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Thailand: Protests

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 10 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department took to assist UK citizens caught up in the blockade of Bangkok's two main airports. (240417)

During the occupation of Bangkok's two main airports by People's Alliance for Democracy protestors, our embassy officials ran a call centre to offer advice to British nationals in Thailand. The call centre also offered to collect details from those worried about getting a flight home and pass those on to airlines as and when emergency flights were being scheduled. Officials were present at Phuket and Chiang Mai airports to provide assistance, and others travelled to U-Tapau military airport once flights began leaving from there. Consular officials helped British nationals obtain urgent medical prescriptions and assisted them in obtaining financial support from family and friends in the UK. Throughout the disruption, embassy officials have been in constant contact with the Thai authorities and have worked closely with the Tourist Authority of Thailand to ensure those British nationals who needed assistance, received it. Officials also toured hotels to communicate with British nationals.

We have been in close contact with all the airlines encouraging them to uphold their responsibility to their ticket holders. I spoke to the United Arab Emirates ambassador on 28 November about problems British nationals in Bangkok were experiencing with Emirates; our ambassador in Abu Dhabi also made additional contact with the head of Emirates in Dubai. The Secretary of State for Transport spoke to the British Airways chief executive on 3 December. As a result of our interventions some carriers did lay on additional flights from alternative airports in Thailand, and others arranged for their passengers tickets to be valid on other airlines with better capacity.

With the reopening of Suvarnabhumi International Airport a British embassy helpdesk has been established, and officials have been liaising closely with airlines in order to give British nationals the best chance of getting a seat home as soon as possible.