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Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Stranded Britons 'will get home'

Foreign tourists
Some tourists have been able to fly out of other airports

Thousands of stranded British tourists in Thailand are set to fly home after protesters said they would end their occupation of Bangkok's airports.

Ministers are working with airlines to bring home UK citizens, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

Major carriers, including Qantas and Emirates, are laying on more flights. Mr Miliband urged all airlines to honour responsibilities to passengers.

The anti-government protests have left up to 30,000 travellers marooned.

Passenger flights from the capital's main airport will resume on 4 December.

Thai anti-government protesters agreed to end their occupation of the country's two main airports after more than a week of blockades.

The deal follows a court ruling that forced Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to step down over election fraud and disbanded his governing party.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband: 'The embassy is open round the clock'

Stranded UK holidaymakers in Thailand have complained of being deserted by British embassy officials while tourists of other nationalities were being flown home.

But Mr Miliband said ministers and consular staff were doing everything they could to get Britons home.

The government was demanding a "systematic response rather than the symbolic response" because of the high numbers of Britons needing flights back to the UK, he said.

"At the heart of the answer is obviously to get large numbers of commercial flights - extra commercial flights - to fly British people out of Thailand and to fly them out of Chiang Mai and out of Phuket.

"There's also a military airport that we hope will be used for this."

'Concern understandable'

Successful negotiations with airlines, including Gulf Air, Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, meant extra flights were being laid on for passengers, he said.

A dozen additional international flights were departing from unaffected airports on Tuesday, he said, with more to follow on Wednesday.

We will be working with all the airlines to ensure that they all fulfil and honour their responsibilities to ticket-holders
David Miliband
Foreign Secretary

"This is the way to ensure that the backlog is cleared and we will be working with all the airlines to ensure that they all fulfil and honour their responsibilities to ticket-holders - our concern being British ticket-holders."

He said he understood the level of concern among stranded travellers, adding that the embassy in Thailand was working "round-the-clock" to help Britons get home.

"The medium-term solution is obviously a resolution of that deeper crisis, but in the short term, the answer is for commercial flights to help get British people out," he said.

However, British tourist, Steve Thomas, told the BBC he felt let down by the UK response.

"I queued to get into the British Embassy ... to register my whereabouts. Since then I've heard nothing from them.

"Meanwhile, Australians in our hotel have had visits from the embassy and have also been offered flights I understand."

'Reactive approach'

Suzanne Waddell, from Belfast, who has been stranded for four days after a two-week holiday with friends, said it was "frustrating" not to be given any clear information from her carrier, Thai Airways, or British officials.

"That has been the most disappointing thing. I went to visit them [at the embassy] and they were very relaxed and we were told they would not be doing anything unless the situation worsened.


I queued to get into the British Embassy ... to register my whereabouts. Since then I've heard nothing from them
Steve Thomas
British traveller

"It is a very reactive approach and I really don't understand the reasoning for that."

Briton Philip Howard also described the difficulties his daughter, Nadine, had trying to leave the Thai resort of Phuket at after a two-week holiday with her boyfriend.

The couple had been forced to pay 1,000 to get a flight to Hong Kong, from where they now hoped to fly back to London, he said.

Describing conditions in Thailand, he added: "Nadine told me of a military airfield where thousands of people were waiting for flights.

"Locals told her not to go there as fights have broken out. Apparently the place is like a refuge camp."

Those wishing to travel to or from Bangkok were urged to monitor travel advice and to stay in contact with their tour operator or airline.

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