Macau residents in Thailand are safe

Monday, April 13, 2009
Issue 670, Page 1 & 2
Word count: 691
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung & Irina de Carvalho

Macau residents who are currently in Thailand for holidays are “all safe”, said the Travel Industry Council chairman.

Although the anti-government protests in Bangkok have spread to nearby tourist areas, Andy Wu Keng Kuong said he believed the about 400 Macau residents who are holidaying in Thailand are still safe.

Both the council and the Macau Tourism Crisis Management Office had not received any reports from Macau residents in Thailand seeking for assistance as of yesterday.

Pedro Lobo, a teacher from the Portuguese School of Macau (EPM), enjoying a few days in Bangkok with his wife and son, told the Macau Daily Times on the phone yesterday that he was in the Central World Bangkok shopping mall with his family when the state of emergency was declared.

“”We were walking around and decided to have lunch when all of a sudden the shops started to close very fast. We thought it was strange but when we understood what was going on we came out and saw that the traffic started to get jammed,” Lobo said.

“We saw a lot of red-shirt members in the commercial area, so we went back to our hotel immediately. We also noticed that the streets were completely deserted after a while,” he added.

Lobo said he has been following local news every moment and hopes that he and his family will be back to Macau safely. They are scheduled to return to Macau on the 5pm (6pm Macau time) scheduled flight today.

He also said that he had seen a few Macau residents in the same hotel, and a small group of Portuguese Macau residents in the shopping mall.

Meanwhile, the MDTimes got the information that a group of about 20 EPM students who have gone to Ko Samui resort island on a school trip will change flight in the Bangkok airport today to get back to Macau.

Vanchart Schunhsri, a Thai national and a pilot who is based in Macau, told the Macau Daily Times in Bangkok over the phone last night that he fears there will be another coup d’etat and that situation shows “a tendency to get worse”.

“Maybe in the next couple of days we may see some dramatic changes. But the majority of the people want a peaceful solution,” he said.

“The reds are all over the place. They are supported and funded by Thaksin who thinks that they can run the country. But normal people like us will decide how to get rid of them,” he added.

“I don’t think the protesters can touch the airport. They know exactly it’s not possible as the red side will get blamed by the silent majority,” Schunhsri told the MDTimes.

Despite the Macau residents’ safety is still assured, Wu advised those who do not travel in package tours to avoid going to places where the protests take place and also to keep regular contacts with their families in Macau.

Following the Thai government’s announcement of the state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas, Wu said Macau residents can always seek help from the Macau Tourism Crisis Management Office if problems arise.

Wu explained that the office was not activated earlier because the situation in Thailand was not yet in chaos in the beginning and thus did not pose threats to the residents’ safety.

On the other hand, according to a statement issued by the Tourism Crisis Management Office earlier yesterday, since the airport in Thailand is still functioning normally, no emergency procedures will yet be introduced.

However, the office will continue to maintain a close watch in the country in a bid to respond promptly to any emergency situation.

The office said that preliminary information gathered from the travel industry showed that there are about 200 Macau residents travelling in six package tours in Thailand.

As for independent travellers, to date the office has not received any requests for assistance from this group.

In case of assistance is required, Macau residents can call the 24-hour tourism hotline on (853) 28333000.

The Tourism Crisis Management Office said it will keep paying attention to the development in Thailand, and also provide immediate response accordingly.

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