Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guests evacuated from Bangkok hotels

Anti-government protesters crowding the streets of Bangkok and their violent clashes with riot police have several hotels spooked, forcing them to evacuate guests Tuesday, according to the Associated Press
The 380-room Grand Hyatt Erawan announced it will close until Saturday and is relocating guests to other hotels. "The situation is very tense," Patty Lerdwittayaskul, a hotel spokeswoman, told the AP.

The nearby Holiday Inn and Intercontinental also moved their guests to other hotels and said new reservations would not be accepted until Monday, the report says.

The Four Seasons remained open but closed its restaurants. Its general manager Rainer Stampfer told the AP that occupancy was "absolutely minimal" and the hotel was not accepting any bookings until Monday. "We recommend that (guests) stay elsewhere."

Like all hotels in the area, the Four Seasons has also put up metal barricades to block protesters from entering.

Thousands of protesters, called "Red Shirts," have been camping out in the city for more than a month, stockpiling homemade weapons and demanding that the prime minister dissolve the government, hold new elections and leave the country, according to CNN.

The Thai military has stationed about 1,500 troops along a Bangkok road amid anticipation of renewed clashes with the protesters, it says.

A violent clash earlier this month left 25 dead and more than 800 wounded, the AP says.

Thailand, which calls itself "The Land of Smiles," has seen its tourism industry battered in recent weeks by the protests. "Tourists are frightened to see military personnel carrying guns. They can't believe this is Thailand," Apichart Sankary of the Federation of Thai Tourism Associations told the AP.

Hotel occupancy, typically at 60% to 70% this time of year, has plummeted to about 30%, says Apichart.

Walid Moustafa, an Egyptian tourist, told the AP that he still feels safe. "It's been a little bit noisy. But the Red Shirts were very nice."

- Roger Yu

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