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Thai army tells govt to dissolve, tells protesters to quit airport 26/11/2008
21:57:22

Thailand's military leaders have urged the government to step down in the face of an escalating political crisis which has paralysed air travel out of the capital, Bangkok.

Our reporter Karen Percy says the kingdom's most senior military man the Chief of the Army, General Anupong Paochinda, says parliament should be dissolved and new elections held to end a six-month long political stalemate.

He also called on anti-government protesters to leave their numerous protest sites in Bangkok, including Suvarnabhumi international airport, where thousands have gathered today.

The airport has cancelled flights and all but a few passengers have been evacuated.

The Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is making his way back to Thailand after attending this week's APEC summit but has said he again he will not resign or dissolve parliament.

General Anupong says he will not launch a coup to depose the government.

Earlier a spokesman for the PAD, Parnthep Pourpongpan has told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program the protesters will not leave the airport until Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resigns.

"Until the prime minister resigns from his post immediately without any conditions, and we expect that by today or tomorrow the prime minister must decide to do something."

Tourism officials have warned the political strife that has shut down Thailand's main international airport could devastate the kingdom's tourism industry, already battered by global financial woes.

Media around the world has carried footage of tourists trying to sleep on baggage carousels while protesters massed outside.

The president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents says foreigners have lost their confidence to travel to Thailand.

The director of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, Dale Lawrence, has described the storming of the airport as "another kick in the teeth for Thailand tourism."

The Australian government says it's monitoring the political situation in Thailand.

The trade minister, Simon Crean, has reissued a plea to travellers to exercise a high degree of caution and to avoid large gatherings.

Mr Crean also says extra foreign affairs department staff have been rostered to deal with inquiries from Australians affected by protests at the airport.

"Some Australians, including those in transit have been affected by flight disruptions. The Australian embassy is maintaining close contact with local authorities and consular officers have been stationed in Bangkok international airport to assist Australians and liaise with the airlines."

Produced by Radio Australia and Australia Network

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