could make no commitment to finding a way out of Bangkok or out of Thailand for the group," McDonald said. "And all we're asking is assistance in getting to a gateway city where we can make arrangements to get back to Toronto or to Vancouver or wherever."
McDonald said his group is largely concerned that tensions will spread from the airport and into the city proper, which will make leaving Thailand early impossible.
The airport closures are costing Thailand's economy about $57 million to $85 million per day, according to estimates by the Federation of Thai Industries.