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Protests slow tourist arrivals

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081127_3.jpg

The storming of Bangkok's main airport by anti-government protesters

has stranded hundreds of visitors to Cambodia, say local tourism

operators

Photo by:

AFP

Cambodian Cham Muslims sit at Phnom Penh International Airport on Wednesday after their flight to Thailand was cancelled.

THE political demonstrations that have brought Bangkok's airport to a halt have slowed tourist arrivals into Cambodia and stranded hundreds more visitors inside the country, according to local tourism operators.

A pro-monarchy mob from the People's Alliance for Democracy stormed Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport - a key gateway for Cambodia-bound tourists - forcing its closure and casting thousands of travellers into limbo Tuesday.

"Travel agents in Cambodia have informed us that hundreds of their customers have been stranded en route from Phnom Penh/Siem Reap to Bangkok or from Bangkok to Phnom Penh/Siem Reap," said Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents. "Now, it is a bit quieter at [both] airports."

Thong Sophat, deputy director of Phnom Penh International Airport, said that all Wednesday flights to and from Bangkok had been cancelled.

"Customers who have to fly [to Bangkok] today from Phnom Penh airport have had to postpone," he told the Post Wednesday.

Bangkok Airways, which operates two flights a day between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, confirmed it had cancelled both its flights Wednesday, airline representative Mary Dao said, but she could not say when services would be reinstated.

At Raffles Hotel Le Royal, more than half of the 170 guests had been stranded and were delaying their flights, said reservation officer Malis Chea, while another half were stuck in Bangkok and had postponed their trips to Cambodia.

Kong Sophearak, director of the statistics department at the Ministry of Tourism, said that the upheavals in Bangkok would certainly affect the domestic tourist industry, since 30 percent of tourist arrivals to Cambodia came via Thailand.

But Ho Vandy said the problems in Bangkok would not be fatal for the industry since many tourists were also arriving from Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam, all of which are linked by direct flights to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

So Mara, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, declined to comment Wednesday on the situation in Bangkok, saying only that Thailand needed to "take care of its problems".

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