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The Andaman  returns to what it does best: sand, sea and sunsets

Phuket Travel Chiefs Cheer End of Emergency

Friday, April 24, 2009
TOURISM industry leaders today welcomed the lifting of the state of emergency declaration as a step towards recovery for Phuket.

The regional director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Settapan Puttanee, said Thailand was now on the way towards a return to normal.

''It's also a good confidence-builder with other countries,'' he said. ''Fifteen countries introduced travel warnings when the state of emergency was first introduced.''

He said that Belgium was the only one of the 15 countries that had since lifted its warning advisory. Hong Kong quickly cancelled its warning on Friday after the ending of the state of emergency.

''Politics in Thailand might be better from now on,'' he said. ''That's the hope.''

The emergency declaration, covering Bangkok and five surrounding provinces, was lifted by the Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, today.

Thai Airways International has reported a 20 percent drop in bookings since the state of emergency was imposed on April 13, dramatically reducing visitors from China, South Korea and Japan.

The chairwoman of the standing committee on tourism in the Senate, Tunyaratt Achariyachai, told Phuketwan today that the lifting of the state of emergency would bring considerable relief.

It was a good thing for all destinations in Thailand, not specifically Phuket alone.

Other countries would worry about the safety of people coming to Thailand under a state of emergency.

China especially during the time of the red shirt protests in Pattaya and Bangkok cancelled flights to Thailand.

''Perhaps now we can get some of those travellers back again,'' she said.

The Asean Plus Six summit of 16 national leaders, likely to take place on Phuket in June, was good for the island and would hopefully stimulate more visitors.

Pattaya won the summit originally because it did not have the levels of room occupation that Phuket had over the Songkran-Easter holiday, she said.

''Phuket is a safe destination for people from all countries,'' she said. ''If there is a mob as there was in Pattaya, it will be much more difficult for them to assemble on the island.''

She said security for the Asean gathering should be much more certain than it was in Pattaya, with the issue being given much more attention.

June should provide plenty of accommodation, enough for the Asean summit national teams.

She believes Phuket people will be good hosts for the Asean gathering.

Phuket Tourist Association vice president, Sarayuth Mallam, said the ending of the emergency was good news and might prompt quick action by China to lift its travel alert.

''It could be that China Eastern Airlines will return quickly,'' he said. .
Chinese carriers Shanghai Airlines and China Eastern Airlines abruptly suspended plans to operate non-stop flights between Shanghai and Phuket because of the political street disturbances in Bangkok.

Asean Plus Six would be a good opportunity to promote Phuket because most of the countries involved were also key providers of visitors to the island, Khun Sarayuth said.

''If we can impress the leaders of those countries, it will be a positive outcome for Phuket,'' he said. ''It will speed the recovery, too.''

Thailand Trouble

March 2005: Thaksin Shinawatra wins second election. Rural and urban poor motivated by healthcare reforms and debt relief.
April 2006: Thaksin calls snap election after protests against his Thai Rak Thai party.Poll is boycotted by opposition parties.
September 2006: Military coup removes Thaksin and installs retired general Surayud Chulanont as interim prime minister.
May 2007: Thai Rak Thai party is officially banned.
December 2007: Democratic election awards most seats to People's Power Party, widely seen as a regrouped Thai Rak Thai. Samak Sundaravej sworn in as prime minister, but eventually deposed for hosting two TV cookery shows while in office.
August 2008: Peoples Alliance for Democracy supporters (yellow shirts) invade Phuket airport for three days
September 2008: Somchai Wongsawat, brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra, is appointed prime minister
October 2008: Anti-government protests turn violent. Yellow-shirted demonstrators oppose PPP economic policies; ends with sit-in at Bangkok airport in November.
December 2008: PPP found guilty of electoral fraud and is banned. Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva forms coalition government.
March-April 2009: Red-shirted supporters stage protests at Asean Summit in Pattaya and Government House in Bangkok. Military clear crowds. Two protesters killed in fracas with locals angry about disruption.
April 17 2009: Yellow shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul wounded in shooting.
April 24: PM lifts state of emergency.

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